Sally Ride (1951-2012)
My niece got her long hair cut for Locks of Love recently, leaving her with a short and sporty new style. My brother was a little sad to see how short it was, but I thought it gave her a bit of the character that seems true to who she is. She looked like a nerdy scientist, and I love that. And she probably is a nerdy scientist of the future. One of those women I thought of was Sally Ride.
Sally Ride is a part of the mythos developed in my childhood. Our elementary teachers seemed very focused on several subjects that had been big events in recent history, such as the eruption of Mount St. Helens. I have that event as a part of my memory, even though it happened when I was only seven months old. It lingered as a talking point. Sally Ride did too, and with good reason. She went to space in 1983, when I was three and that timing allowed her to be an icon for my generation, an aspiration for the girls of America. She was an icon because of her achievements, not because of arbitrary criteria, and that was exciting then and it is still exciting today. I love celebrating people who have really accomplished something, especially when that something was so difficult.
When you’re a kid, being labeled can challenge that sense that we can all be whoever we want to be. Nerd is a label I’ve proudly embraced during my life, and I would hope others didn’t see it as an insult. It’s not. Being a nerd isn’t just about being smart, but about being passionate about learning and wanting to explore in detail the subjects that pique your interest. Being a nerd is about pursuing knowledge, and finding joy in knowing. It can be marked by great academic achievement, but it doesn’t have to be. My grades were certainly not amazing in school. What I hope my nieces, and my nephews, understand is that figuring out which labels to accept and which to reject is a part of the process. I’d embrace the nerd label though.
Ian McKellen (1939-)
One of the traits I love about actors from the UK, especially gay ones, is how unapologetic they are in being true to themselves. I find it incredible that Ian McKellen has been public about being gay since 1988. I don’t think we saw that sort of openness until the new millennium. Of course, I do believe we will have progressed one day to the point where history books will be written about public personalities being “in the closet” and the readers will find the novelty amusing. What prudes they were in the 1980s and 1990s!
Another reason I love Ian McKellen is that he represents a completely different segment of the LGBT community to the flamboyant and over-the-top characters that dominate the entertainment world. We expect a bit of that from gay celebrities like Alan Carr, RuPaul, Adam Lambert, Tom Allen, Todrick Hall, Graham Norton, and Louie Spence. And if I’m honest, I love a swish in a man’s hips, but Ian McKellen offers something soberingly different. That isn’t to say he is boring or lacks his own flare. He’s fantastic and funny, but he’s a much more buttoned up type of guy. It’s diversity, and the willingness to be authentic, that are the strengths of the LGBT community. It doesn’t always strive to embrace that diversity, but it’s at its best when doing just that.
Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman (1984-)
I didn’t know anything about Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman until appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race. I then binge watched him on Unreal, along with the brilliant Contance Zimmer. Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman is really a lot of fun, especially in a reality setting. There are a handful of actors who I would love to just watch have conversations, and he is definitely one of them. Maybe we need some sort of comedian or LGBT panel show like The View. I’d watch that. I might be the only one though. And I would be frustrated with what it actually devolved into. It was a good idea for the 30 seconds before it wasn’t anymore! Anyway, I’ve got my eye on Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman. He’s fun, he’s funny, he’s charming, and I am expecting more great things from him.
A Six-Pack of Swishy Drag Artists