Why we loved Betty White, legendary star & LGBT icon

Betty White
Image: Betty White Twitter

Legendary television star and LGBT icon Betty White died Friday aged 99. Her death occurred just over two weeks short of her 100th birthday.

A pioneer of the television industry, Betty White’s career spanned eight decades. Once called ‘the First Lady of Game Shows’, she also starred in sitcoms including The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls, and Hot in Cleveland.

A longtime LGBT ally, Betty White was a strong public supporter of Elton John AIDS Foundation and GLAAD.

In an episode of The Golden Girls, Betty’s character learned of her potential exposure to HIV following a blood transfusion. At a time when sensationalist headlines still dominated HIV/AIDS messaging, the show demonstrated that anyone would contract HIV, not only LGBT people.

Betty White was also an early and outspoken supporter of same-sex marriage, as she explained to Parade Magazine in 2010.

“I don’t care who anybody sleeps with. If a couple has been together all that time – and there are gay relationships that are more solid than some heterosexual ones – I think it’s fine if they want to get married. I don’t know how people can get so anti-something. Mind your own business, take care of your affairs, and don’t worry about other people so much.”

“I’ve been around the block”

She repeated a similar message at the GLAAD Media Awards in 2013.

“Listen, I’m 91 years old… I’ve been around the block, okay. I’ve seen a lot of things and done one or two and I know a few things. Not much, but some. …I just want to say to all the judgemental people out there: if two people in love want to get married, let ’em get married!”

White attributed her status as an LGBT icon to the roles she played and a shared love of animals.

“Throughout my career, I’ve always portrayed characters that were humorous, but also weren’t afraid to speak their minds, especially when it came to racy or controversial topics. I think this struck a chord with the LGBT community. We both also share a very strong love for animals. When you combine the two, it’s a very strong match.”

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