5 reasons why Madonna is the LGBTQIA+ community’s ultimate Mother

Of all the things Madonna has championed and  continues to bat for, it’s the LGBTQIA+ advocacy that has taken up the most of her time, talent, and treasure. 

Most artists only pay lip service for the causes they advocate. Madonna isn’t one of them. On the contrary, the queen of pop walks her talk when she decides to throw her support and weight behind something. Sometimes she does it literally, as when she joined a public Black Lives Matter protest rally in London in 2020—in crutches at that because she was recuperating from a knee injury sustained during her Madame X  tour. 

Her rainbow-colored journey started in high school with Christopher Flynn, the first gay man she ever met. “He was my ballet teacher in high school and he was the first person that believed in me, that made me feel special as a dancer, as an artist and as a human being,” Madonna said in her 2019 acceptance speech of the Media Advocate for Change Award from GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). 

No single ally has been a better friend or had a bigger impact on acceptance for the LGBTQ community than Madonna,” CNN anchor Anderson Cooper said in 2019. 

“I know this sounds trivial and superficial, but he was the first man to tell me I was beautiful,” she added. 

It was neither trivial nor superficial. It proved to be life-changing, not only for her  but also for the LGBTQIA+ community. It turned Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone from an awkward teenager who didn’t feel like she fit in anywhere into the confident young woman who knew what she wanted and who would later on conquer the world and be Christopher Flynn to millions of people, young and old. 

“No single ally has been a better friend or had a bigger impact on acceptance for the LGBTQ community than Madonna,” CNN anchor Anderson Cooper said in his introductory remarks at the 2019 Annual GLAAD Media Awards. 

Here are the top five ways Madonna gave back, in words and in deeds, to the community that first embraced her and made her who she is.

1. Who’s That Girl concert benefits AIDS research

A cultural moment from the early 2000s: Madonna kisses Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the MTV Video Music Awards on August 28, 2003.

When HIV and AIDS arrived in the 1980s, most celebrities approached it with a 20-foot pole. Most were afraid to be associated with what was called back then as the “gay plague.” Even then President Ronald Reagan didn’t publicly acknowledge it until 1985.

Not Madonna. She was the one of the few superstars who talked openly about it. In fact, she candidly, fearlessly, passionately talked about her deep personal connection to the disease from having close friends who were afflicted with HIV. And it wasn’t just talk.

She put her money where her mouth is and raised funds for AIDS research, starting in 1987 with the final show of her Who’s That Girl world tour. She donated all the $400,000 it raised to research charity amfAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research). That’s the very same year Regan first gave a significant speech about the epidemic. Two years later, Madonna and Flynn, who had already been diagnosed with AIDS, attended a charity dance marathon in New York to benefit people who were HIV-positive. 

The same year, Madonna became the first artist to include AIDS literature in an  album. It came in the form of a leaflet inserted in the CDs of “Like a Prayer,” her fourth album. The one sheet is called “The Facts about AIDS” and contains basic definitions of HIV and AIDS, how the virus is transmitted, and how to prevent infection. It partly reads, “People with AIDS – regardless of their sexual orientation – deserve compassion and support, not violence and bigotry. AIDS IS NO PARTY.”

2. Vogue celebrates queer culture 

In 2020, Madonna claimed Russia fined her $1 million for the pro-gay speech she made during a show in 2012, and that she refused to pay it.

In 1990, Madonna got everybody in the world to “move to the music” and “go with the flow” with her single Vogue. But it wasn’t just another Madonna dance hit: it was a celebration of queer culture built around voguing, “a highly stylized form of dance created by black and Latino LGBTQ communities that took from the poses in high fashion and ancient Egyptian art, adding exaggerated hand gestures to tell a story and imitate various gender performances in categorized drag genres.”

Before Vogue, voguing mostly existed underground. Madonna brought it to the mainstream in a way only she could—with a fantastically catchy pop song and a fabulous music video starring a bevy of queer dance artists. Both song and video became instant classics and paved the way for more queer representation in pop culture. Up to this day, more than 30 years on, Vogue and voguing remain anthems for fierce, unapologetic queer self-expression the world over. 

3. Truth or Dare dares audiences with
truthful depiction of queerness

The groundbreaking documentary Truth or Dare chronicles Madonna’s controversial 1990 Blonde Ambition international tour.

A year after Vogue, Madonna doubled down on queer representation on screen with Truth of Dare, the documentary film for her 1990 Blond Ambition world tour. It was one of the very first movies to capture real-life gay men—Madonna’s dancers on the tour—being themselves out, loud, and proud.

