'Gay Icons' is a title of some creative ambiguity. For many the term will refer to well-known historical or literary figures, such as Oscar Wilde, who have become iconic through their status as pioneers or even martyrs. For others it will signify those stars like Judy Garland, Madonna or Kylie Minoghue who have developed a cult status for a gay audience because of their style or appearance. For this project, the term is extended to include those people, living or dead, whatever their sexual orientation or interests, who our ten individual selectors regard as inspirational as a personal icon. Gay Icons therefore brings together an intriguing set of portraits: those people who are regarded as especially significant by each of the selectors, alongside the selectors themselves, who are prominent gay figures in contemporary culture and society.
This book is assertive, exploratory and celebratory. The choices of iconic figures and their portraits provide a fascinating range of inspiring figures - some very famous, some heroic, others not sufficiently well-known. Each subject is presented along with information about their personal, and sometimes public, significance. Some of it relating to the sitter but much of it linked to the slectors themselves. This makes for some poignant and unexpected juxtapositions: in writing about their choices, the selectors have been prepared to share their own experiences and feelings, which in turn raises issues about gender, identity, history and iconography for wider consideration.
The ten selectors are: Waheed Alli, Alan Hollinghurst, Elton John, Jackie Kay, Billie Jean King, Ian McKellen, Chris Smith, Ben Summerskill, Sandi Toksvig and Sarah Waters