The reverence held for Cher by members of the gay community has been attributed to her accomplishments in her career, her sense of style and her longevity. Alec Mapa of The Advocate elaborates: "While the rest of us were sleeping, Cher's been out there for the last four decades living out every single one of our childhood fantasies... Cher embodies an unapologetic freedom and fearlessness that some of us can only aspire to." Cher has often been imitated by drag queens. Thomas Rogers of Salon magazine commented that "[d]rag queens imitate women like Judy Garland, Dolly Parton and Cher because they overcame insult and hardship on their path to success, and because their narratives mirror the pain that many gay men suffer on their way out of the closet." Cher's performance as a lesbian in the film Silkwood as well as her transition to dance music and social activism in recent years has further contributed to her becoming a gay icon.
Her oldest child, now Chaz Bono (born Chastity Bono), first came out as a lesbian at the age of seventeen, which caused Cher feelings of "guilt, fear and pain". She later characterized this as "a very un-Cher-like reaction." However, Cher soon came to accept Chaz's sexual orientation, and came to the conclusion that LGBT people "didn't have the same rights as everyone else". She was the keynote speaker for the 1997 national Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) convention. Cher has since become one of the gay community's most vocal advocates. On June 11, 2009, Chaz Bono came out as a transgender individual, and his transition to male was legally finalized on May 6, 2010.
In 1998, Cher was honored with a GLAAD Media Award (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and in November 1999, The Advocate named Cher as one of the '25 Coolest Women'. In October 2005 the Bravo program Great Things About Being... declared Cher "the number one greatest thing about being gay." William J. Mann, author of Gay Pride: A Celebration of All Things Gay and Lesbian, comments "[w]e'll be dancing to a ninety-year-old Cher when we're sixty. Just watch", and in a 2007 'Top Ten Gay Icons', formed by Digital Spy, it was stated that: "US comedian Jimmy James was spot-on when he quipped: "After a nuclear holocaust, all that will be left are cockroaches and Cher"." The NBC sitcom Will & Grace acknowledged her status by making her the idol of gay character Jack McFarland. Cher guest-starred as herself twice on the sitcom, in 2000 and 2002. In 2000, Cher made a cameo on the show, in which Jack believed her to be a drag queen and said he could "do" a better Cher himself. In 2002, she portrayed God in Jack's imagined version of Heaven.