Before “Born This Way”

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com February 15 2011 4:15 AM ET

The unprecedented pre-release anticipation for Lady Gaga’s latest single “Born This Way” owed as much to its being touted as "the next great gay anthem" as it did to Gaga-mania. When the song, which the superstar claims to have composed in 10 minutes, finally arrived last Friday, some fans rejoiced while others were underwhelmed. But whether you love it or don't quite hate it, let’s give the lady her due. “Born This Way” is one of the few mainstream anthems that unapologetically embraces queerness. Just try to name another chart topper with “transgender” in its lyrics.

For decades we’ve appropriated countless songs as our own, reading gay subtext into vague lyrics, empathizing with the longing in Judy’s “Over the Rainbow,”  the exuberant joy of The Weather Girls' "It's Raining Men" or relating to the painful isolation in Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own,” but few actually wave a flag to flaunt our individualism. Here are a few favorites that do.

13. “Don’t Tell Me” by Madonna, 2000

Some might opt for the icon’s “Express Yourself” or “Vogue,” but with lyrics that insist "don't ever tell me I'll learn, no" we have no choice. This is Madonna at her defiant best.

GAY ANTHEMS MADONNA X390 (GETTY IMAGES) | ADVOCATE.COM

12. “We R Who We R” by Ke$ha, 2010

The party girl pulled off the unimagined feat of creating a pulsating dance hit that’s also a reaction to the bullying epidemic last year that led to numerous gay suicides.

GAY ANTHEMS KESHA X390 (GETTY IMAGES) | ADVOCATE.COM

11. “Don’t Make Me Over” by Dionne Warwick, 1962

“Accept me for what I am,” Warwick demanded on her first hit, which empowered gays seven years before the Stonewall riots.

GAY ANTHEMS DIONNE WARWICK X390 (GETTY IMAGES) | ADVOCATE.COM

10. “Go West” by Pet Shop Boys, 1993

This paean to San Francisco as a gay utopia was first recorded by the Village People in 1979 but was given a haunting makeover by the Pet Shop Boys. The all-male choir singing back-up adds an almost elegiac touch.

GAY ANTHEMS PET SHOP BOYS X390 (GETTY IMAGES) | ADVOCATE.COM

 9.“True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper

The spirited singer’s signature ballad was so powerful it served to launch an acclaimed tour that benefits numerous LGBT organizations.

GAY ANTHEMS CYNDI LAUPER X390 (GETTY IMAGES) | ADVOCATE.COM

8. “Raise Your Glass” by Pink, 2010

"So raise your glass if you are wrong in all the right ways," Pink sings in her ode to underdogs, who she toasts to never being "anything but loud."

GAY ANTHEMS PINK X390 (GETTY IMAGES) | ADVOCATE.COM

7. “This is My Life” by Shirley Bassey, 1961

When the great Bassey belts “That's the way that I was born to be / This is me, this is me,” we believe her and we relate.

GAY ANTHEMS SHIRLEY BASSEY X390 (GETTY IMAGES) | ADVOCATE.COM

6. “Defying Gravity” by Elphaba in Wicked

From the retelling of The Wizard of Oz comes a testament to finding and unleashing the real you.

GAY ANTHEMS WICKED X390 (GETTY IMAGES) | ADVOCATE.COM

5. “Firework” by Katy Perry, 2010

Perhaps making amends for the brouhaha surrounding her “I Kissed a Girl” single, Perry dedicated this confidence-booster to the “It Gets Better” campaign.

GAY ANTHEMS KATY PERRY X390 (GETTY IMAGES) | ADVOCATE.COM

4. “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross, 1980

The title says it all, really. This Pride float staple was written by Nile Rodgers after seeing three men imitating Ross at a drag club.

GAY ANTHEMS DIANA ROSS X390 (GETTY IMAGES) | ADVOCATE.COM

 3. “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, 1978

The winner of a Grammy in the short-lived Best Disco Recording category has had a long life as the quintessential finding-personal-strength anthem.

GAY ANTHEMS GLORIA GAYNOR X390 (GETTY IMAGES) | ADVOCATE.COM

 2. “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera, 2002

Stop hating on Aguilera. Her stunning ballad (composed by out songwriter Linda Perry) about maintaining self-esteem won her a Grammy award. And the gorgeous LGBT-inclusive video was honored by GLAAD.

GAY ANTHEMS CHRISTINA AGUILERA X390 (GETTY IMAGES) | ADVOCATE.COM

1. “I Am What I Am” by Albin in La Cage Aux Folles, 1983

This first act finale, written by out composer Jerry Herman for his landmark drag queen musical, became a joyful dance hit for Gloria Gaynor, and remains the ultimate battle cry for acceptance.