Magda Szubanski ... modern gay icon.
For many years if you mentioned the words ‘gay’ and ‘icon’ in the same sentence, you’d instantly conjure up images of Cher straddling a canon, Judy commanding Carnegie Hall, Bette on the beach or Madonna twisting yoga poses into dance moves. But it’s twenty frigging twelve, and us new gays think it’s high time we politely shoved the previous generation of icons back into the closet and anointed a new breed of modern gay icons.
Some of them are gay, some are straight and a few sit somewhere in the middle – yet they’re all united by one thing: a healthy amount of respect and admiration from the gay community for fiercely being who they are. A strong sense of self is the biggest requirement to be considered an icon, and in the lead up to Sydney’s Mardi Gras this weekend, here is our pick of the definitive list of Australia’s most influential new gay icons.
Ryan Kwanten ... supporter of AIDS charities in Australian and the US and is slowly earning his gay icon stripes.
“There’s nothing wrong with being gay,” said Magda Subzanski last month when she confirmed the worst kept secret in television. “If there was a tablet you could take to cure it, I wouldn’t take it.” We loved her before she officially came out, but now she’s assured of her place in the gay canon for showing Australia just how normal (and funny) some of us are. Sure, it took her fifty years to step into the pink spotlight but Magda’s now opened the door to her real life and – perhaps more importantly – finally joined Twitter the day she came out so we can share in every minute detail of her life in 140 characters or less.
It’s been 25 years since Kylie locomotioned into our hearts, and the mere fact we’re still talking abut Charlene almost three decades later is a testament to her talent. She’s made in through the wilderness - well, the Impossible Princess years - she’s beaten cancer, she cracked America (albeit briefly) and she’s managed to turn millions of detractors around to sell out shows all over the world. Although private at times, Kylie’s revealed just enough of herself to keep us interested, and with a sold out performance at Sydney Mardi Gras this weekend, she’s confirmed her place not just as a modern gay icon, but one that’ll be remembered as fondly as Judy, Bette and Cher. Long live the Pop Princess from Camberwell.
Sia Furler ... ethereal vocalist and former girlfriend of JD Samson.
She’s the ideal mum; a suburban Queensland mother whose son came out as gay to her, which then set her on a journey from ignorance to being one of the most vocal campaigners for gay rights in the country. Supporting mums and dads of gay and lesbians all around the country, Shelley is the best straight ally you could ever ask for, and has just been announced as the Chief of Parade for Sydney Mardi Gras this weekend. For her tireless work, constantly sunny disposition and support in showing other parents just how it’s done as the National Spokeperson for PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Shelley has rightfully earnt her place as the mother of all homegrown modern gay icons.
As one of the most talked Justices on the High Court of Australia, 72 year-old Kirby has had his fair share of public highs and lows. From being (very wrongly) vilified by Bill Heffernan to his nickname as the Great Dissenter, Kirby dug his way deep into the hearts of people everywhere with his legendary opening speech at the 2002 Gay Games in Sydney where his tale of meeting his lifelong partner Johan van Vloten ensured there was not a dry eye left at Aussie Stadium. Kirby is a true hero to people of all ages, confident enough to speak his own mind, and intelligent enough for it to be taken seriously.
You might not know his name, but history will remember Alex as the driving force behind Australia’s long overdue marriage equality campaign. Driven by a desire to marry his partner Victor, Alex fires up the pistons in the engine room every single day as the National Convenor of Australian Marriage Equality. Last week he dined with Julia Gillard to grill her on same-sex marriage and every day he herds the equality message into a coherent and powerful movement. You don’t just become a gay icon, you forge it out of passion and dedication. And when the Australia’s first gay couple stands before a celebrant to legally confirm their relationship to the world, Alex will be the one to thank.
Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham became an overnight pin up boy after the Beijing Olympics.
As the first Australian diver to win an Olympic gold medal since 1924, openly gay Mitcham became an overnight pin up boy after the Beijing Olympics. It might have been because of his cover model looks, or simply that he shrugged off his sexuality as being as much a part of him as his skin colour. He’s been able to back up the success too, winning four silver medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and leading the Mardi Gras Parade in 2009. It’s rare to anoint an icon at just 23 years-old, but Mitcham has clawed his way from depression to the highest sporting honour in the world. For that alone he deserves a gold medal.
Singer and songwriter Sia has managed to do the impossible: keep every inch of her credibility whilst guest starring on tracks for Flo Rida (“Wild Ones”) and David Guetta (“Titanium”). It’s a long way from Adelaide for the former girlfriend of Le Tigre’s JD Samson who began her career as an ethereal vocalist and managed to carve out a quirky pop following, even picking up three ARIA Awards last year including Best Pop Release. With her unique vocal style and ability to keep her cool where other artists have failed, Sia’s an icon through and through.
Vinnie from Home and Away has really grown up. Best known now as the superbly built Jason Stackhouse from cult vampire series True Blood, Kwanten is a massive supporter of AIDS charities in Australian and the US and is slowly earning his gay icon stripes. “My youngest brother Lloyd is gay," he told The Advocate magazine. "He's a doctor, so he got every ounce of intelligence in the family. He was probably about 18 when he came out, and I can wholeheartedly tell you that from the day that he did, he was a changed man for the better. The sheer beauty of who he is really came through." Amen to that.
You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s (almost) gone. After Molly’s recent home accident, we tried to imagine an entertainment world without Molly in it – and it was simply too difficult. Loveable Molly created his own niche in music journalism, befriending his subjects and disarming them in interviews. In the process he became as much of an icon as the stars in front of his microphone. The national outpouring of grief at almost losing Molly confirmed his status as one of the people we really look up to.
The Unknown AFL Player
This month Hawthorn Football Club President Jeff Kennett said he’d be “very surprised” if 40 or less current AFL players weren’t gay. Yet the AFL remains almost the only professional sport in the world where no player, past or present, has ever come out of the closet. It’s due to boofheads like Jason Akermanis who notoriously warned players to never come out. So to whoever the first player is that has the courage to tell they world that they’re proud of who they are, you are Australia’s true modern gay icon. I truly hope there’s enough light peeking through the crack in the closet door for you to reach towards.