It's more important than ever to remember the songs that have seen the LGBTQ community through heartaches past — from Stonewall to the AIDS crisis, from discrimination to marriage equality.
These are songs of freedom and individuality, of overcoming heartbreak, defying the status quo, and staying true to yourself. And some of them are just kick-ass party tunes. Here are 25 anthems that have captured the spirit, strength, and imagination of the LGBT community — and have provided the soundtrack to many of our lives. Enjoy these anytime but especially this busy Pride weekend.
25. Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen (1978)
The iconic ‘70s rock band led by gay superstar Freddie Mercury may be forever remembered for Bohemian Rhapsody, but this sexy, propulsive tune — that gleefully swaps male and female pronouns — perfectly captures the spirit of Pride.
24. Closer – Tegan and Sara (2012)
This queer-friendly party tune from the out twin sisters/LGBT activists is a seductive romp for the girls, the boys, and everybody else.
23. Relax – Frankie Goes to Hollywood (1983)
The wildly sexual debut single from this British band was banned in the U.K., but became an international hit. This banned video, set in a gay leather bar, captures the song’s delicious debauchery.
22. Come to My Window – Melissa Etheridge (1993)
This Grammy-winning hit from the out rocker featured a video that makes the song’s theme of lesbian love and devotion perfectly clear.
21. Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed (1972)
Forty-four years ago, Reed had a mainstream hit with this hypnotic tale of gay and transgender streetwalkers, inspired by Andy Warhol’s darlings of the underground.
20. True Colors – Cyndi Lauper (1986)
Proving that girls want much more than to just have fun, Lauper created this tender, inspiring anthem of love and support for every struggling queer kid out there.
19. Let’s Have a Kiki – Scissor Sisters (2012)
From Anna Matronic’s drag queen-inspired opening monologue, to Jake Shears’ sassy, sexy dance moves, this is a queer par-tay tune for the ages. Muthaf**kka!
18. Constant Craving – kd lang (1992)
This Grammy-winning tune, from everyone’s favorite lesbian chanteuse and LGBT activist, captures frustrated desire in a haunting, Fellini-inspired video.
17. I Kissed a Girl – Katy Perry (2008)
The playfully sexy salute to bisexuality turned the former gospel singer into an overnight pop sensation.
16. Supermodel (You Better Work) – RuPaul (1992)
Long before becoming a household Drag Race name, RuPaul broke through from the club scene to the big time with this joyously infectious drag queen anthem.
15. Beautiful – Christina Aguilera (2002)
After transitioning from Disney kid to pop princess, Aguilera got serious and inspirational with this anthem (and explicitly gay-friendly video) in support of everyone who’s ever felt different.
14. Go West – Pet Shop Boys (1993)
The British duo re-imagined the Village People’s disco tune into a post-U.S.S.R. anthem of freedom and liberation with this trippy candy-colored video.
13. Brave – Sara Bareilles (2013)
Amid a sea of self-empowerment pop anthems by everyone from Kelly Clarkson to Katy Perry, this finely-crafted song of inspiration stands out as one of the best.
12. Free – Ultra Nate (1997)
This infectious dance anthem of freedom brought a ‘70s disco sensibility to the ‘90s. And the message was damn good, too.
11. I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross (1980)
The former Supreme allegedly recorded this jaunty tune as a tribute to her legions of gay fans.
10. Freedom ’90 – George Michael (1990)
Before officially coming out as gay in a 1998 Advocate interview, the international pop star recorded this song, which telegraphed his struggles with his artistic and personal identity.
9. Let It Go – Idina Menzel (2013)
There’s a good reason why this Oscar-winning song from Disney’s hit film Frozen is beloved by LGBT fans. Look away from the video’s dazzling visuals to hear one of the most powerful coming out songs ever written.
8. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester (1978)
Out and proud before it was remotely fashionable, the androgynous Sylvester created this disco anthem — which became synonymous with gay liberation.
7. We Are Family – Sister Sledge (1979)
The gay liberation ‘70s and the age of disco (which was born in gay clubs) created a bumper crop of gay anthems. While this tune is a staple at weddings, some of us know what “I got all my sisters with me” really means.
6. YMCA – Village People (1978)
The greatest and gayest novelty act of all time produced nothing but tongue-in-cheek gay anthems. But the video of this song, that’s been played for decades at bar mitzvahs, was filmed at New York’s most notorious cruising grounds — making its gay subtext perfectly clear.
5. Dancing Queen – ABBA (1976)
From its irresistible intro to its delirious vocals, this disco hit from Sweden’s greatest import has inspired generations of gay fans to cut loose on the dance floor. “Dancing queen” indeed!
4. Vogue – Madonna (1990)
The gay icon took the vogue-ing tradition out of New York’s underground gay and drag clubs and thrust it into the pop mainstream — winning extra points for sly shout-outs to glam icons of the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s.
3. It’s Raining Men – The Weather Girls (1982)
Although it’s been remixed and remade, nothing beats the original celebration of lots and lots and lots of men. The video looks like a junior high school production of Dick Tracy: The Musical – which makes the whole thing that much more deliciously silly.
2. Born This Way – Lady Gaga (2011)
Never one to simply put out a tune, Mother Monster gives us an epic sci-fi intro to this electric anthem of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and ethnic self-assertion and pride.
1. I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor (1978)
The ultimate gay anthem to burst out of the disco ‘70s is a song of defiance, independence, and survival that speaks to anyone who refuses to be held down. And telling off an ex? It works for that too.
Which of these LGBT anthems best captures what you're feeling right now? And which of your favorites would you add to this list? Share them with us in the comments below.