June makes me swoon. I feel bold and beautiful and celebrated. In this month we acknowledge LGBTQIA Pride, Juneteenth, African American Music, Migraine pain, summer, and so much more. Spend your June thinking about what it means to be authentic.
Katy Perry I Kissed a Girl
“I’m just a singer-songwriter, honestly. I speak my truths, and I paint my fantasies into these little bite-size pop songs,” she began. “For instance, I kissed a girl and I liked it. Truth be told, I did more than that.”
When “I Kissed a Girl,” a song about sexual curiosity, emerged, many critics slammed the lyrics for their portrayal of the lives of queer women. At the time, a critic for Feministing.com wrote that “Perry’s lyrics reflect the trivialization of queer female sexuality and the cultural norms which state that female sexuality exists for the pleasure of men.”
In her remarks on Saturday night, Perry seemed to address that long-ago controversy as she told more of her personal story. The singer, who grew up in a strictly religious home and attended “youth groups that were pro-conversion camps,” said she didn’t have all the answers back then, but she questioned what she was being told.
“What I did know is that I was curious, and even then, I knew sexuality wasn’t as black and white as this dress,” Perry said. “And honestly, I haven’t gotten all of it right, but in 2008, when that song came out, I knew that I had started a conversation that a lot of the world seemed curious enough to sing along to.”
Perry said she spent most of her adolescence “[praying] the gay away” until, once she entered the music industry, she met people outside of her Christian “bubble,” and [her] “bubble began to burst” with the lessons they taught her:
“They were the most free, strong, kind, and inclusive people I have ever met . . . These people are actually magic, and they are magic because they are living their truth.” She went on, expressing empathy for those in the room: “Suffice to say, it’s been a long road for me, and I know a long road for many of you out there. I know it doesn’t always feel safe to live out who you are. But here’s the thing, though: I would have not chosen a different road.”
Vanity Fair Magazine
Big Freedia Rent
Freedia has stated "I am not transgendered [sic]; I am just a gay male... I wear women's hair and carry a purse, but I am a man. I answer to either "he" or "she"." However, she said in a 2013 interview with Out that her preferred pronoun is "she".
“I’m just me, I’m just free,” she told HuffPost Live. “Just because I’m a gay artist doesn’t give them the right to want to separate the culture of the music.”
Saying that the Bounce music scene “definitely connects all different walks of life” much like rap or hip-hop, she added, “I don’t want to be in a category. I just want to be me. I’m an artist, I’m human...respect me for who I am, no matter what my sexual preference may be.”
Her sentiments echo those she made in a 2013 PrideSource interview.
“I’m comfortable with who I am and I know who I am and I’m comfortable with my sexuality, but sometimes mistakes do happen and reporters do tend to come up with their own idea of what they think I am or how I classify myself,” she said.
Diana Ross I'm Coming Out
"I'm Coming Out," from Diana Ross's Diana album, is perhaps the apex of gay anthems. First recorded in 1979, the song's refrain, and its urging to "to break out of the shell" spoke directly to LGBTQ+ listeners who had declared their identities to the world.
However, Ross, who immediately loved the lyrics, was not always aware of the "coming out" association, as co-writer and co-producer Nile Rodgers revealed in an interview with the New York Post marking the album's 40th anniversary.
“She didn’t understand that that was a gay thing, that that was a person saying, ‘I’m coming out of the closet,’” said Rodgers. “She didn’t even get that.”
Rodgers — a member of the Chic production team, which produced Diana, with Bernard Edwards — explained how the track was inspired by a visit to GG's Barnum Room, a Manhattan transgender club. There, he saw a group of Ross impersonators.
“All of a sudden a light bulb goes off in my head,” he told the Post. “I had to go outside and call Bernard from a telephone booth. I said, ‘Bernard, please write down the words: ‘I’m coming out.’ And then I explained the situation to him.”
