Many people assume that gay guys like divas because they sing well, are somehow “fierce”, or because it’s loads of fun to dress up like them. While all of these are true, the underlying reason for the adulation gay guys give to divas like Tina Turner, Hillary Clinton, Dolly Parton and Gloria Estefan is their experience of Triumph Over Adversity.
Probably because they remember their own coming-out experiences, gay guys love stories of beaten-down women (Tina with Ike, Hillary with Bill, Dolly’s Appalachia background, Gloria’s car accident) who fight like tigers and claw their way to the top (Private Dancer, the U.S. Senate, 9 to 5, Into the Light). They see a little bit of themselves in women who’ve been wronged by an unforgiving society that treats them bad, and like straight guys watching Rocky knock out Apollo Creed, they cheer for the hooker who gets her man, Judy’s big 1961 concert, and Cher’s latest comeback.
It’s crucial to remember that it’s not always triumph, there’s also adversity. Just because Madonna didn’t put out a decent album between 1997 and 2005 didn’t mean she was forgotten by her gay guy fans. She’d already triumphed over adversity when she clawed her way to the top in the early 80s wearing slutty underwear over a German schoolboy outfit, and only the most craven and disloyal gay guy counted her out just because she showed in Evita that she had no more acting talent than a cardboard box and then moved to London to marry some English guy no one had ever heard of. Sure enough, in 2005, she clawed her way to the top again, and gay guys everywhere spoke proudly – though, let’s face it, with a little bit of wry amusement – of her again.
When gay guys bring up a story of Triumph Over Adversity, even if it seems a little absurd (for example, stories relating to Barbra Streisand), it is important to be respectful. The best thing to do is to look at your drink, shake your head, and say as seriously as you can “She’s been/went through so much.” Saying this will earn you serious nods – and possibly move you up a notch in consideration for being set up with a single gay guy at a future dinner party.