The 18 Greatest Gay Icons Of Our Generation

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rukkle’s list of male gay icons includes an eclectic list of musicians, actors, athletes and politicians.

From James Dean to Elton John to Stephen Fry and Macklemore, each has rightfully earned the title as one of our top gay icons.

rukkle has put together its own list of the top gay icons and it includes musicians (Elton John), actors (James Dean), athletes (David Beckham), and politicians (Nelson Mandela).

rukkle defines a gay icon to be a historical figure, celebrity, or public figure that has been embraced by those within the LGBT community. A gay icon can be homosexual or heterosexual.


James Dean

Gay Icons Male Edition James Dean

James Dean has been idolised for being rugged, sexy, and cool. While James Dean never publicised his sexuality, since he passed away, it’s been determined that he had relationships with both men and women. He helped to redefine that homosexuality was beyond just being feminine and/or perverted. This along with his fame and persona makes him one of our top gay male icons.

When asked about his sexuality, he replied,

“No, I am not a homosexual, but I am also not going to go through life with one hand tied behind my back.”

Watch the trailer for James Dean’s Rebel Without A Cause.


Adam Lambert

Gay Icons Male Edition Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert is one of the newest gay male icons. He is one of the biggest musicians to come out of American Idol and certainly the top gay musician from the show. He courted controversy early in his career by kissing one of his bandmates live onstage at the American Music Awards. This summer, he will be attempting to fill the shoes of gay icon Freddie Mercury by stepping in as the lead singer in Queen during their upcoming tour.

Watch Adam Lambet’s video for Never Close Our Eyes.


Jake Gyllenhaal


Jake Gyllenhaal has been lusted upon by gay men for many years. It is his role in Brokeback Mountain that turned him from stud to icon. The film was highly anticipated and both him and Heath Ledger didn’t disappoint in their realistic portrayal of a secret love affair that ended in tragedy.

Jake addressed rumours of him being bisexual,

“You know it’s flattering when there’s a rumor that says I’m bisexual. It means I can play more kinds of roles. I’m open to whatever people want to call me. I’ve never really been attracted to men sexually, but I don’t think I would be afraid of it if it happened.”

Watch below the final scene from Brokeback Mountain.


George Michael


George Michael kept his sexuality a secret until the 90′s when he was arrested for engaging in a lewd act. He turned that experience into a positive one by choosing to be open and proud about being gay. As a gay male icon, he has sung numerous hit singles and worked as an advocated for LGBT rights and AIDS research. He even wrote a song about a former lover who passed away due to AIDS related complications called, Jesus to a Child.

Watch one of George Michael’s latest singles, Let Her Down Easy.


Harvey Fierstein


Torch Song Trilogy. La Cage aux Folles. Kinky Boots. For these three written works alone, Harvey Fierstein is easily one of our top gay male icons. Add in his show stopping roles as Edna Turnblad in the musical hit, Hairspray and as Robin Williams’ brother in Mrs. Doubtfire and you now know for sure that he’s earned his place amongst gay male icons.

Fierstein is known for his signature voice that he describes as sounding like,

“…a deep-throated jazz diva who has just tossed back a double-bourbon.”

Watch Harvey Fierstein perform as Edna Turnbald.


Neil Patrick Harris


Neil Patrick Harris had earned iconic status for his portrayal of Dr. Doogie Harris as a teen actor. He, then, changed up his image in a role in the Harold & Kumar stoner films. He put rumours to rest in 2006, when he came out as a gay. Since then, he’s earn his title as a gay male icon as Barney Stinson, a womanizer, in How I Met Your Mother. Plus, he’s doing amazing works as the host of the Tony Awards multiple times.

Watch Neil Patrick Harris’ unbelievable opening as host of the 2013 Tony Awards.


Elton John


Sir Elton John is featured on many lists as one of the greatest musicians of all time. You’re unlikely to find a gay icon list that doesn’t feature him in the top 5. He is a musical genius and has been openly gay long before it was accepted by society. He has been raising money for AIDS research through his own foundation for decades and continues to advocate for LGBT rights. Along with his partner, David Furnish, and his own adopted child, he is helping to change the definition of a ‘normal’ family in many eyes.

Watch one of Elton John’s latest singles, Home Again.




Due to his impressive fashion and perfectly coiffed hair, some have mistaken Macklemore to be one of music’s first gay rappers. He is very much straight and in a long term relationship with a female. However, it’s his passion for gay rights and marriage equality that enabled him to create his smash gay anthem hit, Same Love.

As well, he states that his upbringing featured a number of positive gay role models,

“My dad’s best friend was gay. My barber was gay. My uncles owned this restaurant that was a huge magnet for the gay community. My whole upbringing was around gay people.”

