10 Facts That Make Madonna an Everlasting Inspiration for the LGBTQ Community

10 Facts That Make Madonna an Everlasting Inspiration for the LGBTQ Community

It is tough to assess Madonna’s influence. She undoubtedly reshaped the power of pop fame. It elevated music videos to the status of a recognized art form. Or made her own choices in a career that has become a living legend. Any formulaic talk of Madonna’s “great business skills” ignores the influence of the impish, unabashed, charitable, often funny activist who has been the LGBTQ community’s raddest pop heroine since she exposed her armpits to a hand dryer in Desperately Seeking Susan. However, this would be selling Madonna short.

She’s the Elizabeth Taylor of pop as an ally, and Marlene Dietrich as an X-Men in terms of iconography. That’s a lot of homosexual legitimacy. Because Pride Month would be incomplete without Madonna and her songs, we’ve produced a list of 10 of her most memorable LGBT moments.

1. Those Decades of AIDS Advocacy

In the 1980s, we were lacking in celebrities who spoke out against AIDS (and it didn’t help that we had a president who was, shall we say, cautious on the matter). However, Madonna and her Detroit-era dance instructor Christopher Flynn, who was afflicted with AIDS at the time, lit up New York with a big benefit dance marathon in 1989. Madonna had already lost a close friend to the virus at the time, Martin Burgoyne. In video from the occasion, she thrashes around with glee. That’s amusing to see, but it’s even more intriguing to witness Flynn, who died of the disease, open up about Madonna as a confidante who understood him.

Madonna attends the AIDS Project Los Angeles' (APLA) 14th Annual AIDS Walk Los Angeles on Sept. 27, 1998 at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, Calif.Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage

Madonna attends the AIDS Project Los Angeles’ (APLA) 14th Annual AIDS Walk Los Angeles on Sept. 27, 1998 at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, Calif.
Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage

2. Madonna Is Queen, But Gays Rule Too

Truth or Dare, Madonna’s 1991 documentary, is likely to be the second most significant buy for new Madonna fans, behind The Immaculate Collection. It has iconic performances (including “Like a Virgin,” “Oh Father,” “Vogue,” and “Keep It Together”), infamous appearances by Antonio Banderas, Kevin Costner, and then-beau Warren Beatty, as well as scream-worthy exchanges with her backup dancers, the bulk of whom were gay. One of the first documentaries I watched that portrayed homosexual guys mingling was Truth or Dare. They go to a Pride parade, talk about each other, and are punished by Madonna for being cruel to another dancer. “Be courteous to him. “He doesn’t have your thick skin,” she remarks, as if she’s the headmistress of homosexuals. Bring a tissue as she pays tribute to her friend Keith Haring, who died just before the tour began.

3. Ellen did, in fact, come out with Madonna’s aid

Where were you when you learned Madonna had a hand in Ellen DeGeneres’ public debut? I’m still in awe. Here’s Ellen reflecting on M’s sweet remarks.

4. The Drag Tribute That Rocked the Video Music Awards in 1999

The 1999 MTV Video Music Awards were immaculate. Ricky Martin conquered America, Prince introduced TLC, and their moms, Afeni Shakur and Voletta Wallace, delivered beautiful tributes to Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. You also had a breathtakingly homosexual moment with a drag homage to Madonna’s career. Drag queens celebrated her most iconic looks one by one: the “Like a Virgin” wedding gown, the cabaret “Open Your Heart” outfit, and the goth “Frozen” gown. “All I have to say is that filling my shoes requires a genuine guy,” Madonna remarked as she patrolled the phalanx of queens. Extra credit to the queen in “Bedtime Story” garb for completely destroying that runway.

Madonna on stage with Drag Queens at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards at Lincoln Center in New York.Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect

Madonna on stage with Drag Queens at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards at Lincoln Center in New York.
Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect

5. “In This Life” Suffering

What type of monster wouldn’t like “Deeper and Deeper”? On one of the album’s last tracks, Erotica, Madonna penned an elegy for her friends who died of AIDS, which has since developed a substantial cult following. Her performance is modest and heartfelt, underlining her status as an underappreciated balladeer.

6. “Vogue” Is a Unique Gay Fantasia

Voguing is a signature of black and Latin dance parties in Harlem, and it has long been questioned whether Madonna’s “Vogue” authentically depicts that culture. While there are surely black and Latin dancers practicing those steps with Madonna in the popular video, the authenticity of a white, heterosexual pop artist functioning as the dance’s unofficial emblem may be questioned. In any event, with “Vogue,” Madonna did something remarkable: she launched a daring, openly queer art form into mainstream America, allowing gays worldwide to experience (and identify) a rare type of performative ebullience. She was also able to enjoy her profound love of vintage cinema stars.

7. She has spoken out against homophobia 50 million times

Madonna performs this performance practically wherever she goes. In Russia, when Putin lurks like a Crisco-soaked albatross above the country? Check. In a 1990s-era English interview? Check. Among the best: her appearance at the 2013 GLAAD Awards in a Boy Scout outfit to give the Vito Russo Award to Anderson Cooper. She criticized her failure to win entrance despite her well-honed skill “to scout for guys” and derided the Boy Scouts’ bigoted membership values. Bob the Drag Queen would imitate this look on RuPaul’s Drag Race a few years later, telling us that he was the most “prepared” queen of season eight.

8. The Sandra Bernhard’s Case

For the greater part of 30 years, Madonna’s favorite activity was aggravating David Letterman. She was spurred by his sharp humor and was constantly on the lookout for ways to frighten him out live on TV. She appeared as a surprise guest with Dave in her first major performance, while pal Sandra Bernhard lit up the stage with her typical sauciness. Everything about this pop cultural moment is ridiculous and memorable: the matching jean-shorts, the cheeky connotations of a Madonna-Sandra love affair, and Dave’s uncertainty. For a time, the “gal pals” were tormented by lesbian allegations, and Sandra bemoaned the demise of their friendship on Wendy Williams’ show in 2010. I miss the days when celebrities liked being annoying on national television, when they had their own set of rules, and when they didn’t waste our time with dull on-set tales.

9. Her Intriguing Tribute to Late A-List Interior Designer David Collins

Madonna described her buddy David Collins’ effect on her life in a letter written following his death in 2013. “He took to calling me Muriel after we saw Muriel’s Wedding, because he said it was sacrilegious and downright ridiculous to say my name in public or private. Did I mention his witty and irreverent sense of humor? Shame on me.” She added:  “In my darkest hours (and there were plenty of those) he always managed to say something that made me laugh and stop feeling sorry for myself. He never allowed me to indulge. He would say, ‘Muriel, stop complaining, it doesn’t suit you. Let’s go to Ibiza!’ And he meant it. He loved going to Ibiza: yes, the gorgeous men; yes, tripping the light fantastic; yes, the occasional tab of X; but most of all he went for the music.”

Madonna and David Collins with his Inspiration Award attend the GQ Men Of The Year Awards, at the Royal Opera House on Sept. 4, 2007 in London, England. Dave M. Benett/Getty Images

Madonna and David Collins with his Inspiration Award attend the GQ Men Of The Year Awards, at the Royal Opera House on Sept. 4, 2007 in London, England.
Dave M. Benett/Getty Images

10. The 10 Best Reddit AMA Replies of All Time

I’m still reeling from Madonna’s one Reddit AMA, in which she answered a bunch of questions. The finest, though: “Would you be a top or a bottom if you were a homosexual man?” “I am a homosexual man,” Madonna responded in lowercase.

 

 

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