We asked young LGBTQ+ people to tell us their queer icons and heroes

‘She inspires me to live my life without fear and judgement’


Sometimes all you need when you’re young and LGBTQ+ is a strong queer icon and role model to inspire you.

That inspiration can be anything. It can be finding the courage to come out, finding inspiration to create something amazing or finding the confidence to be your authentic self.

This Pride month, we asked some young people about who their queer icons and heroes are. From strong mainstream representation, to fierce allies and trailblazers who break societal expectations and gender norms, these are the queer legends that have always given us hope through their work, their music and using their platform in the best ways.

Em – Madonna

Queer icon

There are multiple gay icons that inspire me that I could choose, but because I’m such a huge fan I just have to say Madonna.

She brought gay culture to the forefront, too us mainstream when no one else was. She has always advocated for our rights and has never stopped being a strong ally to the community.

She was there in the AIDS crisis when many weren’t, and she recently supported gay rights at a concert in Russia and refused to pay the $1,000,000 fine given to her by the government.

She has just always been there and had our backs. And that’s what makes a queer icon.

Josh – Billy Porter

Queer icon

Billy Porter is an LGBTQ+ icon in every sense of the word. As well as being an incredible actor, he’s a great singer and makes statements as a fashionista. He’s an activist that people in and out of the queer community can look at for inspiration.

His character Pray Tell in Pose reinforces his personal beliefs by demonstrating how LGB people an allies can support and celebrate black trans women who are still so heavily marginalised, despite their contribution to the battle for equal rights.

You can always see in Billy’s work his passion, drive and love of community, which makes him deserving of icon status. His recent announcement that he is HIV positive only makes his journey more inspiring and takes a step in the right direction to eliminate the stigma around HIV.

If the world had more icons like Billy Porter, the world would be a better place for LGBTQ+ people.

Beth – P!nk

Photo of Beth by @thesteamtog

P!nk is my icon. She’s so openly supportive for LGBTQ+ rights and she is raising her child in a way that lets them explore their gender identity and fluidity. She gives them the freedom to wear whatever clothes they want, which is fantastic.

She’s always been known for rocking an androgynous style, and when her child was getting bullied for “looking like a boy”, she made a presentation about all the famous music icons that played with gender in their careers. She’s never queer baited fans – which is more than can be said for a lot of celebrities. She’s always been open about not feeling the need to identify her sexuality.

More than anything, though, she’s my icon because she doesn’t give a fuck, and never has. She wears what she wants, sings what she wants and lives how she wants. Regardless of what she’s struggled with in the past, she represents an end goal that is such a healthy mindset for people to work towards.

Rhys – Jake Shears

Jake Shears is probably the first time I saw a loud and proud out-gay man on TV and on the radio.

He’s so unapologetic in his queerness and a proper fighter. I loved hearing the Scissor Sisters in public because regardless oh how flamboyant they were, everyone I knew sung along.

Still to this day, all their songs are such bops and it’s my dream to be back in a sweaty gay club dancing to him.

Alex – Pete Burns

Pete Burns is my queer icon because I’d just never really seen anyone like him before, and never really have since.

Pete just was such an original. He wore what he wanted, did what he wanted and had the most iconic acid tongue that made everything he ever came out with sound hilarious. He could tear anyone down if they crossed him with his wit and humour, and he just had a fearlessly independent presence and confidence that was infectious.

Pete dressed in femme clothing, wore wigs and heels but stated many times he thought of himself completely as a man. He broke stereotypes, broke gender norms and was a fearless, tough and resilient character that people didn’t want to get on the wrong side of in heels and a wig.

A legend!

Louisa – Mae Martin

Queer icon

My queer icon is Mae Martin.

I absolutely love her Netflix show Feel Good and think it’s such a good portrayal of queer relationships, and it felt super important that it was nominated for a Bafta as it helps to normalise lesbian relationships on mainstream television.

Izzy – Bimini Bon Boulash

Queer icon

One of my queer icons definitely has to be Bimini.

Seeing Bimini be unapologetically themselves on Drag Race and everything that’s happened since is so inspiring. Plus, Bimini speaking out so openly about different things has definitely helped educate loads of people which is incredibly important.

It feels like the whole of the UK is behind them right now, and for good reason – Bimini’s an absolute queer icon.

Kevin – Róisín Murphy

My icon is Róisín Murphy.

She’s not just always been an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, but has constantly uplifted and featured queer performers in music videos, in her live performances and most recently in a big editorial she did featuring the RuPaul’s Drag Race queen Detox.

She is absolutely a gay icon to me as she was a gateway into me discovering my love for drag queens, alongside her consistent advocating for queer rights and freedoms.

Her fashion sensibility pushes boundaries, her music breaks the mould and she inspires me to apply that to my own life and live without fear and judgement.

Esme – Sarah Paulson

Sarah Paulson is my queer icon.

She’s very popular in the LGBTQ+ community, specifically with younger lesbians who are obsessed with older queer women. She defies being labelled which is something I really admire because labelling myself was something I found hard to do but she’s shown people that we don’t need to justify ourselves to anyone.

The internet has fallen in love with her, she’s an unlikely online hero for young people. In her acting, she represents queer-leaning roles and it’s really refreshing to see. I think she does a lot for our community by just being herself, and that’s pretty iconic.

The Tab’s Pride reporting series is putting a focus on highlighting LGBTQ+ issues and celebrating queer voices across UK campuses.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story you can contact Switchboard, the LGBTQ+ helpline, on 0300 330 0630 or visit their website. You can also find help through The Mix

If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell us – whether it’s an incident of homophobia on campus, an experience you’d like to share, or anything you think we should hear, get in touch in confidence by emailing [email protected].

Read more from The Tab’s Pride series:

• 41 homophobic things straight people say every day without realising

• I thought everything gave me the ick. Turns out I’m just gay

 Take this quiz to find out how much you actually know about LGBTQ+ history