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Poet and satirical writer Dorothy Parker reportedly had a large gay following.Though the phrase "friend of Dorothy" was made popular in later years by Judy Garland's role in The Wizard Of Oz (1939), some Davis' portrayal of the melodramatic Judith Traherne made her talent for playing someone with a secret revered and her "camp-worthy" dialog reflexive of the "flamboyant gay queen of the dramatic arts." In Marcella Althaus-Reid's Liberation Theology and Sexuality, Marlene Dietrich, who is considered to be the first German-born actress to receive critical acclaim in Hollywood, is a model of liberation and subversion, as well as beauty, perfection and sensuality.Paul Flynn of The Guardian wrote, "The concept of gay icon is a cheap ticket...[and] the idea of gay iconography itself is currently replaceable with the idea of popularity and the ability to carry a strong, identifiable, signature look." Author Michael Thomas Ford depicts a similar attitude in his work of fiction Last Summer.Although the term "gay icon" is most commonly used in the United States, the concept is found in other cultures, as well.Modern gay icons in entertainment include both film stars and musicians, most of whom have strong, distinctive personalities, and many of whom died young or under tragic circumstances.For example, Greek-American opera singer Maria Callas—who reached her peak in the 1950s—became a gay icon because the uniquely compelling qualities of her stage performances were allied to a tempestuous private life, a sequence of unhappy love affairs, and a lonely premature death in Paris after her voice had deserted her.Historically, icons were typically elevated to such status because their sexual orientation remains a topic of debate among historians.Modern gay icons are predominantly female entertainers who commonly garner a large following within LGBT communities over the course of their careers.

Science fiction author Forrest J Ackerman was dubbed an "honorary lesbian" for his help during the early days of lesbian rights organisation Daughters of Bilitis.He also wrote lesbian-themed fiction under the pseudonym Laurajean Ermayne.Gay icons may be homosexual or heterosexual, out or in the closet, male or female.The majority of gay icons fall into one of two categories: they are either tragic, sometimes martyred figures, or prominent pop culture idols.a Christian saint and martyr, whose combination of strong and shirtless physique, symbolic arrow-pierced flesh and rapturous look of pain have intrigued artists, both gay and straight, for centuries and began the first explicitly gay cult in the nineteenth century. Kaye wrote, "Contemporary gay men have seen in Sebastian at once a stunning advertisement for homosexual desire (indeed, a homoerotic ideal), and a prototypical portrait of a tortured closet case." The name was also used by Oscar Wilde—as Sebastian Melmoth—when in exile after his release from prison.