Pride Month: Madonna, Elton John Celebrate LGBTQ Advancements
This month we celebrate LGBTQ pride with rainbow flags and often chaps, motorcycles and a whole lot of partying. And rightfully so.
Pride happens in June every year to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots. On June 28, 1969, New York police raided a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn, a common practice in the 1960s. But this time, the LGBTQ community fought back.
This incident marked a turning point in rights for LGBTQ people. These protections are still being fought for, but hard-won victories are coming more frequently, as evidenced by the fall of the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy in 2011, marriage equality legislation in 2013 and current-day bathroom laws for transgender people.
Music has always been part of celebrating Pride in cities across America each year, and many artists have stepped up to support the LGBTQ community and their rights. To give you just a small sampling of the artists who have voiced their support, take a look at these seven artists' active support for LGBTQ people.
This Southern California trio of queer women — comprising Katie Gavin, Naomi McPherson and Josette Maskin — has brought LGBTQ advocacy to much of their alt-pop music. Perhaps their most notable contribution has been their 2016 Pride anthem, "I Know A Place." The song advocates for safe spaces, particularly in the LGBTQ community, in this case depicting a dance club. The allusion to the Stonewall Inn became even more poignant following the devastating Pulse Nightclub shooting on June 12, 2016, in Orlando.
"['I Know A Place'] was also meant to serve as encouragement for our community to remain vulnerable and kind and hopeful in the face of violence," said lead singer Gavin. "We cannot build a better world without first imagining what that world might look like, and by creating that space inside ourselves first."
At a time when almost no other public figure was out, GRAMMY winner Elton John came out as bisexual to Rolling Stone during a 1976 interview, and later as gay in 1988. Since then, John has been a pioneer for the LGBTQ community, including his extensive philanthropic work to fight AIDS. In 1993 he founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which has since awarded millions in funding to organizations around the world to fight the deadly disease.
"This Pride month, I'm celebrating you," John wrote for Billboard. "You've showed the world that people of all creeds, colors and cultures can come together to enjoy the music of an openly gay artist like me. And more than that, you've showed the world that we are all worthy of love."
GRAMMY winner Dolly Parton has been a long-time supporter of the LGBTQ community, dating back to her 1991 tune, "Family," which advocates for accepting family even when "some are gay." In 2006 Parton again showed her support for the LGBTQ community when she wrote the theme song for the film Transamerica. She earned an Oscar nomination for "Travelin' Thru," the film's end credit song.
"I have a huge gay and lesbian following," Parton told People. "I'm proud of 'em, I love 'em and I think everybody should be themselves and be allowed to be themselves whoever they are, whatever they are."
Detroit rapper Angel Haze has been an outspoken member of the LGBTQ community since her debut album, 2013's Dirty Gold. Most notably, Haze took Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' LGBTQ anthem, "Same Love," and freestyled her own lyrics over the top as part of her "30 Gold" series, where she released a freestyled song daily. In her version of the song, Haze came out, a stigmatized move for a rapper.
"I was so reluctant to do 'Same Love,' because I get so caught up on people thinking of me as a queer rapper, I don't discuss my sexuality in my music," said Haze. "But I've always said to myself that an artist is a person who has something to say and isn't just a part of the noise."
What many people may have missed when GRAMMY nominee Miley Cyrus came in like a wrecking ball was her passionate stance on LGBTQ rights. While she ruffled some fans' feathers when she got an "all love is equal" tattoo in 2012, Cyrus didn't back down, saying, "I believe every American should be allowed the same rights and civil liberties."
After bringing Jesse Helt, a homeless friend, with her to the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards as her date and to accept her award, Cyrus founded the Happy Hippie Foundation, which advocates for homeless youth. The organization particularly calls out to LGBTQ youth, who make up 40 percent of the homeless population among young people. In June 2017, Cyrus released the track "Inspired" from her forthcoming album to celebrate Pride, and announced that she would make a donation in the name of the song to her foundation.
Well before her multiplatinum track "Born This Way" inspired her little monsters to be themselves, GRAMMY winner Lady Gaga backed LGBTQ rights. Founded in 2012, her Born This Way Foundation aims to continue the trend of acceptance and empowerment for people from "all walks of life." This has included the safe space Born Brave Bus at her concert tours, as well as her recent Channel Kindness project in cooperation with Starbucks.
But that's not all the Fame Monster has been up to. Gaga regularly donates her time to connect directly with members of the LGBTQ community, including a visit to LGBTQ youth at the Ali Forney Center in New York in 2016. Here she discussed living with mental illness, providing hope and inspiration for young people like those she spoke with.
GRAMMY winner Madonna has long been a gay icon, and she's paid that honor back tenfold. From speaking up about AIDS in the 1980s and helping Ellen DeGeneres famously come out in the '90s to denouncing homophobia throughout her entire career, the LGBTQ community has long had a strong advocate in Madonna.
She capped this reputation when she appeared on the 56th GRAMMY Awards to sing a rendition of her "Open Your Heart" for 33 couples freshly married on the live telecast, officiated by Queen Latifah while Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert sang their LGBTQ anthem, "Same Love."