It was also, because of Madonna’s popularity, the first “gay” movie many people saw. Not everyone was amused, notably conservative Americans. But the film’s impact on the LGBT community (the QIA+ would be added a decade or so later) was undeniable and indelible.

Queer nation has always been there for me. I thank all people who fight for the right to be free, to love who they want to love. No fear, people. No fear. And I will fight for you to the day I die,” Madonna said in her last Celebration Tour show in Rio de Janeiro.

This excerpt from a 2016 article about the film captures it perfectly: “The scene where Madonna’s dancer Oliver talks about the problems of being the only straight dancer on the tour led into something that changed my life forever. It was a scene of a gay pride parade—something I had never seen before. I knew they existed, but I didn’t know several thousands participated in them. I didn’t even realize there were several thousand other homosexuals in the world. 

“In the scene, Madonna’s dancers stand in the sidelines while people march, screaming, ‘We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to us!’ There are all types of people in the scene: some flamboyant, some simple, some old, some young, some dressed outrageously and some dressed conservatively. In other words, they represented everybody. ‘Even I could fit in there,’ I thought.

“That moment changed my life. I felt a tear form in my right eye and wiped it right away, just so my friends wouldn’t suspect I was gay since I was moved by the scene. I felt a tingling sensation in my legs that was both powerful and relieving. Even though I still felt I was nothing like Madonna’s dancers, they were now my heroes. They let me know that it was okay to be different.”

4. A private call bolsters a fellow star’s resolve to come out

“The gay community and gay people have the same rights to be treated with dignity, with respect, with tolerance, with compassion, with love.”

Six years after Truth or Dare, Madonna did not waste an opportunity to support another famous celebrity in coming out, and she did it where it mattered most—in private. “It was all over the place and a big, huge topic—people were against it, people were for it, I had never had that much media attention. It was really scary,” recalled comedian Ellen Degeneres in 2012 of the time, in 1997, she was rumored to come out as gay.

She revealed Madonna had called her up “out of the blue” even though they had never met before. “I just all of a sudden get a call saying, ‘It’s Madonna and I just want to say I’m behind you, I’m with you, I support you.’” Ellen added that Madonna also said some “really amazing things” of a more personal nature but also talked to her “about holding on to this ride.”

Ellen noted, “One thing (she) said to me was, ‘Things come to you when you let go and you don’t care and need the validation anymore.’ When you’re closeted, you really need people to love you and you’re so scared if you come out, no one will love you anymore. It was hard at the time to hear that because I thought, ‘Well, I want people to love me!’” Madonna gave her the cold, hard truth that led her to embrace her own truth fully. 

5. MDNA bats for LGBT rights in intolerant Russia

Madonna at her recently concluded Celebration Tour

In 2012, Madonna held a show in the Russian city of St. Petersburg as part of her MDNA world tour. Apart from featuring  erotically charged, gay-themed numbers and male dancers in high heels, Madonna explicitly challenged the country’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws in a speech during the show.

“The gay community and gay people, here and all around the world, have the same rights to be treated with dignity, with respect, with tolerance, with compassion, with love,” she declared, before asking the crowd, rhetorically, “Are you with me?” It was her making good on a promise she made a few days before the show to speak out against legislation adopted by the city earlier that year which imposed fines for spreading homosexual “propaganda” that could “damage the health, moral and spiritual development” of minors. In 2020, Madonna claimed Russia fined her $1 million for the speech and that she refused to pay it.

Last year, Madonna embarked on her latest world tour, The Celebration Tour. It was her first career retrospective and featured some of the most important elements in her artistic and personal journey so far. The tour ended with a show in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil that attracted a mammoth live audience of over 1.6 million, setting a new record for the biggest standalone concert by an artist, solo or group, male or female, of all time. 

With a stirring centerpiece tribute to thousands of “bright lights extinguished by AIDS,” same-sex kisses and lots of gender-bending role-playing, costumes, and choreography, and a trans special guest, the Rio show couldn’t have been a more fitting finale to a tour celebrating a legendary career marked by a true and daring activism for the global LGBTQIA+ community. 

“Queer nation has always been there for me,” Madonna noted in a speech in the middle of the show. “I thank you. I thank all artists, all people who take risks. I thank all people who fight for the right to be free, to love who they want to love. No fear, people. No fear. And I will fight for you to the day I die.”

Spoken like the Mother that she truly is.

The new lifestyle.