Madonna delivered an emotional speech while accepting the Advocate for Change Award at the 2019 GLAAD Media Awards in New York City on Saturday.
Anderson Cooper, Mykki Blanco and Rosie O’Donnell presented the “I Rise” singer with the award.
“Why have I always fought for change? That’s a hard question to answer. It’s like trying to explain the importance of reading or the need to love. Growing up I always felt like an outsider, like I didn’t fit in. It wasn’t because I didn’t shave under my armpits, I just didn’t fit in, OK. The first gay man I ever met was named Christopher Flynn. He was my ballet teacher in high school and he was the first person that believed in me, that made me feel special as a dancer, as an artist and as a human being. I know this sounds trivial and superficial, but he was the first man to tell me I was beautiful,” Madonna told the crowd.
She continued on that Flynn took her to her first gay club in Detroit and that’s where she first felt truly comfortable.
“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.”
Madonna credits Flynn with encouraging her to move to New York City in 1977. While there she recounted witnessing the AIDS crisis’ effects on the LGBTQ community.
“The plague that moved in like a black cloud over New York City and in a blink of an eye, took out all of my friends,” Madonna says.”After I lost my best friend and roommate Martin Burgoyne and then Keith Haring – happy birthday Keith – I decided to take up the bull horn and really fight back.”
The GLAAD Media Awards airs on Sunday, May 8 at 8 p.m. on Logo.
Watch part of Madonna’s speech below.