File:Madonna 3 by David Shankbone-2.jpg

Madonna in New York City for the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival.

Madonna is considered a gay icon and the gay community has embraced her as a pop culture icon. [1][2]

Life as a LGBT icon[]

Madonna was introduced to the gay community while still a teenager. It was her ballet teacher, Christopher Flynn, a gay man, who first told Madonna that she was beautiful.[3] He also introduced her to the local gay community of Detroit, Michigan, often taking her to local gay bars. Flynn also encouraged Madonna to walk away from her full scholarship to the University of Michigan and move to Manhattan to pursue a career as a professional dancer.[3]

After the launch of her music career and her entry into public consciousness, Madonna began to solidify her reputation as a gay icon. In the 1980s, Madonna was one of the first major celebrities to lend her support to AIDS causes. Many of her friends and inspirations, such as her ballet teacher Christopher Flynn, choreographer Alvin Ailey, artist Keith Haring, and photographer Herb Ritts – as well as her brother Christopher – are gay males, and some of them have died of AIDS. The song "In This Life" from her fifth studio album, Erotica, is about the loss of Madonna's (gay) friends to AIDS, containing the lines, "Have you ever watched your best friend die?" and "It shouldn't matter who you choose to love."

One of Madonna's biggest hits, 1990's "Vogue", is a song in tribute to the underground dance form known as vogueing which first found popularity in gay bars and discos of New York City. "Deeper and Deeper" from her Erotica album deals with a gay person coming to terms with his/her homosexuality after falling in love. The 11th track of the album "Why's It So Hard?" protests freedom of loving anyone we choose and to challenge the system. The song also contains the line "Why can't we learn to accept that we're different before it's too late?"

In the book Sex, which Madonna herself has called semi-autobiographical, there are many pictures and stories that present Madonna with other women enjoying themselves naked. In the video for "Erotica", Madonna is shown naked with many women. There are also a lot of pictures that show gay males; one of these models was former gay pornographic star Joey Stefano who later died of an AIDS-related illness as well as gay pornographic entrepreneur, Chi Chi La Rue. During the Erotica period and other periods of her career, Madonna commented on homosexuality. When she was asked in 2008 if she wants to be a gay icon, she replied that she hopes that she still is. She has also said that she loves having gay male friends because they are not afraid of strong women. Throughout her career Madonna has either been drawn to or inspired by gay people. Inside the cover of her Like a Prayer album, which sold over 13 million copies, was a sleeve note informing the potential public of the horrors of AIDS, encouraging people to practice safe sex. In this note were references to discrimination and the negatives of assuming that only gay people could catch HIV. Madonna around this time was also seen out in public with gay comedian Sandra Bernhard and other major homosexual celebrities, always at an award or gay rights award ceremony. Even through many of her videos such as "Justify My Love", Madonna was always seen as flirting with homosexuality, and was essentially the first major A-list celebrity to behave publicly in this way. Artists today see the benefits of appealing to a mass audience, with artists such as Kylie Minogue, Rihanna and Lady Gaga following Madonna's example, declaring their fantasies about making love with people of the same sex.

In 2003 Madonna kissed Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards. Madonna stated in Out, "I kind of assume everything I do is going to appeal to the gay audience. I'm just a big just means I kissed Britney Spears. I am the mommy pop star and she is the baby pop star. And I am kissing her and passing my energy onto her. Like, kind of a mythological fairy tale", Madonna stated of the incident.

Madonna has been named by The Advocate as "the biggest gay icon of all time" over Judy Garland. Artists like Kylie Minogue and Britney Spears, the latter who came a good deal after Madonna have also learned to embrace their gay following. Male superstars such as Justin Timberlake also have an ardent gay following but none more loyal or as large as those to follow Madonna. To this day, Madonna's gay following is one of the most loyal segments of her audience and the largest of any such superstar. While her popularity among certain other communities has fluctuated over the years, her gay following seems to stay strongly intact. Madonna credits her maintaining as a pop culture icon to the gay community.

On the eve of the release of Madonna's album Confessions on a Dance Floor, Steve Gdula of The Advocate wrote:

In the beginning, back in the 1980s and even the early 1990s, the release of a new Madonna video or single was akin to a national holiday, at least among her gay fans. The devotion, the urgency, and the fervor with which we rushed to buy her music, set the VCRs to record her every appearance, and raced to the newsstand to pour over the Vogue and Vanity Fair spreads became nearly ritualistic. Whether documented by Herb Ritts or Steven Meisel, we anticipated each new incarnation of our Madonna like pilgrims waiting for a vision.... Madonna's dance tracks offered a necessary escape that was nearly transcendental during an era when our community was seeing more than its share of heartbreak and horror.... Off the dance floor, she was just as supportive, becoming an outspoken AIDS activist and promoting education and compassion over ignorance and intolerance. At a time when other artists tried to distance themselves from the very audience that helped their stars to rise, Madonna only turned the light back on her gay fans and made it burn all the brighter.[4]

At a certain moment of her Confessions Tour, Madonna brought two shirtless male dancers on stage, one with a Jewish symbol painted in his chest and the other with a Muslim symbol also painted on his chest, and they perform contact-improvisational choreography together. The singer then asks for peace in the Middle East. This irritated both Jews and Muslims (considering the fact that homosexuality is still a taboo in most of the Middle Eastern Muslim nations).

In 2008, while in Paris during Hard Candy Promo Tour, she kissed one of her female dancers and yelled out to the crowd: "I'm always drawn to working with French people – and frenching French people". During all the Sticky & Sweet Tour, she kissed one of the girls impersonating her while she sings "She's Not Me".

Also in 2008, during her Sticky & Sweet Tour, Madonna made several statements regarding Proposition 8, stating that if America can accept a black president (Barack Obama), it's ready to accept gay marriage.

Madonna's brother Christopher Ciccone is gay and, although they were once close, they stopped speaking as a result of his revealing biography Life with My Sister Madonna, although they later cautiously reconciled. He did spend many years working with her as tour designer, tour director, and designer of several of her homes; he also appeared on promo tours and in several of her early videos and documentaries. Christopher, who was always referred to by Madonna as the "pope", stylized two of her major world tours, and became her visual and creative director during the early 1990s, providing backdrops for her Blond Ambition tour and Girly Show tour.

In August of 2009 Madonna spoke out against discrimination against many people, including homosexuals, in a concert in Romania. [1]

In June 2010 Madonna released a statement criticizing the decision to jail two men in Malawi because they celebrated their union with a ceremony. Because of international pressure, including Madonna's statement, the men were freed shortly after their incarceration. Madonna's statement included the following excerpt: "As a matter of principle, I believe in equal rights for all people, no matter what their gender, race, color, religion, or sexual orientation. This week, Malawi took a giant step backward. The world is filled with pain and suffering; therefore, we must support our basic human right to love and be loved.I call upon the progressive men and women of Malawi—and around the world—to challenge this decision in the name of human dignity and equal rights for all." [2]

See also[]

  • Janet Jackson as gay icon
  • Judy Garland as gay icon
  • LGBT history
  • List of books by Madonna
  • List of Madonna films
  • Madonna videography
  • Madonna discography
  • MTV Video Music Awards and nominations for Madonna
  • Queer Theory


Further reading[]

External links[]