The pop diva has been a crucial part of the gay and LGBT+ communities for what feels like forever, though the mystery of exactly why this is, seems to be a matter of opinion. From Madonna to Mariah, Britney to Cher, Gaga to Bowie countless artists have been adopted as gay icons, no matter how they identify.
Investigating this glamorous tale is Lucy O’Brien, panel chair and author of ‘Madonna: Like An Icon’, all platinum hair and self-assured smiles as she leads the way. Beside her sits Darryl Bullock, the man responsible for the book ‘David Bowie Made Me Gay’; a seemingly serious gentleman who becomes increasingly more impassioned as the panel continues. At the end of the table perches Matt Cain, novelist and former editor-in-chief of Attitude; a beacon of energy, sunny and magnetic.
Cain and Bullock both divulge a little of their life and time spent with the LGBT+ community: from personal experience to excerpts from their writings, little is held back. Posing that members of the LGBT+ community respond to the strength of the pop diva and citing Madonna’s resilience in the face of heartbreak as a particularly powerful point, the panel dissects the culture of the gay icon, and its immense influential on society and music.
Stories of lives saved by devotion to pop divas leads into a critical evaluation of the actions of some of the most prolific gay icons in pop culture, with no discrimination between race, genre, gender or their opinion of pineapple on pizza. The panel is as it should be; as warm and welcoming as the community it represents, yet as unsheltered as it deserves, evaluating the good, the bad and the downright heart-wrenching that makes up this world.
Before the panel, I am apprehensive. Not because I doubt the intelligence or experience of the panel members; far from it. I worry that the discerning, critical qualities of music journalism might obscure the emotional context that is vital to any discussion around the LGBT+ community, but I find myself pleasantly surprised. The panel is dissected with such honesty and compassion that I am overwhelmed, learning what feels like terribly intimate truths about perfect strangers, and the way in which they connect to their icons.
Madonna, the star that she is, remains a focus; her steps taken as an ally were earth-shakingly modern for her time, and even now leave some members of society reaching for their ignorantly blacked out religious texts. The conclusion the panel comes to is this: far more than an artist, these gay icons are the answer to why music is so important to us; as individuals and as a society. It is because, in music, we learn that there is someone out there who feels like we do. I, for my part, am inclined to agree.