It was July of 2010. My first concert experience was about to commence, and it was at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. I can distinctly remember the outfit I wore. A purple deep v-neck from American Apparel, paired with West 49 skinny jeans, and outlandishly spiked hair. WHAT A VISUAL, AM I RIGHT?! The crowd was loud and colourful, filled with excitement as the beginning of the concert drew closer. Who was playing, you ask? None other than the iconic Lady Gaga, performing her signature Monster Ball Tour. I was ecstatic, to say the least.
I’ve always been a Lady Gaga fan, ever since she released Just Dance in 2008. There was something edgy, yet colourful about her personality & performances. As a very young 13-year-old in 2008, I was drawn to her overdramatic outfits, loud & unapologetically erotic pop. She was, and still is, everything I’ve needed from a pop artist.
Okay, back to the 2010 concert. At the time, I had only been out to my parents for a month or so. My friend, Samantha, had an extra Monster Ball ticket since her cousin couldn’t go. It cost $170. In retrospect, I’m a little shocked my mom agreed to pay $170 for her newfound-homosexual son to attend the MONSTER BALL TOUR. To be honest, the half-naked poster of Lady Gaga in my bedroom probably gave that away months earlier, so maybe she had time to prepare…
OKAY, BACK TO THE CONCERT. The music began to play, and everyone stands up – to which I do the same (I didn’t know how concerts worked, clearly). Then she comes out from under the stage. There are lights, smoke, dancers, MUSIC, and her. I was overwhelmed. She sang her first song, Just Dance, then came out to the front of the stage and began to greet everyone.
Out of no where, she goes, “Now I hear I’ve got some gay fans, is that right, Monsters?” The crowd goes WILD. She continues, “Hmm, I don’t know how convincing that was. What I meant to say was, WHERE THE FUCK ARE MY GAY MEN AT?!” she yells. I stood up, with every rainbow bone in my body, shot my hands in the hair, and yelled “MEEEEE!!!”
*sigh* Pop has changed my life. Let me be specific: female pop queens have changed my life.
Since that concert, I’ve attended a number more, and listened to countless hours of strong female pop. Lady Gaga. Ariana Grande. Marina and the Diamonds. Madonna. Beyoncé. Britney Spears. Little Mix. So many more. So why did I, and so many other queer people, gravitate towards these female pop powerhouses? Simply put, they created a space in which LGBTQ+ people could effortlessly exist.
When I attend an Ariana Grande concert, I’m able to look around and see men in crop tops, girls dressed in rainbow cat ears, and gender non-conforming people holding themselves strong. It’s a very liberating feeling, to not have to worry about people judging you for your sexuality or gender identity.
These safe spaces aren’t random, though. Historically, pop queens have made a point to speak out against marginalized groups, even when it was terribly unpopular. They use their concerts – a space where many LGBTQ+ kids get a night away from their parents – as an outlet to promote self-love, positivity, inclusion, and tolerance.
How do I know their interest in the LGBTQ+ fanbase is genuine? Well, when Lady Gaga will stand at the National Equality March in Washington, D.C., and demand equal protections for same-sex couples – she’s putting her money where her mouth is. I respect that.
I’ll never forget the feeling of hearing Born This Way for the first time. When Gaga said, “no matter gay, straight, or bi, lesbian, transgendered life” I felt like she was speaking directly to me. That matters!! It matters that she used her artistic outlet to be inclusive and supportive of her queer fans. Those lyrics aren’t just words, they’re a catalyst that begin a larger conversation about same-sex marriage, the LGBTQ+ community, and equal treatments.
16-year-old Michael, with his deep v-neck, skinny jeans, and spiked hair, would like to thank the pop queens of the world – especially Lady Gaga – for truly changing my queer experience. I feel as if I’m a more liberated, open, and accepting person. So thank you.