the famous

When Good Gay Icons Go Bad: Debunking + Spelunking 5 Anti-Gay Scandals


You love them. You adore them. And in the words of your 17-year-old self defending the posters on your walls, no one really ever “gets you” like they do. But sometimes, for the men and women we’ve come to revere—even the most vocal champions of the LGBT cause—things can get a little…weird. Did he really just say that? Is she really working with him? He stuck it where? (Well, perhaps not that last one.)

Nobody’s perfect, least of all gay icons. But here are five random acts of counter-progression that had us briefly strung out.

And remember: We still love you all.

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  • naprem

    You’d really think Janet would actually do a spot of research by listening to the work of a person before agreeing to duet with them. That’s just common sense, so I have no sympathy for her on that. She got in that mess on her own.

  • AlwaysGay

    Don’t forget Elton John was in the anti-gay/ heterosexual propoganda movie Bruno. Anyway, these examples of anti-gay prejudices from these celebrities remind me how omnipresent anti-gay prejudice is even among those who claim to be unbiased.

  • Lloyd Baltazar

    This is a STUPID article. Why are YOU hating on Madonna? She is the queen of all gays. How can you hate on someone who has been there for us for more than three decades just because of one little incident which is NOT anti-gay.

    Whoever wrote this biased article should focus their energy more at the enemies of the Gay & Lesbian civil rights—not the Gay Icons who have supported us throughout all these years.


  • Kasio Q

    There are so many who have disappointed me: Bette Midler (gay marriage, Madonna (marrying an alleged homophobe, though the super gayness of RocknRolla may have proven the rumours to be untrue)and Donny Osmond (his comments post-Prop 8).

  • j

    @AlwaysGay: Hahah! Anti gay heterosexual propaganda? You faganazi. Seriously, lighten up. It was a funny movie made by an enlightened individual who’s sole comedic gambit is the exposure of stereotypes. Did you even watch it?

  • Quinn

    @Lloyd Baltazar: The queen of all gays? Seriously? Get out of here with that bullshit. I don’t answer to a monarch, and if I did it wouldn’t be a washed-up pop diva.

  • Drew

    @Quinn: Fuck you all! Tori Amos is the queen!

  • Big Black Dyke

    I never understood why so many gay men have a hard-on for that talentless old hag Madonna.

  • Lloyd Baltazar


    That’s because you are miserable and have obviously never been to a Madonna concert. I don’t blame you for being so bitter against a true Gay Icon. Madonna is an eternal legend among Gay icons and if you don’t like that—-you ought to realize that your opinion does not really matter. You have more diva attitude than a fag-drag in heels. Queen wannabe.

    Please watch a clip of a Madonna concert on YouTube before embarassing yourself. It’ll do you a hell of a lot good to find some happiness in yourself.

  • sal(the original)

    madonna,hmm …..feisty,i guess
    everyone else ,who caresssss lol

  • Steven

    I doubt that comment about Elton. I’m pretty sure that a civil partnership is the exact equivalent of marriage in the legal sense, despite the articles hyperbolic 1,100 benefits claim. Why should he not be content with that, then?

  • Robert

    Judy Garland is the Queen of Gays! Always has been and will be forever. The rest are just pretenders to the throne! The Wizard of Oz is our bible….

  • dizzyspins

    While this collection of faux-paxs seems random at best, I think the take-away is that most so-called “outspoken supporters of the LGBT community” are just self-involved celebrities. What the hell has Janet done for gays besides say she loves her gay fans? Elton John performed with Eminem–and would probably do a duet with Beenie Man if it meant he could make some extra $$. The lesson is we should stop groveling at these idiots’ feet–theyre not noble, theyre not allies. They’re businesspeople out for themselves.

    Having said that, I dont get the Madonna item. As a journo myself, I can say its totally unprofessional and embarrassing for a writer to wear a singer’s T-shirt to an interview. I bet he asked for a autograph after. It sounds like she gave him a little dig, anyway–she didnt order for him to be beheaded. And Madge is probably one of the few artists who’s given more than lip service to the gay community. Maybe it’s because she know’s what side her bread is buttered on, but she’s light-years beyond Janet.