Watch Macklemore and Ryan’s video for gay anthem, Same Love.


Marlon Brando


Marlon Brando is known to modern audiences for his iconic role in The Godfather. Prior to this during a lull in his box office appeal during the 60′s, Marlon Brando is said to have reignited his acting passions playing a repressed gay army officer in Reflections in a Golden Eye. It doesn’t hurt his gay male icon status that he costarred in the film with fellow gay icon, Elizabeth Taylor. Brando’s rugged looks and masculinity has also made him an early lesbian icon. It’s said that his looks influenced the butch look of the early 50′s.

Watch the top 10 of Marlon Brando performances.


Stephen Fry


Fans of Stephen Fry know him best for his humour and intellect. He has been entertaining audiences since years ago in A Bit of Fry & Laurie and continues to do so today with the comedy panel quiz show, QI. During all of this, he has been an activist and has participated in a number of documentaries to raise awareness on mental illness, gay rights, and HIV/AIDS. Recently, he fought against the antigay laws in Russia and called for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics.

When describing his sexuality, he’s stated,

“I suppose it all began when I came out of the womb. I looked back up at my mother and thought to myself, ‘That’s the last time I’m going up one of those.’”

Watch Stephen Fry put Alan Davies in his place on BBC’s QI.


George Takei


George Takei has long been beloved for his role as Sulu in the original Star Trek television series and six subsequent films. With all his success, he chose to keep his sexual orientation secret until 2005. In 2005, he came out as gay in response to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s veto of California’s same sex marriage bill. He decided then that it was time to start fighting publicly for gay rights. Since then, he’s gone on speaking tours sharing his story as a gay Japanese man. Cementing his place as one of our top gay male icons, he is a spokesperson with the Human Rights Campaign.

Watch George Takei’s response to an anti-gay bully.


David Beckham


David Beckham could’ve earned his gay male icon status simply by marrying Spice Girls’ group member, Victoria Beckham (aka Posh Spice). It’s been said that Victoria molded him into the gay icon that he is today. She turned him from a soccer star to a gay icon through stylish hair and fashion. His underwear ads have ensured that his gay fans continue to fall for him long after his status as a top athlete.

Best of all, he openly embraces the love that he gets from his gay fans.

“Being a gay icon is a great honor for me. I’m quite sure of my feminine side, and I’ve not got a problem with that at all. These days it’s the norm, and it should be.”

Watch David Beckham’s Super Bowl 2014 commercial for H&M.


Harvey Milk


Harvey Milk was the first openly gay politician to be elected into public office in California. Initially, gay rights were not at the forefront of his agenda, but this changed with time. During his relatively short 11 months in office, he passed a stringent gay rights ordinance for the city of San Francisco. Tragically, he was assassinated in 1978, but he remains a gay icon and has been described as “the most famous and significantly open LGBT politician ever elected in the United States”.

Watch Harvey Milk’s inspirational speech, Hope.


Sir Ian McKellen


Sir Ian McKellan is one of the most well known out gay actors today. He is comfortable performing on the big screen in such blockbuster franchises as X-Men and The Lord of The Rings. As well, he’s masterfully conquered the stage time and again. He came out in 1988 and has often spoken out and advocated about gay issues. As well, he is frequently seen attending gay pride events throughout the world.

Watch Ian McKellen discuss coming out on Anderson Cooper’s talk show.


John Waters


Openly gay director John Waters has long been heralded for encouraging everyone to wave their freak flag. He’s brought us such imaginative films as, Pink Flamingoes, Cry Baby, Hairspray, and A Dirty Shame. Drag Queen, Divine’s, infamous scene in Pink Flamingoes will forever be etched in our brains.

Waters has spoken frankly about his thoughts on the LGBT community,

“The coming out story is sort of corny to me. Now there’s all these rules like you can’t have gay villains in movies. I’m against all that. I’m for the rights of lesbians to be bad parents. I’m for not lowering any kind of standards because we’re gay.”

Watch John Waters’ appearance on the Craig Ferguson Show.


Ben Cohen


Ben Cohen is famous for his 2003 Rugby World Cup win, but it’s his activism towards ending bullying that makes him one of our top gay male icons. Sure, it doesn’t hurt that he’s incredibly handsome, but we love him being a very out, loud, and proud LGBT ally. In 2011, Cohen retired from playing rugby and put his focus towards The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation. The foundation focuses on raising awareness of the harm caused by bullying. For his efforts at assisting the LGBT community, he has received Attitude Magazine’s Ally Award.

Watch Ben Cohen strut his sexy self in this clip from BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.


