what we can take away from gay icons

The stereotypical gay icon was a staple part of gay life for decades — looking back, do they have anything to teach us?

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Oct 11 2018, 10:49pm

This story originally appeared on i-D France.

What do Cher and Mylène Farmer have in common? Besides the fact that their album releases coincide perfectly, they are both respected gay icons — stars who are held in a near-saintly status by fans who worship them like devoted cult members. "I don’t need you anymore," Cher proclaims on her album Believe, in an auto-tuned mix of courage and emotion. "Je te rends ton amour/Au moins pour toujours" (“I give you back your love/At least forever,”) whispers Mylène on Innamoramento. Two styles for one identical message: as strong and liberated individuals, gay icons don’t wait for anyone’s approval to exist. Is it your fantasy to join their ranks? Just know that, according to Lady Gaga, "We are all born superstars." If that isn’t enough, follow our guide, and most importantly, let yourself go.

Accept the drama
From Dalida to Whitney Houston via George Michael, Cher, or Britney Spears, gay icons lead lives that are, if not dramatic, at least punctuated by low periods, rehab, or psychiatric hospital. Their strength? Getting back up almost every time, falling down again, but never giving up on the belief in better tomorrows.

Celebrate exuberance
Whether it’s rainy, hailing, or windy — whether you’re going down to buy bread, meeting up with a Tinder date, or meeting up with your career advisor — you should always let loose on the bridle of style. Whether your fancy draws you towards meat, leather, feathers, or jeans, just heed that call. If your superego enjoins you to undress, don’t hesitate either. Forget what you've been told all your childhood: no, you're not too much: it's the others who don’t try hard enough. "Less is moooore," preaches your ex-best friend Sophie ever since she’s landed a fixed-end contract at A.P.C. Well, yes… but no. To whom it may offend, you will only need to say that through your sophistication, you are exposing the constructed dimension of femininity.

Love your audience
One must only witness the sincerity of the love binding Lady Gaga to her monsters (namely: her fans) to grasp the importance of maintaining a fusional relationship with one’s audience. Until you’re able to establish a fanbase, do not hesitate to reconnect with all the folk you spent college despising: everyone deserves a second chance, as you’ve come to realize over the course of your last stay in rehab. So allow yourself to be filled with love, as your former classmates are all potential candidates in your attempt to fill a Zenith — sorry, a stadium.

Be in touch with your homosexuality
It may seem obvious, but the best way to be a gay icon is still to accept your homosexuality. Your parents may have figured it out before you, but in order to make sure everyone’s in the loop, the best way is still to suggest family karaoke on Christmas day. Once your brother-in-law is done trampling over Patrick Sebastien, launch "I'm Coming Out," look your audience in the eye and let yourself be overwhelmed by emotion. Are you unsure whether the message was clear enough? Continue with "I Will Survive" — obviously irrelevant advice during World Cup season, if you’re afraid that your queerness might be mistaken for football fever. If you fail, try again on the following Christmas and remind yourself that even Ricky Martin got there even though his case seemed desperate — he still called himself heterosexual in his "Livin La Vida Loca" period when frankly, even an unlicensed gaydar could not have ignored it.

Change the world
If you don’t fit into any of the pre-mentioned categories, don’t want to dress in a bib, or die in a car accident, or become addicted to barbiturates and yet you still want to become a gay icon, you’ve still got one option: commitment to the community. Whether to fight against AIDS, discrimination, the fate of refugees, social precariousness, or testing on animals... the list is long, non-exhaustive, and leaves you with the embarrassment of having to choose. On the other hand, we advise you to refrain from entering mainstream politics and to leave the niche of gay right-wingers on their own. This path always leads to a very questionable political career.