  • Lance Rockland

    @Robert: Bite your tongue, honey.

    EVERYONE knows Barbra Streisand is the number one Gay Icon of all time.

  • Tommy

    I think you made some good points except for the ones about Madonna and Elton.

    A lot of gay people agree with Elton. They don’t like the word marriage because it is a heterosexual institution where traditionally a man dominated and controls a woman. Why would we as gay people want to be part of such a partriachial and unjust institution? That’s not my opinion, but a lot of gay people see marriage as assimilation and making us the same as straight people. They would rather have a different name, but have the same rights. So there is nothing homophobic in what Elton said.

    As for what Madonna said, it was a casually thrown off joke and she was teasing. I don’t see how you could possibly see that as homophobic.

  • Maverick69

    While every generation has their “Gay Icon” no one can take away from the fact that Madonna has been the most successful and to boot, she still loves what she does. Bless her soul.

    Now anyone up for a little Marlene Dietrich?

  • Shannon

    I thought it was a fun piece and certainly more enjoyable than the usual knee-jerk contrarian bullshit here.

  • dontblamemeivotedforhillary

    Gotta weigh in on Madonna (Madam Flowers!)

    Madonna belittled gays as not being mature enough for marriage based on the gays she knows.

    Madonna put her homophobic Ex Guy Richie before her brother who she ostracized.

    Madonna could have been a little better on the AIDS crisis since she made enough $$ off us to Fund a Cure.

    Other “Gay Iconic” celebrities who didn’t get Gay Marriage are: Bette Midler, (obviously) Madonna and Prince!

  • Alexa

    @Steven: It is in the UK, where they live, the only difference between marriage and a civil partnership is the name. That’s not the case in the US at all. Elton was showing his total ignorance when he said that – as he does more and more frequently nowadays.

  • rudy

    Sorry, Streisand Queens – Judy Garland was a fag hag before the term had been invented.
    She even married one, and a gorgeous thing he was, too.
    And need I remind you what happened the night she died?

  • Maverick69

    @ dontblamemeivotedforhillary,

    Here’s a little info.

    It is impossible to know exactly how much money the superstar has given to the battle for a cure because many of her donations have been anonymous, but even a conservative estimate places the figure at more than $5 million.

    Many people have strong opinions-not all of them good-about Madonna’s music as well as her motivations for taking certain actions and for sending certain messages during her career.

    But no matter what a person’s feelings toward the megastar might be, we should have nothing but praise for her work as an AIDS activist.

    During a time when the disease was ravaging the American population, this highly influential celebrity communicated important information to her fans-most of whom were, at that stage of her career, teenagers.

    Indeed, by sending the messages and taking the actions that she did, this “tarted-up floozy” may well have saved the lives of an untold number of her followers.

    Source: 2003

  • Vince

    And here is another:

    The Material Girl parted with a few personal possessions – a custom-made white guitar and the contents of her handbag – at a benefit to raise money for AIDS research. Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman dances during the amfAR’s annual Cinema Against AIDS 2008 benefit in Mougins, southern France, Thursday, May 22, 2008. American singer Madonna and American actress Sharon Stone auction off during the amfAR’s annual Cinema Against AIDS 2008 benefit in Mougins, southern France, Thursday, May 22, 2008. Designer Donatella Versace, left, Sean “Diddy” Combs and actress Sharon Stone on stage at the 2008 amfAR Cinema Against AIDS benefit in Mougins, southern France, during the 61st Cannes International Film Festival on Thursday, May 22, 2008. American singer Mary J. Blige peforms during the amfAR’s annual Cinema Against AIDS 2008 benefit in Mougins, southern France, Thursday, May 22, 2008. American actress Sharon Stone auctions off during the amfAR’s annual Cinema Against AIDS 2008 benefit in Mougins, southern France, Thursday, May 22, 2008. American burlesque artist Dita Von Teese, right, and American actress Sharon Stone play with stockings during the amfAR’s annual Cinema Against AIDS 2008 benefit in Mougins, southern France, Thursday, May 22, 2008. Madonna and American actress Sharon Stone speak during the amfAR’s annual Cinema Against AIDS 2008 benefit in Mougins, southern France, Thursday, May 22, 2008.

