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Before singer-songwriter Madonna is a Grammy winner, Golden Globe nominee, mother of six children, or even the undisputed Queen of Pop, she is a gay icon. Amid all of her impressive successes during her nearly four decades as an entertainer, Madge has always made LGBTQ activism a top priority. So to celebrate her 63rd birthday on Aug. 16, 2021, let’s remember her contributions to the LGBTQ+ community, especially her decades-long fight to raise awareness for HIV and AIDS, which has helped turn around public perception.
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Madonna’s inclusion of the LGBTQ community in her 1991 documentary Truth Or Dare was just a natural extension of her life. But for many struggling with their sexuality at a time when gayness was vilified, seeing her gay dancers, friends, and co-workers just living life, loud and proud about their identities, saved lives.
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Hidden at the end of Madonna’s groundbreaking 1992 album Erotica was one of her most poignant songs to date. “In This Life” was written in memory of two gay friends she lost to AIDS: her former roommate Martin Burgoyne in 1980s New York and her dance teacher Christopher Flynn. “Why should he be treated differently,” she belts. “Shouldn’t matter who you choose to love.”
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Madge was a staunch advocate for same-sex marriage long before the Supreme Court made it legal in the U.S. In 2011, she advocated for the state of New York, which she now calls home, to pass the Marriage Equality Act. “New Yorkers your voices must be heard,” she wrote on her website. “Tell your state congressmen to support same-sex marriage bill. All you need is love.”
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Madonna has a sacred relationship with the African country of Malawi, as its the home of her four adopted children. However, when two Malawian men were sentenced to 14 years in jail for holding an engagement ceremony, Madonna defended them. “Today, Malawi took a giant step backward,” she said. “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.”
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While performing in St. Petersburg on her 2012 MDNA Tour, Madonna spoke out against Russia’s heinous anti-LGBTQ laws. “Show your love and appreciation to the gay community,” she said. “We want to fight for the right to be free. All people should be treated with dignity, respect, and love.” In 2020, she claimed she was fined $1 million for her words. “I never paid,” she cheekily revealed.
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Given how Madonna’s been fighting for LGBTQ rights and HIV/AIDS awareness for decades, this honor was long overdue, as proven once again by her acceptance speech in 2019. “Fighting for all marginalized people is a duty and an honor I could not turn my back on nor will I ever,” she said.
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The head of every gay person exploded when Madonna descended onto New York’s WorldPride celebration in 2019, giving a Pride performance for the ages. She “Vogue”-ed her way onto stage, advocated for gun control, and reaffirmed her alliance with the LGBTQ community while performing “I Rise.” No one does it like Madge can.
In 2021, Madonna called out DaBaby, who made false, homophobic comments about people living with HIV/AIDS. “If you’re going to make hateful remarks ... know your facts,” she said, tagging DaBaby and informing him on medical advancements. “People like you are the reason we are still living in a world divided by fear. All human beings should be treated with dignity and respect regardless of race, gender, sexual preference, or religious beliefs. AMEN.” AMEN.