“What in the 80s is happening 😳,” one TikTok user commented under the video. “Did Madonna just come out? And I’m witnessing it in real time??” wrote another.
The singer’s apparent coming out follows hints she had dropped over the years about her sexual orientation as well as her decades of support for gay people that turned her into a queer icon. Famously, in 2003, she kissed both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera while they performed onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards.
Madonna, who surged to ’80s stardom with hits like “Lucky Star,” “Like a Virgin” and “Material Girl,” began raising awareness about HIV/AIDS during that decade’s epidemic, fighting the HIV stigma and fundraising for research. Her music and performances also leaned into her support of LGBTQ issues. Her 1989 song “Express Yourself,” for instance, became a gay anthem and something of a precursor to Lady Gaga’s 2011 single “Born This Way.” 1990’s “Vogue” brought prominence to the Black, Latino and queer ballroom scene subculture, in which underground drag queen pageants popularized the vogue dance style.
Madonna “was a gay icon before we saw the gay in her,” said Ankit Verma, a fan and freelance writer who lives in Bangalore, India.
Many fans have assumed Madonna was bisexual since she told the Advocate in 1991 that she thinks “everybody has a bisexual nature.” Her TikTok does not rule out that possibility, because “gay” has often been used as an umbrella term, especially for older LGBTQ members.
Verma, 25, said he found Madonna’s TikTok clip a “beautiful coalescence of a journey that has inspired generations of [the] queer community to find their voice.”
Verma, who is queer, said he became a Madonna fan when he heard her song “Ray of Light,” which portrayed Buddhism and Hinduism in a way he never had seen in the West before.
“For someone like me who comes from India, she’s made me feel that I belonged. It was okay to be different. My deviance wasn’t wrong,” he said. “We had no representation here. She gave us that.”
Matt Bernstein, a 23-year-old political content creator in New York City, said Madonna helped him understand LGBTQ history as a high-schooler learning about his own sexuality.
“It connects me to my community and my culture, my history,” he said. “I think there’s a real importance to that.”
Because of Madonna’s prominent presence and contributions in the LGBTQ community, he believes she’s well-deserving of respect and the freedom to express herself the way she wants.
“When people Madonna’s age were young, it was much less safe to come out,” Bernstein said. “I’m always holding space for queer adults.”