Why Are Straight Women the Icons For Gay Men?
I’m tired of straight women being held up as icons for the gay male community. From Cher, to Madonna, straight down the lineage to Lady Gaga, straight female celebrities have come to fill a coveted role as queen of the gays. Yes, they are fierce allies and spokespeople for communities of gay men worldwide, and yes, they have served a necessary role in the fight for equality. These women bring gay men into the limelight to say, “It’s OK. He’s with me.” Here’s the problem, though: as a symbol for a community, you implicitly, whether you like it or not, serve as the face of that community. You are their proxy. As such, straight women are serving as an example of what it means to be a gay man.
Straight women are, obviously, not gay men. Though the diva of the moment may be a fierce ally, she can’t be the best example of a community to which she doesn’t actually belong. Think of it this way: would we want a non-American president? No. The leader should come from within.
Straight women are facilitating pop culture’s acceptance of gay men, but they are also mediating the gay voice through their lens as a straight woman. As a result, heteronormative America has come to know the facets of gay culture embodied by these straight women — fabulous hair and makeup, fashion, a toned ass, and a penchant for little dogs — while glossing over what it means to be gay. Being gay is not, at its core, about being fabulous (though we do it so well). Being a gay man is about making love, having sex, doing the nasty — whatever the kids are calling it these days. It’s called a sexuality for a reason.
Pop culture’s portrayal of gay sexuality is, by and large, missing gay sex. (Except you, True Blood. You can stay.) We see Gaga’s shoes. We see Bey’s weave. We see Cher’s glitter fetish. What we don’t see is mainstream acceptance or acknowledgement that there is an entire culture of sexuality between men. That still seems to make the majority uncomfortable.
If you watched MTV's Video Music Awards (VMAs), then you know this is clearly not an issue for heterosexuality. Pop culture glorifies heterosexuality. Lady Gaga gets up in a seashell thong bikini, and it’s accepted — begrudgingly by some — because she’s a straight woman. Miley Cyrus gets up, and ... well, we won’t go there.
Rihanna, Britney, Usher, and Trey Songz give lap dances to fans at live shows. Nobody pauses to question a heterosexual artist mounting his or her unsuspecting fan. Picture for a moment a gay male artist engaging in a similarly overt display of sexuality. Picture Lady Gaga as Laddie Gaga, doing the exact same routine at the VMAs. It would be considered taboo, offensive, or a farce. The current icons for gay sexuality aren't facilitating an acceptance of gay sex. And if you don’t accept the core of a culture, the periphery means nothing.
This is why it’s time for an icon to emerge from the gay community itself. It’s time for a gay man to shake up what and who is allowed to be sexy in pop culture. In short, it’s time for a king of the gays.