    So maybe you should do some research and get your facts straight. So to speak.

  • Madonna Defender

    Finding Aid to the Mobilization Against AIDS Records, 1984-1995
    Collection Number: MSS 95-03
    UCSF Library and Center for Knowledge Management, Archives and Special Collections
    Finding Aid Written By:
    Julia Bazar
    Date Completed:
    March 2007
    © 2007 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

    Scope and Content of Collection
    This collection documents the founding, administration and work of the Mobilization Against AIDS also known as the MOB. The MOB is
    primarily a lobbying organization working against anti-AIDS initiatives and government policies, promoting the testing of new AIDS Drugs,
    and generally drawing attention to the AIDS epidemic around the world. It is also an outreach organization. MOB worked to bring public
    understanding and support to the HIV-positive community, and to champion AIDS as an issue of concern to all.
    Both board and staff meeting minutes are included in the administrative records. Besides a number of smaller fundraising events, their
    primary event was the Annual AIDS Dance-a-thon. This fundraiser, which was held between 1987 and 1994, attracted the endorsement of
    Mobilization Against AIDS records, MSS 95-03 3
    celebrities such as Madonna, and provided monies not just to MOB, but to a number of other AIDS Organizations such as the San Francisco
    AIDS Foundation and Instituto Familiar de la Raza. Outreach activities and programs ranged from Town Hall meetings to the International
    AIDS Candlelight Vigil, an outreach activity which grew from a local event into a truly worldwide night of commemoration. The MOB’s main
    activity, however, was working against the early homophobic anti-AIDS initiatives, lobbying the government for increased AIDS funding, and
    working for the release of better AIDS drugs. The MOB staff and board not only lobbied, but also organized “Lobbying Teams” and “Lobbying
    Days” to bring ordinary citizens into the movement and increase the pressure on the politicians. Flyers for events, a MOB button and
    handkerchief, along with a few photographs, are also included in the collection.
    The Collection is divided into three series: Series 1: Founding, Board, and Administrative Files; Series 2: Fundraising, Program, and
    Organizational Files; Series 3: Publicity/Publications/Ephemera.

  • hyhybt

    @Kasio Q: Donny Osmond was a gay icon? When did that happen?

  • jason

    Madonna used gay men to build a power base and make money. Her actual devotion to gay rights appears to be minimal. I never once saw Madonna march in a gay rights parade.

    When she kissed Britney on stage, I thought she did it for boner dyke rights, not gay rights. Boner dykes are those women who use girl-girl action as a marketing ploy. They ain’t doing it for gay rights, sunshine.

    Madonna and Britney remind me of those women who take their clothes off and pose in lesbian scenes in the magazines that are read by sleazy straight guys who don’t give a rat’s about gay rights.

  • jason

    Don’t fall for the “I’ve done charity work for AIDS research” line. It’s a favorite line of homophobes. It’s like when homophobes say “I’ve got gay friends”. It’s simply a ploy, don’t fall for it.

  • james

    Really? That’s all you’ve got against Madonna? That she made some flip comment to an ET reporter… Come on, she has done more to support the gay community over the last 25 years than Cher, Elton and Bette combined. And the ageist comments on this site are disconcerting. Just because Madonna is over 50 and a woman does not make her irrelevent… in fact just the opposite. I love that she has remained a pop star with new material (as opposed to greatest hits artist like Cher and Elton) and continues to break new ground in music. All you haters can jump on the Lady GaGa bandwagon but give me Madonna and I’m happy (and check out Celebration if you dare).

  • vernonvanderbilt

    Madonna stopped being an icon when she started being boring. Just sayin’…

  • Aaron

    Why is Madonna a gay icon? What has she done for us exactly?

  • DeAnimator

    @Aaron: Exactly. The Queer community has a habit of supporting straight icons who have nothing to do with queer rights or even give a shit.

