This article was published on September 26th, 2017
Over the years the LGBT community has built a strong network of allies who have stood-up to represent and advocate for equality rights and freedoms. Music is the cornerstone that brings people together. There are many musicians and artists who have been strong supports of queer rights over the years, and they all deserve recognition, gratitude, and appreciation. Here are seven artists who have had the unique ability to transcend genres to use their stardom to promote and aid queer causes. These are our picks of the top 7 iconic musicians that are LGBT advocates to the core:
At the top of this list sits the legendary Princess of Pop, the one and only Kylie Minogue. Just as she did last year after winning her legal battle for her own name rights against a same-named Kartrashian, Ms. Minogue has proved after nearly three decades in the spotlight that there really is one, and only one, Kylie. She’s been a fan of gays ever since she starred in Australia’s most watched-ever series Neighbors. She has been a singing showgirl ever since, but it was around the turn of the century that Kylie really solidified her mark as a true gay icon. Those gold hot pants are almost as famous as her countless club bangers that she continues to release today. “My gay audience has been with me from the beginning … they kind of adopted me.” She’s headlined Sydney Mardi Gras, World Pride, as well as released 13 studio albums in the 29 years she has been a pop star. Most recently, the Locomotion singer co-created the “Say I Do Australia” campaign with former boyfriend (what’s his name) in an effort to bring marriage equality to her home country. In June, it was revealed that she was asked to remove the gay kisses from her “All The Lovers” video in some countries, of which she bluntly refused. She’s best friends with Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters and Dolce and Gabbana, to top it all off. A fashion icon, actress, philanthropist, cancer survivor and true gay icon diva, Kylie Minogue is one gay rights advocate you just Can’t get Out of Your Head.
Lady Gaga took her stage name directly from Queen’s Radio Gaga, and she credits the likes of David Bowie and the legendary Freddie Mercury as main sources of inspiration for her music. While she’s barely been in the scene for over a decade, Lady Gaga has used her spotlight to constantly aid the LGBT community. From her featured keynote speaker appearance at the 2009 National Equality March (of which she credits as the “single most important event” of her career), to bringing fired Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military personnel to award shows to penning songs like “Born This Way” and being the first artist in history to have a number one song with the word “Transgender” in the lyrics, Lady Gaga has done her damnest to prove that she isn’t just showing her Poker Face. She is a real deal gay icon and fierce, fierce ally of the LGBTQ community. Lady Gaga is openly “a little” bisexual, and her Born This Way foundation has targeted anti-LGBT bullying around the world while helping to empower LGBT youth. She fought publicly for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and was a major advocate for marriage equality in America. “I’m just trying to change the world, one sequin at a time.”
Janet Jackson. Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty, has been anything and everything but nasty to the LGBT community. Her advocacy and philanthropy in the fight against HIV and AIDS and for gay rights stems back to the late 1980s. She told Ebony Magazine in 2001: “I don’t mind people thinking that I’m gay or calling me gay. I love people regardless of sexual preference, regardless of race.” She is the recipient of the GLAAD Media Award for her Grammy Award winning 6th album The Velvet Rope, released in 1997. The Velvet Rope denounced homophobia and celebrated same-sex love. She is the 2005 Humanitarian Award recipient for her work with AIDS and aiding the gay community. In 2008, she received GLAAD’s Vanguard award for her advocacy for the queer community over the last few decades. Most recently, she produced a documentary called Truth about transgender people in a bid to stop the spread of transphobia. Her single “Together Again” has remained a dance club classic, and the song paid homage to those friends that Jackson had lost during the AIDS crisis. Proceeds went to the American Foundation for AIDS Research.
Two women lead the feminist sexual revolution in the 80s, Madonna and Cindi Lauper. The Girls Just Wanna Have Fun singer has a lesbian singer, and her song True Colors was inspired in part by her gay fans. Before she ever penned the score to the gay Broadway musical Kinky Boots, Cindi Lauper was a vocal advocate in the fight against AIDS and HIV and has been a stalwart ally to the LGBT community. Her annual True Colors tour promotes LGBTQA rights and politics around North America. Her latest cause? LGBT youth homelessness. “I’m a friend and family, so…I live among my people,” Lauper told the Huffington Post in 2013. “My sister is part of the community, and my friends are part of the community … I started to see discrepancies and things that weren’t right, and I didn’t want to just shut my mouth, because I don’t believe in that.” 30+ years later, and Cindi still isn’t keeping quiet, time after time.
