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Why Gay Men Idolize Female Pop Stars

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

By: Austin Ashburn

In the words of author Bobby Box, “Pop culture is the gay religion and pop stars are our goddesses.”

There’s Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Lana Del Rey, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, Charli XCX, Taylor Swift, and so many more. The list goes on and on. These are just some of today’s pop stars that have the most diehard, loyal, and intense fans defending their every move. For most female pop stars, these hardcore defenders tend to be queer men. Why is this, exactly? What draws this community to have such adoration for women they have never even met before?

So many queer friends of mine run fan pages or have iPhone wallpapers of their favorite female pop stars, and one of the first questions that comes up when meeting someone new in the community is who one’s favorite female pop star is. Drag queens, for instance, are constantly recreating famous female pop star looks and lip syncing to their songs. A lot of female pop stars even get referred to as “gay icons” while not even being gay themselves.

“Pop diva adoration,” otherwise known as “diva worship,” is a discovery that I’ve become recently curious about since working in the entertainment news industry. Even I fall into this stereotype of diva worshipping as a queer man, constantly obsessing over pop stars and popular culture as a whole. Every gay man typically has one true pop diva that they “worship,” and this ideology is typically connected to “stan culture” and the act of “stanning.”

Bruno Alexander, a queer graphic designer, taking female pop stars and turning them into Pokémon gym leaders.

Stan culture largely involves devoting one’s social media presence to a celebrity, influencer, or brand. Queer men dominate the “stan community,” as there appears to be an inherent connection between queerness and the love for popular culture. Instead of tweeting or posting about oneself on the internet, one is instead more invested in uploading content about the life and persona of their favorite pop diva.

For me, I dedicated much of my youth to tweeting about Lorde. She is my personal pop diva that I worship. Almost every gay man has one. We don’t just listen to their music, but we embrace who they are as a person. We know where they’re touring, what their merchandise looks like, what celebrities they were last seen with, what their last photo shoot was for, what struggles they’ve had to overcome, what awards they’ve won, and we’ve also watched their music videos hundreds of times. Diva worship is all about fully connecting to one female “idol.”

Rob Anderson’s Diva Worship: The Book of Gay Religions explanation video.

“Many queer men have an almost obsessive connection to their pop stars — one that is deeply passionate and emotionally layered,” said Box. This is something that psychotherapist and sexuality expert Jeff Larsen refers to as “reactive projection,” where queer men experience strong reactions to pop stars for relatability reasons. This happens when “we relate their tribulations to similar struggles we feel we face in our own lives — the need to be embraced or validated.”

“Beyond the loud stanning and unwavering support, our fascination with female pop stars stems from the basic need to relate and to feel seen and understood. It’s something gay men have a difficult time sourcing in a heteronormative society. The pop star struggles to be taken seriously; it’s a very familiar sentiment experienced by queer people,” said Box.

CJ Bathiany’s TikTok series on what one’s favorite pop star says about their personality.

Especially as a young queer person without much representation of actual queer people in the media, it is easy for one to connect with female pop stars the most. They are not only singers, but they are performers and artists. They represent the freedom to express in the way that they dress and present themselves outside of the norm of society, constantly trying to shock and awe the general public. They also represent a grand sense of femininity that is worshipped, praised, and celebrated rather than looked down upon and belittled. By having feminine and expressive celebrity figures who are breaking the mold of a heteronormative society, gay men finally have someone to relate to during their upbringing. This then creates a rather intense connection with whichever female pop star they relate the most to.

While stanning a pop diva can bring the queer community great comfort in times of feeling out of place, it can also lead to toxicity and harm. There is definitely a dark side to diva worship.

Lady Gaga supporting LGBTQ+ rights during a rally (Odyssey).

When everyone has a favorite pop diva that they will fight for until the end of time, then there can be some serious rivalry when the pop stars are competing against one another for the top spot in the music charts. Gay stan culture can often times lead to misogyny and body shaming, as one’s pop diva adoration soon unfolds itself into a hate train for any woman who is not their number one favorite.

The “pseudo-religious devotion” between queer men and female pop stars “has always been laced with spite,” said author Brian O’Flynn.

During my many years on Twitter, I have consistently seen gay men referring to female pop stars as “ugly,” “fat,” “flops,” “failures,” and a plethora of other names when it is a woman that is in the way of their favorite pop diva. This competitive nature that stems from hyper-fixating and solely worshipping one female pop star creates an environment where queer men can sometimes be combative and feel the need to project onto the other women in the music industry. Because queer men are relating themselves so heavily to the star that they worship, they feel the need to protect them to a fault. Seeing themselves within the pop diva, they begin to project their insecurities onto the other women competing against their idol.

Replies to a tweet about Doja Cat from the Twitter account @PopCrave.

While there can be quite a bit of negativity, there is also an overwhelming amount of positivity that stems from the para-social relationship between gay men and their favorite female pop stars. It is especially a healthy relationship when queer men are not demeaning the other pop divas surrounding their favorite one, and the pop divas are using their platform for good by advocating for LGBTQ+ rights for their largely queer fan bases.

“The deification of these divas is a result of the gay community’s desire to find solace and belonging in them within a secular society that lacks the previously held influences of organized religions,” said author Ramzi Bou Moughalabie.

“Powerful,” “strong,” and “unapologetic,” Moughalabie suggests, are some of the key words that showcase why the para-social relationship between gay men and pop divas has so many benefits. These are some of the positive attributes that the queer community looks up to, and without having much queer representation in the media, we instead look up to the incredibly powerful, strong, and unapologetic women of the music industry who are defying societal standards and living the lives we admire.

Moughalabie’s theme and sub-themes web that depicts several of the ways in which gay men begin to identify with female pop divas and their music.

“Take Born this Way by Lady Gaga or You Need to Calm Down by Taylor Swift for example… I think that these songs are very directly associated to gay men and their fight for gay rights […] that’s why we love them, because they make our voice be heard,” said Sultana, a drag performer from Lebanon, in an interview with Moughalabie.

There not only appears to be a sense of relatability within this para-social relationship, but there is also a sense of allyship and safety. Queer men feel comforted and at peace within stan culture, as it is a community where being feminine, artistic, and fierce are attributes that are admired and cherished. Pop divas have been loud champions for LGBTQ+ rights throughout history, and that support is only continuing to increase as the world’s support increases too.

A video essay on pop star activism, para-social relationships between female pop stars and their audience, and the rich history and relationship between queer men and pop divas (The Rainbow in the Room). To conclude the discussion of diva worship within the queer community, I recorded three short interviews with friends. They discussed who their personal favorite pop diva is, as well as why they believe they look up to and idolize women in the music industry so much as queer men: Kenzel Williams, 21, Social Media Manager for The Chic Daily

Alejandro De La Cerda, 20, Film Student at Arizona State University

ALYN PARKER, 22, Pop Singer/Songwriter from Alton, Illinois


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