    What happened to queercore? No one cared about it because it wasn’t some shit techno dance music you could pop X to.

  • Shane


  • RainaWeather

    @Shane: But, Y KANT TORI READ??? That is the question.

  • GranDiva

    I’m surprised that the Steines thing made the list, really. The tabs were all over Madonna for making anti-gay comments back in the Dennis Rodman days and prior. I always thought Madonna was one big mixed message, the bottom line of which was “bring me the bucks.” That’s not a bad thing, mind you, because we all have to get ours.

    That the whole Midler gay marriage kerfuffle was left off puzzles me, except when I realize that no gay man under 35 can identify Bette Midler in a police photo array. All the more surprising, then, that the Donna Summer bit is in this piece, really (as one who was actually alive and aware at the time).

    Janet Jackson also did an interesting bit of a duet with yet another noted homophobe, or did that “What’s it Gonna Be” thing with Busta Rhymes get past everyone? Busta is an ass, but that Hype Williams video for the song was SICK.

    Of all the rights that American gay couples don’t have, none really apply to Elton John, because Elton and David Furnish are British subjects (though Furnish was born in Canada, but the Commonwealth is the Commonwealth) with green cards. Their civil partnership actually counts, just not here. So the piece is half off, and so is Elton in assuming that his civil partnership actually has some equivalent in the US. No one ever accused Elton John of being all that bright, though.

  • justin

    fucking stupid article… I saw the video of Madonna and she is totally being lighthearted and kidding

  • Steven

    @Alexa: I was born and bred in the UK, so I know about the civil service. But I can’t help thinking that the Elton quote is only anti-gay when its taken out of context.

    If I were asked whether I was content with the civil service I could have here in the UK, or if I still wanted to get full-on married, I’d reply just the same as Elton.

  • Gorbeh

    Brad is HOT

  • Darrien

    Describing Outrage as “HRC’s bitchy, alarmist step-sister” is pretty damn ignorant.

    Apart from the fact that there is no HRC in the UK (instead, there’s a middle-ground lobbying organisation called Stonewall), Outrage isn’t particularly bitchy or alarmist. It’s always believed in direct action and isn’t afraid to make a fuss.

    When Stonewall went into closed-door meetings with government ministers to discuss LGB (Stonewall England doesn’t ‘do’ T) equality, ministers were well aware that if they didn’t start improving equality Stonewall, Outrage was entirely capable of organising embarrassing civil disobedience and headline-grabbing stunts.

    Given how far ahead of the US the UK is on LGBT equality, perhaps Americans need to get themselves a “bitchy, alarmist step-sister” to the HRC as a matter of urgency.

    On Elton John, he was probably thinking about his own Civil Partnership in the UK, which gives him every right, privilege and responsibility possessed by a heterosexual married couple. Until an American explained to me what a piss-poor deal most US civil partnerships are, I didn’t understand why gay marriage is so important and vital in America. So while John was being ignorant, I don’t think he was being deliberately nasty or bitchy.

  • Kevin B

    Queerty, yet again ragging on Madonna and uses her picture to headline this article because of the amount of clicks her picture elicits. If you hate her so much, just stop talking about her.

    That also goes for the rest of you who constantly need to weigh in about how she’s washed up. Trust me, you’re not washed up when the mere mention of your name requires a tampon change.

  • Robert, NYC


    Tommy, seven countries abandoned civil unions or their equivalents for full marriage because they are not equal, no matter how many rights of marriage they confer. They have no portability once you leave your country of origin, nor will they ever be the universal standard for LGBT people around the world. Marriage, whether you want it or not, is and always will be the universal gold standard anywhere in the world. If civil unions were available to straights, you can bet there would be few takers. By the way, civil marriage has absolutely NOTHING to do with religious marriage either, two different models and there is absolutely no religious component in a civil marriage ceremony. Just because someone doesn’t like the term “marriage”, why should they be against the majority of us who want it?

