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Who are our Pansexual Icons?
September 15, 2009 4:23 PM   Subscribe

There are gay icons and lesbian icons - are there people who are bisexual/pansexual icons?

I don't necessarily mean icons who are bisexual/pansexual (though they can be), but people who particularly appeal to bi/pan people the same way gay icons are, well, icons. How would you define such a person anyway?

I asked this on a LJ community for pansexuals and the only answer I got was the lead character of Torchwood, who's bisexual. Are there any others that would qualify? I'm thinking Lady Gaga or Angelina Jolie, but that's more "appeals to both sexes" rather than "appeals to bisexuals".
posted by divabat to Media & Arts (47 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
David Bowie?
posted by ian1977 at 4:24 PM on September 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Frolicky pan-sexual sex symbol" Alan Cumming should qualify. And in my limited personal experience, he is indeed seen as an icon for, and admired by, bisexual and pansexual people.
posted by sueinnyc at 4:32 PM on September 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


Most gay / lesbian icons are pretty well bi/pansexual icons as well.
There is some personal bias in this list but some if not most should be more widely recognized.

Some media personalities off the top of my head (some of them controversial, some self identify as gay or straight)
Madonna
Lady GaGa
Grace Jones
Bowie, definitely
Freddie Mercury
John Waters (hated by some, admired by others, he was gay but many of his films had a pansexual appeal)
Marlene Dietrich
Marquis De Sade (probably hated as much if not more than loved, but definitely bi if not pansexual, and a sort of hero to some)
Arthur Rimbaud
Kathy Acker
Wendy O. WIlliams
Gibby Hanes (of the Butthole Surfers)
Dr. Frankenfurter (if fictional characters count)
Tim Curry (if not)
Carolee Schneeman (or maybe I am the only one who would consider her this way)
Laurie Anderson (knowing nothing about her sexuality, just who she appeals to)
David Byrne (ditto above)
posted by idiopath at 4:39 PM on September 15, 2009


Prince?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:40 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ani DiFranco?
posted by somanyamys at 4:48 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Michael Stipe
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:52 PM on September 15, 2009


This list is helpful for finding famous people who happen to be bi. Not all of them icons, of course.
posted by idiopath at 4:53 PM on September 15, 2009


James Dean
posted by amyms at 4:56 PM on September 15, 2009


Margaret Cho?
posted by kimdog at 4:59 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Personally as a bi dude, I nominate Oscar Wilde. I know he's held up as a gay icon, but I'm under the impression that he slept with a number of women as well.

Marquis De Sade (probably hated as much if not more than loved, but definitely bi if not pansexual, and a sort of hero to some)

I like de Sade. From all accounts save his own, his personal sexual exploits were only about as uncouth as modern fetish play. His books are mostly unreadable, but represents some of the first exploration of fringe sexual play. There were psychotic aristocrats actually doing some of the shit de Sade describes, but de Sade wasn't one of them. He's demonized for his own fiction... and, you know, fucking dudes.
posted by Netzapper at 5:01 PM on September 15, 2009


Walt Whitman's on my list.
posted by ottereroticist at 5:01 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Joan Jett.
posted by pazazygeek at 5:01 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


John Waters (hated by some, admired by others, he was gay but many of his films had a pansexual appeal)

"Was?" John Waters isn't dead yet. (I love that man!)
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:06 PM on September 15, 2009


Captain Jack Harkness.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:13 PM on September 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Dr. Frankenfurter (if fictional characters count)

This is the only one so far that resonates with me. Bisexuals don't have the same cohesive social structure that gays and lesbians do, so it's not surprising that it's hard to think of a person or people that would connect with them (us) in the same way that Madonna connects with (many) gay men.
posted by desjardins at 5:14 PM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


2nd David Bowie
posted by pompomtom at 5:14 PM on September 15, 2009


Marlene Dietrich.
posted by box at 5:18 PM on September 15, 2009


Tila Tequila.
posted by fixedgear at 5:19 PM on September 15, 2009


wikipedia list of notable bisexual persons

I will be scouring that list to make a better sublist of sex symbols (fascinated by this question).
posted by idiopath at 5:28 PM on September 15, 2009


Josephine Baker.
posted by infinitewindow at 5:32 PM on September 15, 2009


Eddie Izzard says he is either a straight transvestite or a "male lesbian." He has also described himself as "a lesbian trapped in a man's body," transgender, and "a complete boy plus half a girl."
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:36 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Marlene Dietrich and no mention of Greta Garbo?

