Wall’s Words – ‘I Am An Icon’ by Roger Wheeler

April 22, 2020

Well, maybe I’m not, but what or who is an icon? The word is used too frequently to retain its original meaning; anyone or anything can be iconic in someone’s eyes. The gay world is full of such beings, Oscar Wilde, Elton John, Judy Garland, Tina Turner, Dorothy Parker, Freddie Mercury. The list is endless. Basically they’re all famous people from show business, the arts or even politics, eg Harvey Milk, whose music or writing we admire. Although a gay icon needn’t be gay at all, take James Dean. In fact these people simply excel in whatever they do; the media love to throw the ‘icon’ word at them when in fact all we are doing is admiring them. The word is being overused and so losing some of its value.

Closer to home we have several real gay icons and role models, I refer of course to James Ledward, campaigner and greatly missed editor of this magazine. He hardly ever considered his own feelings when looking out for injustice or simple bad behaviour. Most of James’ achievements are very well documented, but there are many that have slipped under the wire, he was a true icon and hero.

For me, I have to follow James with my own very personal icon, a man that I can only hope to emulate in small ways every day, that of course is my wonderful husband, Michael Wall, who is also no longer with us. He set some incredible examples both to me in our home life but also to his colleagues at work, I know this now as I’ve been told by his former colleagues of just what an example he set for them.

There are many in Brighton who warrant the accolade, who in small ways set examples to others. One of the many is one of the few straight contributors to this magazine, Duncan Stewart, someone of unfailing integrity and in the classic phrase will really do anything to help others. His work for charity is virtually unknown, and yet he works tirelessly for several extremely deserving causes but he never talks about it.

In fact the world is full of icons and role models who simply go about their lives quietly setting examples of how you should act in today’s world, simple good practice and being nice. If that sounds like being sickeningly good, so be it, there are many who could well stop and think about their own behaviour towards their fellow man.

Google will give you long lists of people it thinks are icons, but for the individual surely it’s just someone that you know, respect and would love to be able to, in some way, follow their example.

So in our own way we are all iconic, maybe you have never thought that way about yourself, but someone close to you really thinks that you are.

Me, an icon?