  • Tommy

    @Robert, NYC:

    What you say really makes no sense. It doesn’t matter if you have a civil union or a marriage, if you go to a country that is against gay people . You can get married right now in five states in the U.S. But that doesn’t give you federal rights such as immigration and a green card because the U.S has a defense of marriage act that refuses to recognize marriages or civil unions from any other state or country.
    I don’t really see why the name matters if people have the same rights. Likewise being married won’t help you if governments like the U.S. refuse to recognize marriages between same sex partners. It’s not about the name, it’s about treating people equally which Elton is all for.
    I don’t really agree with Elton. I think gay people should have the right to marriage. But I was just saying his statement isn’t necessarily homophobic.
    I think the civil marriage v. religious marriage thing confuses people. To most people marriage indicates religion. Many gay people are against marriage because to them it means religion which has historically discriminated against them.
    Why not eliminate marriage for everyone, gay or straight? To have legal rights, everyone can enter a civil union. Marriages can be just a religious ceremony like a baptism that has no legal implications. That would be less confusing.

  • Henry Holland

    When I came out in the early 80’s, I was utterly baffled about why I was expected to idolize a bunch of straight women like Judy, Babs, Liza and Madonna. “Because they’ve had tragic relationships with men!” I was told. WTF? Just another aspect of the gay “community” that I have no connection to.


    @Aaron: I’ve actually always wondered the same thing! I wrote a whole rant about it for some class in college, and I swear my professor just gave me a good grade because of all the gay angst he couldn’t understand.

    Honestly? I think Lady Gaga (who I can’t even stand) has done more for the gays than Madonna (who I’m pretty sure has mostly just exploited us for her own personal gain). But I’ve done as little research on this matter as Janet Jackson has done on Beenie Man, so I really can’t say shit.

  • remix

    @Kevin B: Agreed!!

  • AngryFag

    wearing a vintage Madonna shirt IS gay.
    And that’s not a put down.
    (I’m not even a fan, but her influence in the culture around us is unavoidable)

    WE have our own style, our own culture, our own attitudes and we should be proud of it.

    How many times did you put on your sexy underwear when going out ‘just in case’ you met a hottie? hmmm…? Why did you pick those jeans that make your butt look ‘just so’? And I”m not talking about just 20-somethings….40 and 50 year olds!

    Even when we ‘dress down’, we do it with purpose. Jeans & tshirt guy? It’s all drag, baby…you’re making a statement and it’s not a creative ‘anti’ statement.

    Not necessarily having seen the comment in real time, tough to call it — but we *can* look gay and it’s not a euphemism for stupid, dumb, abhorrent or bad…

    It’s just another word for FABULOUS!

    The rest of those bitches can shove it up their homophobic…erm…nostrils. ;)

  • Drew

    Ok this is getting lame…how the fuck do I unsubscribe to these comments….?!!!

  • vernonvanderbilt

    @Drew: If you’re subscribed, you receive emails notifying you of new comments. Open one of them and click on the lowest link. That will take you to your control panel or whatever it’s called, and you can unsubscribe from topics there.

  • natt

    What, exactly, has Madonna done for gays in the last 15years? Nothing.

  • Lloyd Baltazar

    Please stop hating on Madonna. She is our Queen and you guys should not disrespect a Gay Icon. Madonna has done so many things for the Gay and Lesbian community. Before you say anything bad against her, please go watch one of her concert clips on YouTube and you will see what a wonderful person she is. Stupid gays who insult Madonna can keep their miserable pathetic mentality to themselves.

    Madonna is one of the best Gay Icons for many Gay people. She is no Judy Garland, but she still is and will always be a gay legend in our history.

  • Kevin B


    She’s kept many of us dancing and enjoying life. And that’s all she has to do.

  • Joshua Skye


    Judy Garland was a homophobe! She absolutely hated the fact that gays loved her so much and had no problem expressing that.