Rodgers said he ultimately convinced Ross to sing the track, arguing it would make the perfect opener for an entertainer, in addition to establishing her as one of the greatest gay icons. “I said, ‘Diana, this song is gonna be your coming-out song. We think of you as our black queen,’” he said. “And I even wrote a [horn] fanfare. I explained to her that it’s just like when the president comes out and they play ‘Hail to the Chief.’”
How Madonna Became the Ultimate LGBTQ Icon: A Timeline By SAMUEL R. MURRIAN
Decades of HIV/AIDS activism and advocacy
In years when very little was known about HIV/AIDS, and many called it “gay cancer,” Madonna was ahead of her time, outspoken as to the need for awareness and research.
Christopher Flynn was diagnosed with AIDS in the late 1980s, by which point Madonna had become one of the most famous people on the planet. In 1989, the two rocked New York with a benefit dance marathon.
Flynn died of AIDS-related complications in 1990. Madonna’s AIDS advocacy work continues to this day, notably via her charity Raising Malawi.
March 27, 1990 – “Vogue” is released as a single.
“Voguing” is among the most unapologetically queer of art forms, originating from dance balls in Harlem. Madonna sampled it in the David Fincher-directed music video for her smash hit song.
Heavy on disco but also cutting-edge with a killer bass line, “Vogue” topped the charts of over 30 countries, becoming the highest-selling single of the year, an indispensable Pride anthem, and one of Madonna’s signature tracks.
Lady Gaga Born This Way
Written by Gaga and Jeppe Laursen, who produced it along with Fernando Garibay and DJ White Shadow, the track was developed while Gaga was on the road with The Monster Ball Tour. Inspired by 1990s music which empowered women and the gay community, Gaga explained that "Born This Way" was her freedom song. Wikipedia
From what Gaga's said about “Born This Way,” it's almost as if she worked overtime to make sure that didn't happen. This time the message was too important. The pop icon, who had made her stance on LGBTQ+ rights clear in interviews, was taking that stance to the airwaves in a way no one had before. Granted, gay empowerment pop wasn't exactly novel in 2011. In the ’90s, Madonna’s “Vogue” served as an anthem for self-expression. Twenty years later, Katy Perry told her fans—many of them LGBTQ+—that they were fireworks. But these messages weren't lyrically explicit: Queer and straight people alike could take what they wanted from them. Depending on who you are, “Firework” is either graduation or gay canon. That ambiguity was understandable then: Pop music needed to sell, and maybe it wouldn't if it was capital-G gay. Even Christina Aguilera's “Beautiful”—which included two men kissing in the video—had lyrics everyone could relate to, so, naturally, it was a radio hit.
“Born This Way” was too. The song reached number one in more than 20 countries. According to Pop Crave, it stayed atop the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks and became the fastest-selling song in iTunes history. That success means something—especially because this isn't a subliminal queer song, like “Firework” or “Vogue.” This is a song specifically for LBGTQ+ people—and it became a worldwide sensation, effectively dismantling the idea that gay is niche.
“I'm beautiful in my way, ’cause God makes no mistakes,” Gaga sings, referencing common “coming-out” rhetoric. “I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way.” If this isn't clear enough, read the bridge: “No matter gay, straight, or bi, lesbian, transgender life. I'm on the right track baby, I was born to survive.” (Gaga herself identifies as bisexual.)
The song drew necessary criticism upon its arrival. Asian American and Latinx listeners were not pleased with Gaga’s use of the words Orient and chola in the bridge. It wasn't okay then, and it's not now. But the queer criticism around the song is a bit less defined. Detractors of “Born This Way” view the song as pandering and too simplistic; I see things differently. For a mainstream song to explicitly and intentionally embrace queer identity—no matter how “simple”—was revolutionary. “Born This Way” came at a time when discussions about gay teen suicide were reaching all-time highs, and shows like Glee were trying to normalize queer love onscreen. Gay identity was still on the fringes of culture, and that very much affected how gay teens lived their lives.