Pop culture is the gay religion and pop stars are our goddesses…
By Bobby Box
Every gay has his icon, and I am no different. Mine? Victoria Beckham, the fashion-savvy Spice Girl with resting bitch face and the fewest verses on any of the girl group’s iconic, coming-of-age tracks. Whenever she’d seductively point her finger at the camera – her signature move – I’d squeal. Truth be told, Posh was my first crush, and when she married David Beckham I was genuinely hurt, because I loved her. I even followed her devastatingly short-lived and substandard solo music career.
To idolize a female pop star is nothing new for queer-identifying men. Cher, Madonna, Ariana, Taylor, Gaga, Kylie – you name her and she’s got legions of hard-stanning homosexuals who’ve assembled shrines immortalizing her in their bachelor apartments. Admittedly, I am not as hard of a “stan” as others. Since Posh, I haven’t experienced the same level of hopeless devotion towards a pop artist. But, fortunately for me, I’ve got Gay Twitter to consult – and its users never disappoint.
“Gay men use women as avatars for themselves,” one Twitter user said, and this perspective quickly collected several Likes. “Female pop stars often are strong in their femininity or redefine it and are not ashamed. Personally, I often feel empowered in my femininity through their music and it’s helped me feel comfortable in it,” said another.
Philip Petro, a staunch Madonna fan, took the time to passionately describe why he has dedicated much of his life to stanning one of pop culture’s most distinguishable figures. “I always get asked why I love Madonna so much,” he began, no doubt a response to his consistent and fanatical online devotion to the musician. “Is it about her, her music, her message? I love Madonna for all of it. For being the only constant in my life since the day I was born. For being a familiar face and voice when I was having a horrible day. For entertaining me with endless songs, videos, interviews and films and making me forget my problems. For teaching me to express myself and for loving me regardless of how much I hated myself. For being a voice for the Gay Community when no one else would even associate with us. For letting me know that my confusion about Catholicism and God and the universe was valid and that we can piece together every part of what makes us feel good about them until we think it’s right. For being my best friend. That’s why I love Madonna.”
Many queer men have an almost obsessive connection to their pop stars – one that is deeply passionate and emotionally layered. This gay fascination is something that Jeff Larsen, a psychotherapist and sexuality expert in San Diego, calls “reactive projection.”
“We as gay men often see female pop stars – especially when the star has been perceived to have had to really fight or struggle for her dominance or longevity, like Taylor, Madonna or Cher – with our own struggle for full acceptance regarding our sexuality,” Larsen says. “This struggle and the perceived victory over the struggle – think Britney [Spears] – only adds to the perceived ‘fabulousness’ of our female icons.”
The concept behind reactive projection is that gay men often ex-peri-ence a strong reaction with pop stars as we relate their tribulations to similar struggles we feel we face in our own lives – the need to be embraced or validated, for example, or the struggle to either be “relevant” or stay relevant as we age.
This reaction can intensify to the point where we project an alliance and attachment onto or with the pop star with whom we most identify. Larsen says reactive projection often leads to such a strong attachment that we may even want to emulate or “be” that artist. Because let’s face facts: Every adolescent gay boy has sung into a hairbrush in front of the mirror emulating a strong, sassy lady. “I see this a lot with gay men,” Larsen assures. “You are not alone!”
Beyond the loud stanning and unwavering support, our fascination with female pop stars stems from the basic need to relate and to feel seen and understood. It’s something gay men have a difficult time sourcing in a heteronormative society. The pop star struggles to be taken seriously; it’s a very familiar sentiment experienced by queer people.
According to Larsen, like a Buzzfeed personality quiz, the pop stars we choose to idolize are often the ones we feel most connected to. Whether you’re a Mariah, a Beyoncé or a Janet – the relationship is the same, but the identity is unique to whoever we emulate or idolize. I liked Posh because she was never the centre of attention and almost seemed to steer away from the spotlight. As a shy, introverted child, I related to her. More than that, Posh was mysterious and beautiful. She wore high heels and fancy black dresses. She was femininity personified and she was fabulous.
Gays have long sought acceptance, and pop divas have taken us in with open arms when no one else would. They shared their struggles, talents and tail-shaking bops with us. In return, we’re unwavering in our devotion and support, and will fight for them as hard as, if not harder than, they’ve fought for us.
Want to talk smack about the Spice Girls? Come at me, sis.
BOBBY BOX is a prolific freelance journalist in Hamilton, Ont. He currently works as contributing editor at Playboy.com and has had the privilege of speaking with the world’s most recognized drag queens, including Trixie Mattel and Alaska Thunderfuck. While proud of his work, Bobby is not above begging. He asks that you follow him on Twitter at @bobbyboxington.