From the early days of her pop music career, singer Miley Cyrus has served her own brand of rebel girl realness. Quick to ditch her wholesome Disney alter ego Hannah Montana, Miley became set on letting the world know she was her own woman, as evidenced by that controversial bare-shoulder photo with Annie Leibovitz when she was just 15.
Miley's first non-Hannah hit, in 2009, was "Party in the U.S.A.," and she's been doing just that, or haven't you seen all those scandalous social media photos that circulate of Miley with a bong, a Bob Marley birthday cake, and other wild child accoutrements?
The 23-year-old has had a blast sticking out her tongue, twerking, and straddling a wrecking ball these past six years, but there is one thing she's been dead serious about all along: LGBT rights.
Ever since she was an adolescent, Miley, who came out as pansexual and gender-fluid this year, has fought fearlessly for all LGBT people, especially our youth.
Here's a timeline of just some of Miley's activism:
April: During the annual Miss USA pageant, Miss California Carrie Prejean tells contest judge Perez Hilton she believes only heterosexual couples should be allowed to legally marry. Afterward, in a Twitter conversation about the remark to Hilton, 16-year-old Miley tweets, "Everyone deserves to love and be loved and most importantly smile."
May: Miley uses Twitter to denounce both ultra-right-wing presidential candidate Rick Santorum and Urban Outfitters, letting fans know that the hip lifestyle store with ties to conservative politicians helped fund Santorum's campaign. "Not only do they steal from artists but every time you give them money you help finance a campaign against gay equality," she tweets. (She also mocked conservatives: "IF WE ALLOW GAY MARRIAGE NEXT THING U KNOW PEOPLE WILL BE MARRYING GOLD FISH").
July: Miley tweets a photo of her latest tattoo, an equality sign on her middle finger, with the message "All LOVE is equal."
February: Miley's op-ed piece in Glamour magazine reveals that she had received hate mail from the conservative Christians in her fan base for her stance on marriage equality. But she sticks to her guns, writing that it made her "feel sick to my stomach" to think same-sex couples would be denied legal marriages. She also displays a nuanced understanding of the legal and financial ramifications of the issue. "Without legalized same-sex marriage, most of the time you cannot share the same health benefits, you are not considered next of kin and you are not granted the same securities as a heterosexual couple," she writes. "How is this different than having someone sit in the back of the bus because of their skin color?"
June: Miley tweets a photo of herself wearing a pin that says, "Homophobia is a social disease."
December: Miley tells an interviewer that London is her favorite place to perform, in part, because she's "never seen more gay people in my whole life." She went on, "I just feel like they are so much more open, much more than here in the U.S. where they're feeling trapped, where it's like, Can I even say I believe in gay marriage? Can I say that my favorite fans are my gay fans?"
June: Miley helps LGBTQ employees at Facebook headquarters kick off Pride month by posing enthusiastically for several photos with them.
Also in June, during a Twitter conversation with out bisexual actress Evan Rachel Wood, Miley commends her old employer, the Disney Channel, for featuring a lesbian couple on the series Good Luck Charlie.
July: With her hair now in a stylish pixie cut, Miley tells one interviewer she hears repeatedly that the short cut makes her look like a lesbian, and she uses the opportunity to make her feelings about the subject clear: "Everyone said I was a lesbian but I’m like, 'Being a lesbian isn’t a bad thing. So if you think I look like I’m a lesbian, I’m not offended.'"
January: Miley tweets a photo of herself wearing a pro-gay T-shirt from the Marc by Marc Jacobs line. The shirt features a drawing of a female couple with their child and text that reads "I pay my taxes. I want my rights."
October: Miley donates $500,000 to amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, and attends its L.A. Inspirational Gala. "It's so important for me, of all people, to represent because I have a voice and I want to start an open dialogue," Miley says.
March: Miley quickly weighs in on Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act by Instagramming a photo of Gov. Mike Pence, who signed the antigay bill, with a message that begins "You're an asshole."
Also in March, Miley tweets a rainbow-licious collage featuring out Apple CEO Tim Cook to thank him for publicly denouncing the Indiana RFRA and similar legislation.
April: Miley calls out U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas after Cotton suggests that LGBT folks unhappy with discriminatory legislation in the U.S. should have "perspective," because "in Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay." Outraged, Miley tweets his office phone number to her 20 million Twitter followers with a message to "stir shit up."
May: The singer launches the Happy Hippie Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness, support, and funds for homeless LGBT youth and other underserved populations.
Also in May, the singer collaborates with punk icons Joan Jett and Laura Jane Grace, the transgender front woman of Against Me!, to create a video for the trio's cover of the Replacements' 1984 song "Androgynous." The video is one of the Happy Hippie Foundation's early "Backyard Sessions," exclusive Facebook videos encouraging viewers to donate to the nonprofit.
June: Miley indicates that she's had relationships with both men and women and considers herself to be gender-fluid during an interview with Paper magazine. In subsequent reports, the media grapples with a label for the singer's sexuality.
Also in June, Miley launches the #InstaPride campaign in partnership with Instagram. The campaign seeks to highlight the "resilience" of LGBT youth by inviting them to share their stories on the social media site.
August: Miley, as host of MTV's VMAs, invites LGBT youth affiliated with the Happy Hippie Foundation to introduce the singer for the show's closing number. Onstage, Miley wears a giant rainbow flag costume as she performs alongside a dozen or so RuPaul's Drag Race drag queens.
Also in August, the singer defines her sexuality as "pansexual" during an interview with Elle U.K.
October: Miley hosts the season premiere of Saturday Night Live. During her opening monologue, she sings the Sinatra classic "My Way" while the SNL cast pokes fun at the summer's most unfortunate newsmakers. These include Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and greedy pharmaceutical entrepreneur Martin Shkreli, who earned the Internet's wrath when he hiked up the price of a medication for toxoplasmosis, an infection particularly threatening to people with HIV.
November: Miley is the cover model for Candy, a "transversal" fashion magazine, using the NSFW photo shoot to toy with gender norms and, in the singer's own words, "break the wall for what a woman should be."
Also in November, as she is honored by the Los Angeles LGBT Center's Vanguard Awards, Miley calls on other celebrities to join her in her work for LGBT youth. "We have been given this megaphone. And it is our responsibility as human beings to do everything we can to protect our fellow people, environment, and we cannot forget about the animals," the singer insists.
Earlier in the evening, Miley, prodded by singer-songwriter Linda Perry, licked a piano that was being auctioned for charity. It netted $50,000.