Nelson Mandela


Nelson Mandela will forever be recognized for his support for LGBT rights. As South Africa’s President, he led the country to become the first on its continent to outlaw antigay discrimination in 1998. As well, before he passed last December, he had been fighting for marriage equality for almost 20 years. In 2006, South Africa again became the first to recognize marriage equality in Africa. Finally, he appointed openly gay members into prominent positions within his government. For these reasons and more, Mandela is one of our top gay icons.

Watch an extended clip from PBS’s News Hour honouring Nelson Mandela.


Justin Timberlake


Popular boy bands definitely acquire a large gay following. Justin Timberlake, as part of N’Sync, is no stranger to this. However, it’s his success as a solo artist that has earned him praise as one of our top gay male icons. Whether, it’s showing his support for fellow N’Syncer Lance Bass coming out or performing with female gay icon, Janet Jackson, Timberlake is well aware of his gay following.

Former girlfriend Cameron Diaz confirmed his love for all his gay fans,

“Justin loves all of his fans. People adore him across the board, and he’s not uncomfortable with any part of it.”

Watch the video for Justin Timberlake’s hit song, Mirrors.

Our list of the top gay male icons could continue on, who would you like to see included?

 Jay rukkle
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14 Responses to The 18 Greatest Gay Icons Of Our Generation

  1. Max April 16, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Thank god for that – Justin is my favourite and I was worried he hadn’t made it – Thank god he had!

  2. lovetheusa1776 April 29, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Appreciate Macklemore’s “Same Love,” but there’s simply no comparison with Adam Lambert’s “Outlaws of Love,” a sadly overlooked anthem from his brilliant album “Trespassing.” He’s performed it live a number of times, and would have appreciated its having been included here rather than NCOE, a song not written by him. At any rate, thank you for recognizing his contributions, far more extensive than is generally known.

  3. melliemom April 29, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Adam Lambert is such a force musically and as a spokesman for gay rights.His courage and his fierce independence, always being true to himself,has inspired so many others to follow his example.

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  5. Alessandra Andrade May 1, 2014 at 5:02 pm


  6. Mônica Gomes May 1, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Adam Lambert … Courage, talent and beauty! In the American Idol, the prejudice that came second.

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  8. barbls23 May 17, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Adam Lambert! I have never seen anyone who owns and his proud of who he is! He is inspirational! He loves life and people hat he does as an artist and performer! He also is the most talented music artist I have ever heard or seen live! He just owns any stage he is on. I admire that he stands up for human rights for all! The whole of him is just one beautiful human being and added to this is one gorgeous man!!

  9. magsmagenta May 17, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    Adam is the greatest singer of his generation, but his song writing deserves attention too, some of the songs on his album would be fantastic gay anthems if they got more attention, like Outlaws Of Love or Aftermath, but they never got to be singles, and only the songs written by other ‘Big Name’ songwriters got to be singles. What a criminal waste.

  10. Jaqui May 18, 2014 at 5:46 am

    I’m in complete disagreement with gay icons being non-gay. You’re telling the gay community that their own people that have worked hard in fighting discrimination and taken risks don’t matter. I don’t get James Dean as an icon icon for this generation, whose generation? He died almost 60 years ago & Marlon Brando? These guys may have been gay, but no one knew it. They didn’t do anything for the cause of equality or take risks in their careers. No one even knew. Also Just because Macklemore writes a hit celebrating equality does not make him an icon for the cause, he and the Jake of Brokeback Mt have not experienced what it’s like to be bullied, beat up, lose a job or any of those things for being gay. They don’t take the same risks. What about the creator of Glee, Ryan Murphy? His show was the first that really brought attention to what it’s like being different and what theater & gay kids go through in schools. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him on a gay icon list, and he is gay. What about Chris Colfer, a kid that was bullied his whole life for being different then brought those feelings and experiences to life for all of us to see and be aware of. His books, movie, interviews and speeches constantly encourage kids to be who they are & not let anyone tell them they can’t. Of course there’s Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnel, Jim McGreevey, NJ ex-gov who risked his political career. Gay icons should be people who are from the community that are taking risks and speaking out for equality.

    • davealsybury May 19, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      Hi Jaqui,

      Thanks for your comment. As with any list, it can be interpreted in a number of ways. Our aim was certainly not to exclude anyone of merit, but to simply take a light hearted approach to icons, gay or straight, that many in the gay community are fans of.

      Thanks again for your comment and I hope you continue to enjoy our features at rukkle.

  11. Angry Queer PoC July 1, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    Out of 18 people, literally 17 are white men, and most of them cis men.

  12. js July 3, 2014 at 4:24 am

    Each one of these are white men – reaffirming the racism that persists in the LGBT community.

  13. js July 3, 2014 at 4:26 am

    except mandela and takei – but i still hold my positon that visible minority gays are not thought of when we talk about LGBT.


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