    Her daughter on the other hand…

  • Joshua Skye

    Amusing is it not how many people are so opposed to Madonna for reasons that could be equally shared by whichever Diva most graces their CD collection. Cher flipped out quite publically when her daughter came out of the closet which not only seemed to mock her gay icon status but her parental skills as well. Seriously, how could she have not known her big butch daughter wasn’t a lesbo? Bette Midler has always carried this air of superiority around with her; she seems genuinely unable to control her contemptuous glares and remarks. Did anyone see her on Kathy Griffin’s show? Bette’s opposition to vulgarity from others reflects a genuine hypocrisy… if anyone is playing her fans for unknowing, cash-cow shills it is certainly her. Elton John’s contempt toward… well, everyone… is an authentic manifestation of his irrelevancy over the past decade. He hasn’t had a truly great song in over two decades; and his lack of support for the community is only too apparent. He’s really just our generation’s Liberace and we all know it whether we want to admit it or not. Janet Jackson only began to vocally support the gay community after her popularity took a nosedive into oblivion… a crash from which she has not fully recovered. Judy Garland, as I mentioned before, was a homophobic bitch to the grave. The massively over-rated Mariah Carey has always been more concerned with the hip-hop crowd than anyone else and that shows no signs of changing. Need I go on? Face it, there are only two Divas that have truly embraced the gay community… Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. All the other fake Diva wannabes can, in the words of a true community ally – Kathy Griffin, “Suck it!”

    And a quick question to the haters and the bitter Bettys complaining about community support of straight women… how many Ari Gold, Sophie B. Hawkins, Boy George, Magdalen Hsu-Li, Eric Hyman, Adam Joseph or Clay Aiken albums do you have in your collections? I have them all. They may not all be to your taste, but I’d be willing to bet that outside of a Culture Club greatest hits compilation none of these openly gay (bi, or queer) artists have a space in your media cabinets. I agree that we should support our gay brothers and sisters, but most of you guys preaching that particular gospel aren’t doing it yourselves.

  • 2nice

    “Janet Jackson only began to vocally support the gay community after her popularity took a nosedive into oblivion”

    That’s not true she spoke about gay rights during the height of her career and some of the lyrics on Velvet Rope involved gay innuendo. Get your facts straight Joshua.

  • Tommy

    @Joshua Skye: @Joshua Skye: @Joshua Skye:

    Why should we buy someone’s music just because they’re gay? I buy music because I enjoy it not because the sexual orientation of the artist. I do own Boy George and Sophie B. Hawkins albums because I like some of their songs, not because they are gay and lesbian. But I would never buy a Clay Aiken album because I hate his voice and music. I support gay artists if I like their music. I also own stuff by Elton John and George Michael. But I’m not going to buy an album just because someone is gay if I don’t like their music. I don’t feel as a gay man I’m obligated to buy every album by a gay performer.
    Likewise, I buy Madonna’s music because I enjoy it. I don’t really care what she does or doesn’t do for the gay community. It’s entertainment, not politics.
    But of course, I would never buy music by someone who said something homophobic, but I don’t think artists should be required to be political activists if they don’t want to.

  • Joanaroo

    Hi! Just wondering if maybe Elton’s comment may reflect what he said several years ago about organized religion being “a crutch” and just feels no need for any religious connection. I remember he took quite a bit of flack for that remark.

  • Ted C.

    Elton spent half his life being miserable and closeted, and he hasn’t changed all that much. He’s still timid, self-loathing, and politically regressive.

    I don’t care about any of these bitches. Give me Courtney Love. That’s a woman I can respect.

    (And I still don’t think Jason Donovan is really singing on “Sealed with a kiss”.)

  • hephaestion

    I never understood why gays cared for Madonna. She’s OK, I suppose, but I see nothing about her to get excited about. I did adore Midler until she made her anti-gay remark; now she is totally dead to me.

    Judy Garland is the one great gay icon to me. There will never be another Judy.

  • justin

    @st1: Get a fucking life and stop posting that on every article, you fucking freak.

  • Fairness Intact

    @j: true. bruno was poking fun at all the homophobia. it was a blatant and hysterical depiction of the fears and ridiculous behaviour of homophobic people. that’s why Elton John appeared in it and has done a ton to help Aids research.

Comments are closed.