She even signed a contract with MGM on the condition that she played bisexual Queen of Sweden in a movie based on her.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 5:41 PM on September 15, 2009


Tallulah Bankhead [scroll through for the juicy stuff] has always seemed to me someone who rocked particularly hard and convincingly when it came to sexual freedom, amid rumors of scandalous carryings-on with underage Eton schoolboys and Hollywood actresses.
posted by mediareport at 5:42 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bankhead was repeatedly rumored to have fucked both Dietrich and Garbo, btw...
posted by mediareport at 5:43 PM on September 15, 2009


Stripped down to the sexiest or most notable from the wikipedia list, some dupes from other posts here:

Kathey Acker
Summer Altice
Brett Anderson
Billy Joe Armstrong
Joan Baez
Bai Ling
Josephine Baker (+)
Tallulah Bankhead
Drew Barrymore
Simone de Beauvoir
Sarah Bernhardt
Angela Bowie
David Bowie
Marlon Brando
Susie Bright
William S. Burroughs
Saffron Burrows
Caligula (more infamous than anything else)
Jim Carrol
Neneh Cherry
Margaret Cho
Hélène Cixous
Montgomery Clift
Darby Crash
Joan Crawford
Aleister Crowley
Sammy Davis, Jr.
James Dean
Andy Dick
Isadora Duncan
Megan Fox
Anne Frank
Clark Gable
Lady Gaga
Greta Garbo
Nina Hartley
Anne Heche
Nona Hendryx
Katherine Hepburn
Jenna Jameson
Angelina Jolie
Grace Jones
Janis Joplin
Miranda July
Frida Kahlo
Burt Lancaster
Lindsay Lohan
Freddie Mercury
Bif Naked
Me'Shell NdegéOcello
Tila Nguyen ("Tila Tequila")
Anaïs Nin
Camille Paglia
Amanda Palmer
Peaches
Anthony Perkins
Édith Piaf
Carol Queen
Dee Dee Ramone
Arthur Rimbaud
Ève Salvail
Anna Nicole Smith
Dusty Springfield
Michael Stipe
Corin Tucker
Patricia Velasquez
Virginia Woolf
posted by idiopath at 5:45 PM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've only got 2 - and calling them "icons" is a stretch for me: Dr. Frankenfurter and Capt. Jack Harkness; they're the only two personas that I can think of (that I know of) I could consider truly sexually fluid.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 5:45 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cardinal Newman.
posted by buzzman at 5:51 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


All the way down here with no mention of Bette Midler?
posted by Neiltupper at 5:56 PM on September 15, 2009


Samuel R. Delany
posted by mr. remy at 6:12 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


I know a couple of bi guys who have a thing for Alexander the Great. The kind of bisexuality that was a part of the culture of Greece in that era is manly enough to appeal to them.

And yes, their worship of him is probably wrapped up in their own insecurities :p.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 6:23 PM on September 15, 2009


Hope this isn't noise but since compiling that list in my previous post my brain is aswim with hypothetical combinations of people in that list getting it on (I think I am getting a little dizzy).
posted by idiopath at 6:23 PM on September 15, 2009


Johnny Ray.

