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Love Letters to Madonna From the LGBTQ Community


Queer fans celebrate the Queen of Pop on her birthday.

The following are letters and essays from members of the LGBTQ community for Madonna in celebration of her birthday.


Dear Madonna,

Throughout your storied career, you have been a source of strength to not only myself but countless others in the LGBTQ community around the world. One of my fondest childhood memories is dancing to "Papa Don't Preach" at my first real party. I recall a sense of freedom I hadn't felt before.

When I was younger, I remember seeing your bold music videos and performances and I felt proud and empowered to see a woman shrugging off societal expectations of who she should be. You are unapologetically strong and fearless -- someone who has always blazed her own trail, and that will make you a beacon of inspiration for years to come.

And as the president of the world largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, it has always been important to me that you have long been a stalwart and true ally to the LGBTQ community. Your support has meant the world to so many -- you are truly an LGBTQ icon. Beyond your amazing body of work, I think part of why you are an icon to our community is because what you stand for resonates very deeply with us. You throw out the status quo, you break down barriers, and you have freed yourself from so many of the confines that our society places on people -- something LGBTQ people can relate to.

You have also given back so much through your many philanthropic endeavors - raising awareness about HIV and AIDS, standing with GLAAD and so many others to stop discrimination in one of America's oldest institutions -- the Boy Scouts of America -- and the Ray of Light Foundation, to name a few. The world needs more people like you -- ones who have attained so much success but never hesitate to give back and pay it forward.

So Madonna, I hope that you have an amazing birthday -- you deserve nothing but the happiness and joy that your music has given to the world.


SARAH KATE ELLIS is the president and CEO of GLAAD.


Dear Madonna,

I remember first learning your name at age 7 when I watched Hocus Pocus. The mother in the film, played by Stephanie Faracy, dressed as you for a Halloween party and later performed "Vogue" choreography on the dance floor. I was mesmerized by her cone bra set -- a reference to a costume you wore during your 1990 Blond Ambition Tour, I would later learn. I had so many questions after the movie ended. "What's a virgin?" I asked my father. "It's ... someone who doesn't have any tattoos," he replied.

By that definition, I am still a virgin. Yet in the years ahead, your music was there to help usher me along in my journey to understanding my sexuality. The first time I kissed a boy, it was in a movie theater. We had been watching Moulin Rouge and the kiss was planted (appropriately) during the homoerotic musical number to "Like a Virgin." When I walked into that boy's bedroom for the first time, a poster of you, hair billowing in your Ray of Light era, hung above his bed.

One of the first times I worked up the courage to go to a gay club, it was to see you perform at the Roxy in New York in 2005. The appearance was supposed to be a surprise. But word had spread through the gayvine. A New Jersey boy, I drove into the city and waited in a line that wrapped around the block, my JB card in hand. When I finally walked inside, there you were, performing "Hung Up," and a fan was officially born.

It is hard to articulate the significance of the relationship between a gay man and a diva who he has never officially met. But from the moment I saw that cone bra, I understood that you were a woman who wasn't afraid to be different or outspoken about her sexuality. Here was someone who, through her performances and her music, was working to make the world a better place for people like me. Thank you, Madonna, for being there during my life's queer milestones. Happy birthday.


DANIEL REYNOLDS is the senior editor of social media at The Advocate.


Dear Madonna,

It is fitting that your name evokes religion, because you have been mine -- a savior many times over. You sang the soundtrack of my self-discovery as a closeted gay kid in the South. Although we had never met, I always knew that you would understand and love me unconditionally if I were to fall into your orbit.

I vividly remember being a terrified 13-year-old, painfully aware of his sexuality, sneaking into Target to buy Erotica on cassette. The flimsy headphones on my Walkman were pressed into my skull late that night as I visited a fabulous new world with you -- a world of excitement and acceptance, pulsing to a beat that contrasted sharply with the languid rhythms of life in the Bible Belt.

On more than one occasion during those tough years, your music was my safe harbor in the storm. When I was in college, I danced with you through my first relationships, your vocals on thunderous remixes encouraging me to overcome my fears and to live a little. Now, as an adult, your journey has mirrored my own -- the pressures of career and family, the sin of getting older in a youth-driven culture, and the need to find that which nurtures the spirit.

