When I went to see Lady Gaga perform for her Monster Ball tour last summer, there was a moment when video screens popped with her image, and she began a PSA about choosing to give a portion of her ticket sales to organizations that helped LGBT homeless youth.
As she ticked off statistics about how many youth in this country are homeless, and how many of those homeless youth are LGBT kids who have lost their homes, families and communities for being queer, something seized within me. Wanting to shout out joyously for this occasion — I was at Madison Square Garden with a booming announcement about homeless LGBT youth! — I jumped from my seat and threw my hands in the air, yelling, “It’s true!” The clumps of 12 and 13-year-old girls accompanied by their mothers, sitting in the nosebleed section with me, turned to give a strange look, but who could care? They had just heard their idol advocate for one of the most important causes of the LGBT community. Lady Gaga was putting her money where her mouth is.
Not every queer has been so smitten or sold with the pop star’s embrace of LGBT social justice, rainbows, drag queens, or Madonna. When the video for “Born This Way” premiered this winter, a Tumblr called Gays Against Gaga sprang up, promising a place for the dissenting voices, queers who “can see through the marketing machine.” Other criticisms have followed Lady Gaga along, such as the articles which point out none of Lady Gaga’s friends ever remembering her actually dating a woman, although she’s been open about liking girls and guys in interviews all along. She also got flack when the lyrics “No matter gay straight or bi / lesbian or transgendered life,” were absent from a Good Morning America performance of “Born This Way.”
This week, The Advocate published an interview with the Mother Monster herself about how she views herself and her relationship to the queer community. She begins with an emphatic yes, answering the question as whether she actually identifies as part of the LGBT community. (“The b letter,” she specifies with a giggle.) And as to the direct question of whether or not she is using LGBT politics and culture as merely a platform for her music, she gives the following:
To say that I would use the gay community to sell records is probably one of the most ridiculous statements anyone can make about me as a person. I would say the top thing I think about every single day of my life, other than my fans, loving the music, and my family being healthy, is social justice and equality.
There are definite actions to back up such words, such as when Lady Gaga cancelled a partnership with Target when it was revealed that they gave money to anti-gay right wing politicians. In the moment of her interview with The Advocate, though, she tells an anecdote to illustrate the validity of her relationship to LGBT issues. When she recently bumped into a 20-something gay military serviceman at a Best Buy, he gushed to her about how much her music helped him.
He was afraid that he would be discharged and that he would be judged or found out. [He said] that the fight in America against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the fight for equality made him feel stronger and made him feel safe, and he gave me his service jacket. And we just held each other and cried. Anyone who says that I’m not genuine is not interested in overcoming this fight. That was such a pure and wonderful moment that we shared, and I remember thinking, “There’s no album sale, no number 1, that could compete with this moment.” That is what the f–k it’s all about. What the f–k it’s all about is if I can write one song that could change one person’s life.
Will this interview satisfy critics in and outside of the LGBT community? Probably not. But if Lady Gaga is going to continue to sing about, talk about, tweet about, verbalize and visualize LGBT issues, then more power to her. I’ll be around to shout “It’s true!” anytime she needs back up.