In unsettling times we need a smile. So let’s turn to a lesson on Gay Icon, Judy Garland. From drag, camp, to meaningful song and dance; Judy Garland has brought smiles to generations of LBGTQ individuals but why?
Judy Garland remains a gay icon. She rose to iconic status in the 1950s. At that time, gays admired her talent as a performer, and her value as a camp figure. She was often parodied and still is around the world in drag revues. Her struggles with drugs, booze, and personal relationships during her glory days mirrored similar struggles among urban closeted gays during the same era. Garland’s role as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz solidified that foundation stone of her iconic status in the LBGTQ community.
In gay slang, a “friend of Dorothy” (occasionally abbreviated FOD) is a term for a gay individual. The phrase dates back to at least World War II, homosexual acts were made illegal and remained so in many states in the United States until the 2003 Supreme Court Case; Lawrence v Texas .
Stating that, or asking if, someone was a “friend of Dorothy” was a euphemism used for discussing sexual orientation without others knowing its meaning.
The precise origin of the term is derived from Road To Oz (1909), a sequel to the original Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
The book introduces readers to Polychrome who, upon meeting Dorothy’s traveling companions, exclaims, “You have some queer friends, Dorothy”, and she replies, “The queerness doesn’t matter, so long as they’re friends.”
More commonly, it is stated that “friend of Dorothy” refers to the film – The Wizard of Oz because Judy Garland, who starred as the main character Dorothy, is a gay icon.
A key scene for many LBGTQ individuals in addition to the iconic “Somewhere, Over the Rainbow” song in the film is with Dorothy in accepting of those who are different.
A prime example, the “gentle lion” living a lie, “I’m afraid there’s no denyin’, I’m just a dandy lion.”
A little known historical fact related to “Friends of Dorothy” -In the early 1980s, the Naval Investigative Service was investigating homosexuality in the Chicago area. (Remember gays in the military were illegal till President Obama.) Agents discovered that gay men sometimes referred to themselves as “friends of Dorothy.” Unaware of the historical meaning of the term, the NIS believed that there actually was some woman named Dorothy at the center of a massive ring of homosexual military personnel, so they launched an enormous and futile hunt for the elusive “Dorothy”, hoping to find her and convince her to reveal the names of gay service members. Tax dollars well spent wouldn’t you say? That is this weeks lesson in gay history… Chris Edwards Napa