Your songs and images have carried me along that journey with you, and in doing so, have made all of us feel less alone, more joyful, and always inspired. Thank you, Madonna, for always being there -- for me, selfishly, but more importantly for all of us in the LGBT community. We will always be there for you too, quicker than a ray of light.


DOUG CHAMPION is a 39-year-old attorney who lives in Los Angeles with his husband, two dogs, and enough Madonna memorabilia to start a small museum.


The first time I can recall Madonna in conversation in my personal life, I was 16 and costarring in a regional teen production of Rebel Without a Cause that rehearsed in a black box theater on a side street in Hartford, Conn. I was out at an old stainless steel diner with some of the rest of the teen girls in the cast who who made up the girl gang in Rebel when her name came up.

Clarissa, the most badass and fearless of us all (we were theater kids, after all), had already adopted Madonna's "Borderline" look-- the bracelets stacked practically to the elbows, the denim vest, and the oversized lace hair tie. My costar -- who was also the girl whose cool intimidated me -- was on a tear praising the genius of the pop star whose meteoric rise to fame happened to coincide with my burgeoning queerness.

I don't recall the content of Clarissa's Madonna-based dialectic, but as a kid who prided herself on an affinity for artists from bygone eras (Simon & Garfunkel, Joan Baez, and early Rod Stewart, Elton John, and David Bowie), I felt out of the loop. But I was also stimulated enough by the idea of music as a cultural marker of that moment in time in which I was coming of age (and out) that I recall Madonna as a topic of conversation during an otherwise forgettable teen hangout all these years later.

At the close of Rebel, although I'd already fallen for and had my heart broken by a senior girl at my high school the year before, I made out with the show's lead actor (the one who played the James Dean role) to Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" while slow-dancing with him at the cast party. Between Clarissa's invocation of Madonna over diner fries and my actually "dating" the actor I'd made out with (who would eventually identify as an "opera queen" and run an inn in New Hampshire with his husband), he informed me of a supposed feud between Madonna and Lauper fans. Apparently, the edgier kids were into Lauper and the subversiveness of "She Bop" while Madonna was supposedly the more vanilla of the two who appealed to the masses. I wasn't sure where I wanted to plant my flag on either side of that manufactured war. I mean, couldn't I love them both?!

Six years after "Holiday" hit the airwaves and three years after my high school graduation, Madonna's "Express Yourself" dropped. A newly out lesbian (I was living with a girlfriend at the time), I watched it on repeat, mouth agape, and openly lusting after Madonna in lingerie, Madonna in a pin-striped suit sporting a monocle and grabbing her crotch, Madonna in chains, and Madonna sauntering across the floor to lap up a bowl of milk like a cat.

At the time, I didn't get all of the imagery. I didn't realize that the video is a direct homage to Fritz Lang's Metropolis with a little bit of Cat People thrown in. In it, Madonna is both Maria the Robot and the wealthy industrialist who enslaves his workers. What I was sure of at the time was that the video's juxtaposing of Madonna as femme/androgynous and submissive/dominant hit all of my buttons.

By the time "Express Yourself" was released, I was already a Eurythmics devotee and obsessed with Annie Lennox's proclivity for playing dress-up that included high femme and masculine personas. But while I'd come to expect Lennox (who was still considered alternative at the time) to play with gender roles, Madonna, in all of her popularity, crashed through new walls of representation. She'd churned out hit after hit in the United States for the better part of a decade and her songs could be found on any given jukebox in just about any stainless steel diner throughout the country.

Still, there she was, clad in a suit, grabbing her "junk" and mocking men in power while also exhibiting an unapologetic, fearless sexuality that defied labels. At a time when there were few out celebrities to embrace, Madonna's sexual audacity spoke volumes to the young lesbian in me.


TRACY E. GILCHRIST is The Advocate's feminism editor.


Dear Madonna,

First and foremost, I would like to thank you for all the jams throughout the years. I can't tell you how many good times were had with your music as the backdrop, or how many cute guys locked eyes across the dance floor as we both knew all the words to one of your songs. I remember feeling so empowered by "Human Nature" and how visually stunning the video was. It woke something inside of me to hear the world "bitch" used in that way in a song.

