Madonna was a radical, brilliant pop icon who changed so many people’s lives. Mine included. I grew up in Bolton in the 1980s, at a time when no one wanted to say anything positive about gay people. If we were represented in the media, it was as disease-carrying sexual predators who couldn’t be trusted around children. The idea of gay role models didn’t even exist. And then along came Madonna.
I first became aware of her around the time Like a Virgin was released in 1984, and felt myself being drawn in, but I resisted. I’d been conditioned to be mistrustful of transgressive, rebellious women who expressed their sexuality. By the time the True Blue album came out in 1986 - I was 11 - I was starting to realise I was gay. And that made me sexually transgressive too.
Then came the Open Your Heart video. In it, Madonna played a stripper dancing in a venue for an audience that included a lesbian drag king and two gay sailors locked in an affectionate embrace. The thing about her that had been my point of contention suddenly became a point of connection. After that, I didn’t just enjoy Madonna’s work: she became like a spirit guide.
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