11/26/2013 02:37 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The (g)A(y)MAs: Why We Love Our Pop Stars

Michael Tran via Getty Images

I just finished watching the (g)A(y)MAs -- you know, the filtered version of the AMAs that overtook your Twitter feed and Facebook timeline Sunday night. And, wow, it seems that never before have so many people "slayed" since Sarah Michelle Gellar and the Scoobies left our 4:3 televisions.


My avatar was left speechless. As he usually is.

Verbage aside -- whether they're "slaying" or "werking" or just being their "GODDESS SUPREME" selves -- pop stars have been known to occasionally elicit the emphatic support of the gays. But as social media show time and time again, unlike gay icons of the past generation, not one seems able to speak to the community as a whole, as seen in the sassy social commentaries we are always so emphatic to provide.

"Tonight Rihanna took a shit on all of your favs and walked off that stage like a bad bitch"

"Taylor Swift has all the awards, record sales, money and bomb ass dick. #AMA"

"Omfg @LadyGaga slays with her vocals. Yas Gaga YAAASSS"

"Oops, it's just @JLo making her 20-year-old pop contemporaries look like complete flops live again."

"Legendtina brought it y'all. That solo SLAYED me. F*cking love you"

I won't even mention the vicious subtweets and comments, all of which amused and baffled me as I tried to figure out why there can only be one "queen." What makes gays get so defensive about their icons? Why do we take it so personally when someone attacks our favorite?

While growing up, most gays felt different from everyone around them. Even before sexuality became a conscious issue, we all felt like outcasts. Of course, gays have no monopoly on such basic emotions as feeling misunderstood -- straight or gay, we're all equally human, after all -- but where our heterosexual friends have, literally, generations of people and their wisdom who already dealt with the same issues of love, loss, and development, homosexuals always had one question unanswered: "Why am I attracted to the 'wrong' gender?"

I have always felt that this lingering insecurity is what drives gays toward art and culture during their formative years. The arts exist to offer a complex "non-answer" to all life's compulsions that science cannot prove, and, really, mutual expression is the closest to an answer that we're able to get. For us the correct answer to "this is how I feel; I don't know why" can be as simple as "I feel that way too; I don't know why either!"

But not many of us had that growing up. Mom and Dad certainly couldn't relate, and even though several of our peers -- perhaps closest friends -- were undoubtedly asking themselves the same question, few of us dared to be the first to say, "I might be gay," afraid that our "this is how I feel; I don't know why" would be met with a destructive "that's wrong," or a too-confusing "no, you're not."

And therefore we turned to the arts and their ambiguous meanings, able to draw our own understandings and conclusions from the content in front of us, more often than not drawn to those who embodied freedom and self-empowerment, no matter how much the general public loves or hates them at any given moment: pop stars.

Too often, though, idolization of female pop figures is erroneously seen as a desire to express repressed gay effeminacy. True, the community's most relatable gay icons have been women in the arts, but that's largely because these figures are exploring the same question that we are: "Why is my sexuality up for debate?" In many ways, these women are our past generations, offering an amalgam of wisdoms that sprouted from the repressions and judgments of a sexist history.

Once upon a time in the gay community, it seemed as if we could all look to certain figures who related to our struggle. From Judy Garland, with her strong demons and equally strong poise to mask them, to the rise of Madonna, with her unapologetic declarations that her demons are hers alone (so mind your business!), gays seemed to agree on which mascot best represented us, which lady's struggle most closely mirrored our own. As times changed, so did our figurehead, until now, where it seems that any outspoken creative woman can be a gay icon. In our age it all depends on personal preference.

Some would say that that means that we're losing our collective identity, but I think it really highlights the progress we've made. As a community becomes larger, less secluded, and more accepted, we no longer have a "one-size-fits-all" set of problems that tie us all together. Like Maslow's hierarchy, the fewer widespread issues we have to address, the more we can focus on problems unique to ourselves. Quite simply, being "gay" is shifting from a collective identity based on sexuality to a smaller piece of what makes us individual human beings.

That being said, when we emphatically claim something on Twitter like, say, "MY DIVA SHIT ON ALL THE BASICS," we're subconsciously -- and not so eloquently -- acknowledging that a focus on self is becoming more important to being gay in this day and age. We defend our pop stars so fiercely because we see ourselves in them. They -- and only they -- represent the struggle unique to our journey with our sexuality, as well as the other struggles that make us ourselves. You're not just dissing Britney, or Gaga, or Katy; you are bashing the mindset and mentalities that they identify with. And even when packaged commercially and superficially, those ideals are always worth protecting.

Myself, for instance? I'm a Lana Del Rey guy, identifying with her main talent as a writer, her artistic juxtaposition of external decadence with internal panic, and her brilliant understanding that being a modern poet requires more public presence than just a pen. And don't you dare say "she sucked on SNL" or I will rip you apart, you non-intellectual basic who just doesn't understand her message!

Anyway, at the end of the day, regardless of who your favorite pop-star / the-only-multimillionaire-dancing-and-sometimes-singing-woman-who-gets-me happens to be, I think there's one Facebook friend we can all agree with: "Jennifer Lopez looks great and all, but can we pan in on these male dancers a little bit more?!" Our penchant for toned, sweaty men made us a community in the beginning, and it will keep us united until the end.