There’s no denying it: 2016 was tough on queer icons. We lost a lot of great queer role models — George Michael, David Bowie — as well as allies like Carrie Fisher and Patty Duke. (We also lost Antonin Scalia, so it wasn’t all bad.)
It might be tempting to think that there’s nobody good left — but oh, wait just a moment. There are actually a ton of amazing queer icons still gracing us with their presence and their work. Here are a few of our favorites.
1. John Waters
We were worried for a second about our favorite trashy director this year — but it turns out he was just celebrating Christmas by passing a kidney stone. He may not have had a now movie in years, but he’s still writing and entertaining and basically just living the lifestyle that you would want a king of filth to embody.
You can construct a timeline going back fifty years with Cher reliably making sure her homosexual fans always had something to dance to. She just keeps getting better and better. And though it hasn’t always been easy, her support for her transgender son is an inspiration.
3. Tori Amos
Before it was so easy for gay teens to come out, sensitive boys found each other by confessing their love for Tori Amos. Little Earthquakes was basically the hanky code of the 90s. And it’s always a treat to see her quirky delirium pop up in the Sandman books and Stardust.
4. Carol Channing
Bob the Drag queen breathed new life into this lady’s legacy when he impersonated her on Drag Race — but let’s be honest, she didn’t need any help. Her legacy is lively enough as it is. As Dolly Levi, she’s a constant reminder that you can bounce back from tragedy. And in Skiddoo, she’s a reminder that you shouldn’t take every role you’re offered.
5. Harvey Fierstein
Actor, playwright, bon vivant, Harvey spoke truth to entire generations of gay men — both in drag and out. He’s tremendous fun as Edna Turnblatt, but it’s his Torch Song Trilogy that’s required reading or viewing for queers.
6. Lily Tomlin
Bless Lily for doing her best to create romantic chemistry with John Travolta in the movie Moment by Moment. It can’t have been easy for a closeted queer person to muster up such a convincing heterosexual performance.
7. Betty White
The last surviving member of the Golden Girls core cast will surely outlive us all. She’s been working longer than just about anyone you can think of in Hollywood, from sitcoms to commercials to hosting parades. Somehow she just seems to get more and more energy as she goes.
8. Julie Andrews
When she’s not busy being a princess or a nun, she’s a drag king playing a drag queen in Victor Victoria. Julie was toying with gender long before it was mainstream.
9. Stephen Fry
What on Earth is Stephen Fry doing on an American network sitcom with hacky millennial jokes? Well, he can’t constantly be traipsing around the world, last-chance-to-seeing. Now that he’s a happily married man, can you begrudge him wanting to kick back with an unchallenging job for a while? We’re lucky to have him whatever show he’s on.
10. Liza Minnelli
According to an urban rumor, it was her mother’s death that prompted the Stonewall Riots. That’s a little hard to swallow, but who knows — maybe when Liza with a Z goes, the queer community will erupt in an uproar as well. Like her mom, she’s been through the ringer, and there’s nothing gay men love like a long-suffering female heroine who refuses to stay defeated. Here’s to many more years of losing our minds with her.