Jennifer Lopez is a force to be reckoned with. The most visible Latin star in the world, Jennifer Lopez is a producer, director, actress, dancer, singer, and one of the fiercest performers out there. Repeatedly named the most beautiful woman in the world, J Lo has proven she has a beautiful heart, too. The GLAAD Media Vanguard Award winner has been doing philanthropic work for queer people for decades. She has been an outspoken leader in the Latin community for gay marriage, gay rights, and LGBT equality. Her allegiance to the gay community goes back to her childhood: “Aunt Marisa grew up gay in a time when it mean life could be very difficult and that her struggles were mostly kept to herself. It wasn’t until I got older that I really began to know and appreciate all the difficulties she dealt with and the struggles of her community. I also realized the quiet lessons I learned from my family about love, tolerance, and acceptance. We loved her.” She is the producer of the lesbian-mom series The Fosters, and her aunt served as a main inspiration for the show. Jennifer Lopez has appeared at numerous gay events around the world, and who could forget that performance as a lesbian in Gigli? She is the 2015 Human Rights Campaign Ally For Equality award winner for her vocal advocacy for marriage equality in America. And in June of 2017 showed her support for her transgender relative on Instagram.
Only one (straight) man (two other notables : Kurt Cobain, who was vocally anti-homophobic, and Garth Brooks, whose lesbian sister lead him to speaking out against homophobia and for gay rights, come to mind and would be featured in a top 20 list) holds a seat on this list. Enrique Iglesias may not be the biggest celebrity in the United States, but the Spanish singer is arguably one of the biggest male pop stars alive. He’s been a vocal advocate for gay rights and marriage equality for over a decade (even before Ricky Martin came out), and has done ample charity work for the LGBT community. His most notable moment with his gay fans came when he performed at G-A-Y in London and serenaded a male fan with the audience loving every minute of it. He doesn’t give a shit when rumors about the singer’s sexuality have come up. “I’ve never cared about the gay rumor.” In terms of straight male musician allies, Enrique Iglesias is at the top of the list, keeping us bailando.
Nearly every list of prolific gay icon advocates will have the Queen of Pop topping their list. Madonna is probably the most vocal LGBT rights activist there is in the music industry, having championed queer rights and free love since the early 80s. She redefined what it meant to be a woman with sexuality, and had been open about sexual relations with other women. Madonna was one of the first big name celebrities to embrace and force the AIDS crisis issue to the forefront of every media outlet. Her advocacy began in the late eighties and in 1989 she held a benefit dance-a-thon event to raise money for those inflicted with HIV/AIDS. Since then, Madonna has raised millions of dollars for research and treatment for nearly 30 years. That’s just her philanthropy with AIDS, a disease she lost many gay friends to and has been vocal about mourning their loss. In 1991, her revolutionary documentary Truth or Dare showed real gay life for the first time to mainstream America. Featuring the Like a Virgin singer during her Truth or Dare tour, this feature opened up about sexuality and high lit queer life as she interacts with her dancers at a Pride Parade and backstage. She has been a vocal opponent against homophobia since the beginning of her career, and once stated, “I wouldn’t have a career if it weren’t for the gay community.” Record producer recalled a time when he expressed discomfort to Madonna upon seeing two men kissing. To which the (anti) Material Girl snapped: “Two men kissing should be looked at as normal! You represent everything I’m trying to change.” Madonna has championed her gay fans since the beginning. She brought vogueing into the mainstream. The fashion. The dancing. The activism. The symbolism. The sexism. And the fact that the woman has 30+ top hits that have kept us dancing our gay asses off for over 30 years set Madonna high above any other straight celebrity on the planet. She didn’t just push for gay rights, respect, and visibility, she demanded it. Madonna had broken so many molds and opened the door for female and LGBT artists in a way like no other artist or celebrity has. She has used her status as a famous person the entire time to help queer people whenever she could. Madonna, you are the Queen of Pop. And secretly the Queen of nearly every gay boy’s (rebel) heart.