Reading Time: 8 minutes

SUPERSTARS AS LGBTQ+
BARRIER BREAKERS

pride parade

A protest for LGBTQIA+ rights on Market Street, San Francisco on July 17th, 1986

THE STORY OF HOW THREE SUPERSTARS, IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY, SUPPORTED THE LGBTQ+ MOVEMENT IN DIFFERENT WAYS. MADONNA, FREDDIE MERCURY AND DAVID BOWIE USED THEIR VOICE AND FAME TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR THIS COMMUNITY, AS BARRIER BREAKERS. BY KNOWING THEIR INFLUENCE ON THIS MOVEMENT YOU CAN BE INSPIRED TO DO YOUR OWN PART.

Words By Giulia Dattrino

In the history of music, there were iconic figures that made the world sing stand out for their ability to bring relevant topics to every ear. David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Madonna are just a few stars of the vast music industry that were not only fashion icons, but most importantly symbols of the LGBTQ+ movement. The inspirational stories of these stars were barrier breakers, for the acceptance of limitless self-expression without society standards.

ziggy stardust

David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust photographed by Mick Rock

David Bowie

Bowie, with his multi character personality, was one of the most important superstars when it comes to talking about the LGBTQ+ movement. He was never an actual activist for movement per se, however his gender and sexuality fluidity were what led him to be a symbol. Often asked to label his sexuality, Bowie already declared himself gay while he was in a marriage with Iman, an American supermodel. Few years later he said in an interview that he was bisexual and later on that he was straight.

Bowie gave visibility to the LGBTQ+ society thanks to the acceptance he was able to gaineven by those that saw homosexuality as a taboo, because of his talent. Bowie sang songs about gays at a time when doing so was considered a bold move and quite revolutionary. Ziggy stardust was one of David’s characters that helped breaking the homosexual stereotype of the 70s, with his extraterrestrial look, intriguing and encouraging people to embrace those who were considered as“society outsiders”.

It was through David’s songs and visuals that he played his part in this movement, making the LGBTQ+ community more visible and more accepted in a society that would not accept anything outside its standards. Bowie was a man that broke many stereotypes. David was an androgynous persona with talent and extravagant looks that helped to break the society-imposed standards.


“David’s gender and sexuality fluidity were what led him to be a symbol” 


freddie mercury

Queen in Concert in Brussels, Belgium – 1986

freddie mercury iconic

Queen In concert At Wembley Station, London – 1986

Freddie Mercury

Another iconic rock star part of the LGBTQ+ community was Freddie Mercury. Queen’s lead singer was homosexual, even though he never declared himself as gay. His fashion sense was something that always caught the public attention. With tights, overalls and fur jackets, his style remains iconic until today, always leaving gender and social norms behind.

Even though he was a star, Mercury lived in a time where his sexuality could have harmed his career. As music was everything to him, he chose to never label his sexuality, since he wanted his songs to be heard by the public, aiming not to drive anyone away because of his sexuality. However, Freddie’s songs always transmitted his feeling towards sexuality, as in Bohemian Rhapsody, which lyricists believe to be his coming-out song, even though this was never confirmed by Mercury.

Mercury was one of the first famous figures which had Aids, an “upcoming disease” that was not quite known at the time. HIV first arose in the gay community and due to the taboos surrounding this community, they were made scapegoats regarding this disease. Doctors would often refuse to treat contaminated patients, since in the beginning no one knew how the virus was transmitted. Personas as Freddy, helped to give more visibility for this issue, pushing society to fight this disease and looking for ways to treat it.


“Freddie chose to never label his sexuality, since he wanted his songs to be heard by the public, aiming not to drive anyone away because of his sexuality”


Madonna

Speaking of iconic figures in the industry, Madonna was one of the most polemic music figures from the 80s, who was an activist for the LGBTQ+ movement . In an industry where women were, most of the time, seen as a beauty and innocence symbol, Madonna caused quite the stir. As a feminist and activist singer, she influenced generations, becoming a queer icon.

Her active participation in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights was first seen in 1989, when she hosted a major benefit marathon, in New York in support of those who had AIDS. She was especially engaged in the topic since she had close friends that suffered and died from HIV. Madonna became a voice of AIDS victims in a time where most of society would see that as a taboo. A bold move made by her was the inclusion of a brochure with information on HIV inside the Like a Prayer album, which was released at a time when politicians in America were blocking any kind of research and information on this epidemic.

Another move made by Madonna, that placed her firmly as a LGBTQ+ icon was the release of her documentary “Truth or Dare”, which included a segment on the lives of her gay dancers. Until today Madonna is an active voice of this community, having spoken out against homofobic laws in Russia at one of her shows in the country, leading Putin to threaten to arrest her.

Madona lgbtq

Madonna in the 80s, taken from Glamour


“Madonna became a voice of AIDS victims in a time where most of society would see that as a taboo.”


These are just some of the vast number of musicians that somehow influenced the LGBTQ+ movement. This happened through several ways, from actively speaking and fighting for it, to simply going against society standards. Regardless of how they contributed, they were essential for the visibility and the rights that this community has today. These people are an inspiration for most of us, with their influence we should use our voice to do our part for this moment, by supporting and fighting for them.