At the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York City on Saturday, Madonna accepted the Advocate for Change Award and delivered a heartfelt speech in which she paid homage to LGBTQ in her life and to friends she’d lost to AIDS.
The pop icon began by recalling her 1991 documentary Truth or Dare.
“I had no idea it was going to inspire so many gay men to A. give blow jobs to Evian bottles. Or B. just have the courage to come out and be free and take a stand and say this is who I am, like it or not.”
“When I look back and watch that film I am horrified by my brattiness but I’m also proud that it gave so many people hope,” Madonna said. “Fighting for all marginalized people was a duty I could not turn my back on or will I ever.”
Madonna went on to talk about having always felt like an outsider and how her ballet teacher and the first gay men she ever knew, Christopher Flynn, was also the first person to believe her.
“Why have I always fought for change? That’s a hard question to answer. It’s like trying to explain the importance of reading or the need to love. Growing up I always felt like an outsider, like I didn’t fit in. It wasn’t because I didn’t shave under my armpits, I just didn’t fit in, ok,” Madonna said.
“The first gay man I ever met was named Christopher Flynn. He was my ballet teacher in high school and he was the first person that believed in me, that made me feel special as a dancer, as an artist, and as a human being. I know this sounds trivial and superficial, but he was the first man to tell me I was beautiful.”
A rulebreaker from the start of her career, Madonna also spoke of her first experience at a gay club in Detroit.
“For the first time I saw men kissing men, girls dressed like boys, boys wearing hot pants, insane, incredible dancing, and a kind of freedom and joy and happiness that I had never seen before,” Madonna said. “I finally felt like I was not alone, that it was ok to be different and to not be like everybody else. And that after all, I was not a freak. I felt at home, and it gave me hope.”
Finally, Madonna addressed the AIDS epidemic which hit at the start of her career.
“The plague that moved in like a black cloud over New York City and in a blink of an eye took out all of my friends. After I lost my best friend and roommate Martin Burgoyne and then Keith Haring – happy birthday Keith – I decided to take up the bull horn and really fight back,” Madonna said of the roots of her activism.
Watch part of the speech below.