On Saturday, Madonna received the GLAAD Advocate for Change Award, nominated by the organization for her indisputable commitment to the LGBTQ community through the years. “From the HIV crisis to international LGBTQ issues, she fearlessly pushes for a world where LGBTQ people are accepted,” said GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement. “Her music and art have been life-saving outlets for LGBTQ people over the years, and her affirming words and actions have changed countless hearts and minds.” Ellis recalled how Madonna’s fourth studio album, Like a Prayer, contained a leaflet called “Facts about AIDS at the height of the crisis.
“The AIDS epidemic, the plague that moved in like a black cloud in New York City, and in the blink of an eye took out all of my friends,” shared Madonna, during the course of her acceptance speech. She talked about how going to her first gay club was a major turning point for her in self-acceptance. “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,” she 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.” Because of that, she explained, she had committed herself to being an advocate for change and love.
Rosie O’Donnell was one of the many people who have been touched by Madonna’s unflinching advocacy and acceptance. O’Donnell, who introduced her co-star from A League of Their Own to the crowd at the GLAAD awards, shared how Madonna helped her come into her own sexuality. “So here I was — VG, very gay — dating a man and I went to Madonna for advice. I was questioning and unsure, my gay life was blossoming but I didn’t quite know what to do. And she told me, ‘Rosie, just follow your heart’ — advice I still follow to this day.”
Madonna’s upcoming album Madame X features a track called “I Rise,” which she released this past Friday. She shared in a statement that she wrote the song in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, in the hope that it would give “a voice to all marginalized people who feel they don’t have the opportunity to speak their mind.”