What do rainbows and unicorns have to do with being gay? When the Wizard of Oz was published first back in 1900, there were many references to being queer and gay. However, since those words were not at all associated with “being queer and gay” one can hardly say that is the reason why this story is so gay-related. What is it than that makes certain things so unmistakably connected with homosexuality? When it comes to celebrities, they often become a so-called gay icon due to the events that color their lives and/or their performances. Meryl Streep simply became a gay icon after portraying Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, where Christina Aquilera merely thanks her status to the anthem Beautiful. Madonna was crowned to be a gay icon. Not only because of her rebellious character back in the 1980’s and 90’s but mostly also because when many celebrities tried to distance themselves from their gay fans when the AIDS epidemic became public knowledge (which cost them dearly), she turned the light back on her gay fans and made it burn even brighter. For Donna Summer it pretty much worked the other way around. She owned her fame and fortune to a large gay fan base who carried her on their hands when she was still an underground singer, but unlike earlier mentioned Queen of Pop, she turned to religion and condemned homosexuality, which more or less ruined her career later on. When it comes to people, and mostly women, it seems that there are two types of gay icons. The strong independent woman, who makes a difference and who fights for recognition, such as earlier mentioned Madonna. And the opposite, the struggling, more tragic and sometimes even suicidal women. Judy Garland falls in this category. Which brings us back to the Wizard of Oz.
The story of this young lonely girl who ends up in the magical land of Oz and desperately tries to finds her way home is the most gay associated movie ever. Apparently it has all the right ingredients. An isolated adolescent from the middle of nowhere who doesn't fit in where she is, dreams of a place where everything is bright and colorful and fabulous. It's not just a metaphor for the idea of gay migration to large urban centers, it's practically a (yellow brick) road map. The Lion, the Tin Man and Scarecrow, three characters that struggle to find their own identity but eventually, with the help of Dorothy, find their inner strength and ‘come out’. Referred to as the Friends of Dorothy, this name has since then become equivalent of being gay. Judy Garland portrayed Dorothy in the musical-film. Her personality, her struggle with alcohol and drugs and her lifestyle in which she surrounded herself with ‘boys in tight trousers’ made her the mother of gay icons. The Wizard of Oz theme song ‘Over the Rainbow’ instantly became the number one tears provoking gay anthem of all times. Obviously in an era when being gay was something not spoken of, gay men and women searched for things and people they could associate themselves with. That reflected their deepest feelings and their selves. Today, when we are more free in expressing who we are, we don’t really need those icons anymore, but it still feels so comfortable to have them. Hence that we can call the recent 86th Academy Awards, the probably gayest Oscars ever. It had it all, openly gay comedien Ellen Degeneres, not in a designer gown but a most elegant pant suit, Meryl Streep, Bette Midler, Liza Minelli, as tragic as her famous mother, and P!nk (no she isn’t) taking the stage to perform Over the Rainbow. It’s good to be gay and it’s good to have people and events to idolize because they represents what we are and how we feel. After all, we truly are unicorns: rare, unique and fabulous. –BM-
Cover photography by Edwin J. Lebrun
Cover model: Deon Whitter
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