The Rainbow’s Enduring Glow: Judy Garland’s Lasting Legacy

Across communities and roles, her legacy endures.

Published: Jun 24, 2023  |  

Retired detective and writer


While June is Pride Month, this month also marks the birthday and the untimely passing of LGBQT+ icon, Judy Garland. She was quite the silver screen sensation back in the golden age of Hollywood, and she’s also my favorite actress. 

You may wonder how an ex-cop went from writing a pro-second amendment article about gun control to gushing over a gay icon like Judy Garland during Pride month? It doesn’t quite meet the expectations of the pigeonholing haters hellbent on dividing us, does it? Let’s just say, I’m a huge fan and an avid collector of Judy Garland memorabilia. I mean, why wouldn’t I love watching a good Judy flick while cleaning my AR-15?

Rise to stardom

Judy Garland got her start young. Born Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922, she began her career at age 3, hitting the stage in vaudeville. By 13, she was under contract with MGM Studios and immediately became one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, appearing in an impressive 15 movies by the time she was 20. Not too shabby.

Extraordinary talent

If you haven’t seen 1954’s A Star is Born, do yourself a massive favor and stream it soon. Although there are a few remakes, this one is the real deal—the definitive version of the film. Sorry Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, but Judy kills it in this version. She even won the Golden Globe for Best Actress and was nominated for the Academy Award. Check it out now!

And don’t think that Judy Garland’s talents stopped with film. She dominated live theatre, music, and television. Just listen to Somewhere Over the Rainbow and The Man Who Got Away. Her vocals were so highly thought of that she picked up a Grammy for Female Solo Vocal Performance and another for Album of the Year with Judy at Carnegie Hall.

For theatre and stage, Garland snagged the Special Tony Award for her contribution to the revival of vaudeville after her record-setting 19-week show at The Palace in New York. And in television, Garland was nominated twice for an Emmy for her Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program—The Judy Garland Show.

LGBTQ+ and Cultural Icon

Here’s the thing about Judy Garland—she was much more than just an entertainer. Behind her glamorous persona, she faced numerous personal challenges. Among them, were the Hollywood executives, cashing in on her talents, didn’t think she was attractive enough. And they let her know it. Imagine?

In an interview, she once said, “From the time I was 13, there was a constant struggle between MGM and me—whether or not to eat, how much to eat, what to eat. I remember this more vividly than anything else about my childhood.” But despite the pressure and setbacks, she persevered. She channeled her vulnerability and pain into her performances, creating characters that captivated and resonated with audiences. 

It’s no wonder Judy Garland had such a profound influence on the LGBTQ+ community. She showed that being true to yourself while overcoming adversity with grace is something to be celebrated. She gave hope to those struggling. To be a “Friend of Dorothy,” is a euphemism for a gay man—a nod to her impact on the LGBTQ+ community. 

But despite Garland’s socially liberal leanings, she wasn’t exactly a megaphone-wielding feminist. She dropped this bombshell about men in a piece she penned for Reader’s Digest back in 1955: “Don’t yield your leadership. Don’t hand us the reins.” For some context, Garland’s romantic life was about as bumpy as a rollercoaster ride in a Kansas tornado. Some folks out there reckon that her beliefs on gender roles were born out of her deep-seated insecurity and epic levels of loneliness.

She spilled the beans further in that same essay, saying, “We will seem to be fighting you to the last ditch for final authority on everything for a while. But in the obscure recesses of our hearts, we want you to win. You have to win. For we aren’t really made for leadership. It’s a pose.”

Enduring Legacy

Since her death on June 22, 1969, Judy Garland has inspired performers such as Lady Gaga, Anne Hathaway, and Ariana Grande. And let’s not forget about the film Judy, with Renée Zellweger giving it her all, which elevated Garland’s legacy and sparked a new generation of fans.

Raise your glasses to her as an icon of the LGBTQ+ community and as a symbol to everyone of how sheer determination and unwavering spirit can conquer any obstacle. Garland touched people from all walks of life, no matter their sexual orientation.

Just like Judy, we all contain multitudes. Let’s not let the pigeonholers have their way, because guess what? We can bust out the confetti and rainbow flags for Pride month while having a soft spot for the Second Amendment too. So, as we bid farewell to this insightful journey, here’s a toast to Judy, the unmatched talent and groundbreaking icon. And a nod to all of us, the misfits, the out-of-the-box thinkers, the people who embrace all aspects of themselves, no matter how contradictory they might seem.

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