Poor old Johnnie Ray. I don't know of many performers who were so huge in their heyday and so forgotten today. America's first bisexual superstar, some consider him jonny rayto be the missing link between Sinatra and Elvis. He even broke Martin and Lewis's attendance record at the Copacabana. A friend and proponent of, and early acknowledged influence on Elvis Presley, Johnnie is virtually ignored by the nostalgic radio staions of today.
posted by ericthegardener at 6:41 PM on September 15, 2009


Am I the only person who thinks of Käthe Kollwitz? She's an icon for me in so many ways...
posted by obliquicity at 7:20 PM on September 15, 2009


Freddie Mercury resonates pretty strongly with me, and unlike some of the other glam-era biguys, didn't later never renounced his bisexuality.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:34 PM on September 15, 2009


Clark Gable? Wow, I did not see that coming.

Dusty Springfield.
posted by motsque at 8:14 PM on September 15, 2009


motsque: "Clark Gable? Wow, I did not see that coming."

Me neither, I just looked up the citation, supposedly he would do anythingone for a buck.
posted by idiopath at 8:33 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah! Aleister Crowley. Can't forget him.

But I don't like the list Cat Pie Hurts posted. Very, very few of those people were out bisexuals, and even fewer are lifelong bisexuals. It reads more like a list of people who had homosexual sex that one time, based on contemporary innuendo and modern psychohistory. I mean, god, Anne Frank? Based on one page of a book written by a teenage girl in daily trauma... yeah, maybe she was bisexual, but it seems mighty presumptuous for us to proclaim her so from our position.
posted by Netzapper at 8:50 PM on September 15, 2009


Netzapper: "But I don't like the list Cat Pie Hurts posted. Very, very few of those people were out bisexuals, and even fewer are lifelong bisexuals."

Arguably bisexuality would by definition be a lifelong thing, or otherwise it would only be experimentation. Admittedly the list is flawed and perhaps overbroad and simultaneously missing some names it should have - the footnotes of where the information about their bisexuality can be found is listed in the wikipedia lists I posted. I didn't try to frame it as a definitive document.

Also the list was posted by me, not cat pie hurts.
posted by idiopath at 9:16 PM on September 15, 2009


Tilda Swinton?
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:32 PM on September 15, 2009


Patrick Califia
posted by jammy at 5:03 AM on September 16, 2009


Antony
posted by cogat at 5:05 AM on September 16, 2009


Well for me it was Louise Brooks.

I think I the bi community (is there really one?) does not have the same amount of bi icons because many people that are bi assume most people are somewhere on the bi spectrum rather than at the extremes of the kinsey scale. If you are looking for icons in terms of who is sexy, then the sexuality of the icons does not matter - after all, I'll sleep with men or women regardless of whether they identify that day as bi, straight, queer or gay because I think they are sexy, not because of some label, whether it is self- or society-imposed.
posted by saucysault at 6:25 AM on September 16, 2009


Nthing Bowie (eponysterical, I know); he was the first person that I ever heard someone refer to as gay.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:58 AM on September 16, 2009


My own list, as a 45-year-old bisexual lady:

Edna St. Vincent Millay.
Marlene Dietrich.
Cary Grant.
Anais Nin.
Ani deFranco.
Tallulah Bankhead.
Virginia Woolf.
Alan Cumming.
Alfred Kinsey.
Jonathan Ames.
Colette.

To me, bisexual/pansexual icons are people who are not only bi or pan themselves, but who publicly embrace love between people of all different genders.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:08 AM on September 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


My first thought was Annie Sprinkle, who is not only bisexual but basically all about sexuality. Margaret Cho is also a great choice.
posted by Robert Angelo at 8:49 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Your question doesn't make much sense to me.

As a bisexual, I'm not attracted to any specific icons based on my sexuality, I'm just attracted to men and women. Who I am attracted to is as personal as the attractions of any gay or straight person.

Think of it this way. Are there any definitive 'icons' that are attractive to straight females? No, because everyone's taste is different.

If your question were about people who tend to attract both sexes, I would understand, but since you specified 'attracts bisexuals' I'm a bit stymied.
posted by sunshinesky at 11:14 AM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Morrissey?
posted by jennyb at 12:41 PM on September 16, 2009


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