Mention Kurt Cobain to anyone and they’ll think of three things:
The 90s ‘I shop at charity shops/goodwill’ grunge movement,
Nirvana’s 1991 hit ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’,
His suicide and entry into the 27 club, on April 5th, 1994.
But one thing that went under the radar for many people was his stance on equality.
Growing up in Washington, Seattle, Kurt had a few friends during high school. One of his best friends was gay, and everyone but him knew. He found out when his gay friend inevitably tried to advance on him. They remained friends until Kurt’s mother ended their friendship due to her homophobia. Kurt had some female friends after, as he was avoided by men due to his non-existent homosexuality. He also realised how badly women were oppressed, becoming a feminist. During his adolescence, he sprayed the phrase ‘God is gay’ on cars, and often questioned his sexuality.
After the commercial success of Nevermind, he wrote “If any of you, in any way, hate homosexuals, people of a different color or women, please do this one favor for us — leave us the f**k alone. Don’t come to our shows and don’t buy our records” on the liner notes for the 1992 album Incesticide, which became one of his most famous quotes. He also said that he ‘would like to get rid’ of fans who discriminate as ‘it really bothers’ him. He also disliked Axl Rose, frontman of ‘Guns n’ Roses’, as he was discriminating minority groups in the song ‘One in a million’. This started a bitter feud, of which has recently concluded.
So what classes as a gay icon? According to Wikipedia (Yes, I know about it’s reliability) a gay icon often includes ‘glamour, flamboyance, strength through adversity, and androgyny in presentation’. Whilst Kurt’s life wasn’t glamorous, he said ‘I’ve always been a really…feminine person anyhow’; covering the flamboyant and androgynous areas. But for strength, well you can decide that one. A gay icon is also one that is a strong advocate, and Kurt was one at a time where many were forced back in the closet by the AIDS epidemic.
With all this info, why isn’t he a gay icon? He was an advocate, he was flamboyant, he had feuds with homophobes, and was ‘gay in spirit’. But I suppose his antics, suicide and his messed up wife were the things that cloud over the real man; an advocate for total equality.
I will leave you with a quote from Rupaul, reminiscing on his meet with Cobain in 1993:
“He was a real sweetheart, a real kind soul. And he actually – we worked together on SNL, you know…and he and the rest of the boys were absolutely fabulous, so lovely, and they really appreciated what I was doing”.