Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minelli, Cher, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, etc.
We are drawn to people we can relate to and I've said this before that gay men and women have a lot in common. For one, both groups are highly underrated in society and often downgraded simply because of who we are. Those women you mentioned are all strong and fabulous and most importantly seemingly unconcerned by society's unfair prejudices and discrmination toward them. All of those women are held in high regard by their fans who include gay men, but it isn't hard to hear rude jokes about each of them.
Infact, I'm proud of you because what you listed are really the cream of the crop and the best demonstrations of female gay icons. All of those women are extremely eccentric, and/or a little odd, or some would say downright crazy...compared to your cookiecutter "safe" female star. They managed to be that unusual and still make it past stardom, these women are immortals.
Gay men look at them and think: wow, here she is and crooked nose, indifferent personality, marginal beauty and all she still is fabulous and I CAN BE TOO.
Yes, they are female, but so symbolic of what every gay man wants: acceptance despite what society sees as his flaws. When you think of it this way, it really has nothing to do with gender at all. It becomes a totally human affair.
I mean, think about the time Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Judy Garland got big. Being homosexual was a great taboo and besides the rumors, there were no gay representatives of gay men on the silver screen. There was noone to look at and say "I want to be like him." I want to be recognized for my abilities, my talents, and my appeal despite what I do in my bedroom or who I choose to love. However, these bombastic, larger than life women of the time: the ones you mentioned, they could be that unflinching representation of homosexual angst that men of the time undoubtedly felt back then.
And now, the love and esteem for these women endures...because it deserves to. Sometimes when I go to the movies or listen to music: I feel largely underrepresented. I mean, the last BIG gay movie wasn't even centered around out gay characters, but rather closeted str8 acting guys. Music stars like Lance Bass and Sysco may both be a little obvious, but both appeared on t.v as either very hetero or in limbo for years before they came out. However, I can pop Funny Girl into my DVD player or Cher's Believe into my stereo and suddenly all my fabulous awkwardness is represented through them.
Speaking of gender roles, a large population of gay men are fems....sorry, but I don't find it unusual that they can relate to women better than men especially in the entertainment world (mainstream media not theatre) because noone looks like them. True there has been a lot more sprinkled about, the fab five comes to mind, but that is a farely recent phenomenon.
I've said it before, a LARGE portion of gay culture is not aimed at g0ys or str8 acting men or people on this site who can go out in society and choose to be identified as gay. Gay PRIDE is so flamboyant and gender indifferent because it was created by feminine men who were too obvious to hide it (why should they) and had to stand up and shout "This is who we are!" I think the gay icons you mentioned are perfectly adequite examples of how outragious and fabulous gay culture is because those women exude it.
I know a lot about this. I am very masculine and str8 acting now because it is a choice I made. I used to be a BIG fem. It could be seen and heard from miles away. I experienced a little backlash from it, not a lot because I was a BIG fem. However, I remember being drawn to gay female icons because they were so much like me. Yeah, they were women, but then again, I was a lot more female atleast emotionally and even physically. I remember wanting to dress and act a little more fabulous, but I was painfully aware of my surroundings and I schrouded myself in oversized black and blue clothes. I changedbecause I thought its what I had to do for acceptance. I used to have to physically clinch my throat to stop my voice from coming out too high. Before I grew out my chest and shoulders, I had to puff them up physically. It may sound funny, but I had to essentially fake it until I made it. Before too long, the voice stuck and the muscles grew. Now I am completely masculine and it isn't an act.
However, I never stopped loving my feminine side. I still feel grief because I caved and I ended him eventhough she was just me. These days I sometimes allow my voice to go up several octives and pirouette out into the open or to let the natural pep in my step show through. My wardrobe has certainly changed since High School. Anyway, what I mean to say is: those women were and are still more familiar to me than the macho male stereotype represented in most of society even if I do resemble that stereotype now, which makes me want to listen to Cher cds now while singing along and combing my make-believe tresses.