While I have your attention -- when your Sex book was released, I remember a really hot guy in my high school had it. And one day, while I was at his pool, he showed me the whole book. The fact that you had men kissing and so much erotica sent vibrations in that room that I will never forget. Nothing happened that day, but something inside of me felt electric, and I will forever become a fan of yours.

You are a living legend and helped blur the lines of sexuality that made it possible for us to all explore ours. You faced the countries and churches and law enforcement to express yourself as you sang for us to do the same. The true queen of controversy, you never apologized or held back. You will always be relevant and revered. Happy birthday, M!


DANIEL FRANZESE is an actor, comedian, and model.


My earliest memory of Madonna was being in a room full of young children -- I was maybe 7 years old -- who were all talking excitedly about "Like a Virgin." Our mothers were doing grown-up things in another room, so the children whispered and gossiped about (gasp!) the v word. What's a virgin?, I wondered.

A few years passed. Again, children were murmuring about something this Madonna lady did. She was having a baby or not having a baby or preaching about her dad, or something. I was confused, not vested.

Later, I'm at a preteen party with boys and girls. It's my first event with flirting and kissing, so there's a sexual charge that excites and frightens me. The mood is heightened when we all watch the "Like a Prayer" video. Oh, my God, she touched herself! Gross, we all declare.

Madonna's next iteration is the one that snares me, as it did most 12-year-old closeted boys at the time. The song was catchy, but the video was absolutely thrilling and electric -- she is a visual artist, after all. The suits and dresses and make-up; it was what I dreamed life was like in New York or L.A., far from my lonely, humdrum existence. When Madonna swanned around in a see-through top, danced in perfect synchronization with a male dancer, caressed her cone bra, and ceded the screen to her effeminate dancers, my mind worked to absorb something so new, so illicit. After she listed off those celebrities and the camera swung back for one last bit of wind machine-aided choreography, I was high.

For much of 1990, that rush stayed as I vogued in front of my mother's microwave or full-length mirror. Mom and I would scream the lyrics when we drove to Kmart ("It makes no difference if you're black or white, if you're a boy or a girl") and she let me read her People whenever Madonna was in it (often). Knowing how untypical (a.k.a. gay) it was for a 12-year-old boy to harbor an obsession with a dance diva, mom still bought me The Immaculate Collection for Hanukkah.

I then studied up on her oeuvre, learning just why those earlier albums and videos were so controversial. The Erotica era went over my head, but I carried a torch for lush '90s hits like "Rain" and "Take a Bow." My fixation turned to admiration with Ray of Light, with me believing it was Madonna who invented EDM. The Music album dropped as I moved to L.A. in my early 20s, dancing in West Hollywood to remixes of "Don't Tell Me" and "What It Feels Like for a Girl." I saw her at Staples Center two days after 9/11.

I remember reading a Rolling Stone cover story on Madonna at the time, where the writer declared she was still interesting because she was still interested -- in new music, books, ideas. I admired the way she was growing; I wanted to evolve similarly.

That transition has continued, where now it's evident Madonna's main joy in life is her children and philanthropy. I'd be curious to know what she thinks about ambition now, at 60. I don't think she'd change anything about her past, but I imagine she's happy where she is now. Like me, a fellow Leo, she probably wouldn't give it too much thought; we're not people who spend too much time thinking about old decisions. It's the present that's malleable.

Whether it's music or a fiery speech or a hospital in Malawi that will be her next offering to the world, I'll be appreciative. Three years ago, I lost my mother; a decade before that, my grandmothers. Women have given me so much love and joy, including Madonna. I'm just so elated she's still here.


NEAL BROVERMAN is the interim editorial director of The Advocate.


Dear Madonna,

What do I say to the long-reigning Queen of Pop on her 60th birthday? I guess the only thing that I can think of is: "thank you."

I was a "late-blooming" Madonna fan. She was at her peak when I was a young boy growing up in blue-collar greater Boston. And while I was aware of her and enjoyed a lot of her music, it wasn't until 2006 that my admiration and, admittedly, my obsession with Madonna began.

At age 21, I was coming out and having a difficult time accepting myself and my place in the world as a gay man. A friend of mine, in a gesture of support, had gotten us tickets to see Madonna at the Garden for her Confessions Tour. I remember being in absolute awe of her from the moment she descended from her sparkling disco ball to her rousing glitter-bombing finale. But it wasn't just the spectacle that was special for me; it was, in fact, her connection to her legions of gay fans and their love and adoration of her in return. For the first time in my life, I felt a part of something -- a community. And from then on, I was hooked on Madonna.

After the concert, I began learning more and more about not just the artist Madonna, but also the activist Madonna in her unwavering support of the LGBTQ community. From her dedication to fighting the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s to her crusade of self-expression to her resistance to being defined by social mores, she is, in essence, the ne plus ultra of a gay icon. So thank you, Madonna, for not only being a torchbearer for the gay community, but also for inspiring me to be simultaneously and unabashedly myself and wholly a part of the LGBTQ community.


KEVIN MCKEON is SVP of Production at Unburdened Entertainment and executive producer of The Tribes of Palos Verdes and the 2018 Sundance Audience Award winner, Burden.


The first time I met Madonna was between cars on the Long Island Railroad. It was Sunday afternoon, and she was dressed like, well, Madonna: black lace skirt, black tube top, the hair rag, the crucifixes. At 4 p.m. the previous day, I'd watched her perform out behind a bar in Southampton. It was June of 1983.

One of my friends, Anita Sarko, was a resident DJ at Danceteria and had asked me out to the Hamptons for the weekend (no good DJ DJ'd in Manhattan on Friday or Saturday nights). "There's this girl," she said, "who dances and sings to a boom box. We'll go see her." As Anita frequently ended verbal paragraphs, she declared, "It'll be fun."

After a night of sleeping on an upholstered window seat in a hair salon (Anita slept on the waiting room's couch), we were off to the beach for the day. Late that afternoon, we caught a ride from East to South and went to an indoor-outdoor straight bar for a series of beach-oriented cocktails. Soon a PA system blared that this girl, Madonna, was about to release an album (which changed the world in July) and would be performing three songs for the 500 or so people who'd packed the club and its multileveled patio deck.

After "Burning Up," "Everybody," and "Lucky Star," the drunk, sweaty crowd -- how do you say? -- went wild. She was mobbed. I felt like I witnessed a chrysalis. I'm sure there were many of them that summer for her, but this was definitely one. To this day, I love her performances.

On the train home, Anita and I ran into Ruth Polsky, who was a talent booker for the New York City nightlife scene. After a chat, she leaned in and said, "Do you want to meet Madonna?" The three of us moved toward the back door of our car, stepped out onto the platform. and there she stood, holding onto the chains that prevent you from jumping. We spoke briefly. Mostly about the heat, the Hamptons (she was not a fan), and her upcoming album release. Ruth asked, "Are you excited?" "Yeah," Madonna said with a genuine smile, "I can't wait."


JEFF YARBROUGH, former editor in chief of The Advocate, was a freelance writer for Interview in 1983 and later interviewed Madonna for The Face in 1985. Currently he is a realtor at L.A. Luxe Group at Keller Williams Realty.


Dear Madonna,

Thank you for a lifetime full of bops! Although I've known about you my whole life (I was a very attentive child to parents who love all things '80s), I personally discovered your music during a time in my life where I was only just starting to figure out exactly who I am.

Your songs about individuality, sexuality, and the freedom to be yourself empowered me in numerous ways -- especially when I felt powerless and voiceless -- and how you've reinvented yourself over the years has always been a reminder that I can be whoever I want to be!

Throughout your career, you've had to experience and overcome an unhealthy amount of judgment, sexism, and misogyny, but because of the trail you blazed, so many women entertainers now have a platform to share their art with the world. Before a lot of pop stars started pandering to us, you were a huge ally to LGBT people. Your commitment to a more equal and representative world, especially in the arts, has always been my favorite part of your legacy!

I can go on and on and on about the amazing things you've done throughout your career and how much you mean to fans all over the world, but if I had to pick just one way to describe you, I think Nicki Minaj already said it best: "There's only one queen, and that's Madonna."


RAFFY ERMAC is the editor in chief of Pride.

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