"Born This Way" is a pride anthem through and through. Lady Gaga ushered in a new era of LGBTQ empowerment songs when she dropped it in February 2011. You couldn't enter a Pride parade, queer bar, or house party without hearing it five times or more. While it undoubtedly exists within the upper echelon of LGBTQ anthems, there are others that have come before and after it that carry a special kind of importance.
To close out Pride Month, we reached out to the LGBTQ community of musicians, writers, creators, and makers to hear what songs have helped them reaffirm their identity. Like LGBTQ icons, there are no boxes to tick when it comes to figuring out what's an LGBTQ anthem. If a song helped someone come into, understand, and ultimately live their truth, then that right there is an anthem. That ambiguity lends itself to a rainbow of tastes and genres as celebratory and empowering as the pride flag itself. These are the anthems that keep the pride alive. June may be over, but pride? That's an everyday thing, baby. Live it. Feel it. Honor it. And for Cher's sake, dance to it.
"Bitch" by Meredith Brooks
"I know this song isn't traditionally an LGBTQ anthem, but for me it is. The song was always a reminder to me that women can be multidimensional and that women are never just one thing. For me, growing up in the confines of heteronormativity, it encouraged me to be everything that I am. And that is loud and vibrant and proudly bisexual, no matter what anyone thinks." — Halsey, musician
"Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia
"I'm still not sure if it was Imbruglia's eyes, style, or song I connected to the most, but I loved every bit of all of the above, deeply. I'd get actual shivers of joy when VH1 would play this video and have DEFINITELY put in on one too many coded mixtapes to paramours past. 'Nothing's right, I'm torn, this is how I feel... Illusion never changed into something real...' I mean, c'mon." — Tina Vaden, senior video editor at NYLON
"A Little Respect" by Erasure
"For me and in my generation, I think 'A Little Respect' by Erasure is a huge LGBTQ anthem. The melody is so soaring, and sung by an out gay man, the issue of respect is something every gay person was fighting for. For gay people of my age, I think this really spoke as an anthem for how we felt and what we wanted." — Bright Light Bright Light, musician
"Free!" By Ultra Nate
"I was in my late teens just exploring and discovering all things queer New York when this song penetrated my eardrums, and suddenly I had a sassy strut and I felt invincible. The song is incredibly liberating and was definitely the song of the summer. The guitar intro is unmistakable, and it was on repeat on every single gay Pride float that year." — Peppermint, top two finalist on RuPaul's Drag Race: Season 9
"Tilted" by Christine and the Queens
"Such an anthem for embracing who you are and she's my absolute hero for being so authentic and open." — Ariana and the Rose, musician
"Lost" by Frank Ocean
"From what he’s done with his art to the way he bares everything in his music, Frank Ocean has consistently been one of my biggest inspirations—not just as an artist, but as a human being. His unapologetic honesty and openness about his sexuality truly helped me through times when I found myself struggling about how out and open I wanted to be in my own music." — Hayley Kiyoko, musician
"All the Things She Said" by t.A.T.u.
"As cheesy as it may be, this song came out during my senior year of high school, a year after I had finally begun coming out to others around me, and I connected with the lyrics and what I perceived to be the passion of this song. I later, of course, learned the sad truth about the relationship between the band's singers being staged, which makes this another problematic fave to add to the pile. Having cycled my way through crushes on and fantasies starring all of my near and dear female friends, reading the following words in a CD jacket mattered: 'And I'm all mixed up, feeling cornered and rushed/ They say it's my fault but I want her so much/ Wanna fly her away where the sun and rain/ Come in over my face, wash away all the shame.' Also, hi, hello, that music video STILL provides all the feels.— T.V.
"Raise Your Glass" by P!nk
"I love the fact that this track is 'badass' and mixed with solid gold confidence. You're always going to be unstoppable no matter who you are or what you're up against." — Tayla, musician
"You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" by Sylvester
"You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" is a MUST LISTEN for any LGBTQ person, young or old. I learned about this song in my early 20s, and it's been a favorite of mine ever since. Sylvester was a member of The Cockettes and a queer, gender-fluid singer with an otherworldly voice. She takes this disco track to outer space and beyond. This sound was also a major influence for a song I wrote with the AAA Girls for our new EP, coming out in July." — Alaska Thunderfuck, winner of RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars 2
"Being Boring" by Pet Shop Boys
"It's been around 27 years and, to this day, I get a lump in the throat at the opening notes of this most gorgeous of the Pet Shop Boys' canon. Never has the world-weary melancholy in Neil Tennant's voice been more pitch-perfect than when hopscotching through the 20th century's party decades—Zelda Fitzgerald's '20s, the '70s of his own youth—only to end up in the '90s, when of 'all the people I was kissing, some are here, and some are missing.' Part elegy for those lost to AIDS, part celebration of life, however long that life may be, Tennant called it 'a song about growing up—the ideals that you have when you're young and how they turn out.' And then there's that quintessential Bruce Weber video. Just sublime." — John Norris, writer and television personality
"Hot Topic" by Le Tigre
"Low-key, this song taught me a few things about feminism and many of my lesbian foremothers. I remember seeing Le Tigre perform this live and everyone in the crowd was shouting along but me. So I, of course, immediately went home and scoured the fledgling internet for the words. I didn't know many of the names mentioned and marched myself to the library the next day to get schooled." — T.V.
"Baby, I'm an Anarchist" by Against Me!
"Growing up a rebellious teen, I loved punk and hard-core music. The song, "Baby, I'm an Anarchist" by Against Me! resonated with me because it was anti-systemic, gave insight to capitalism, and offered an alternative view of the world. The lead singer [Laura Jane Grace] later came out as transgender which was a movement in the rock world." — Pearl, runner-up on RuPaul's Drag Race: Season 7
"I Feel Love" by Donna Summer
"Whenever I hear this song I just stop whatever I'm doing, close my eyes, and feel the music. It reminds me that each and every one of us is moved by love and we are all moved by music. These are two things that really connect everyone on this planet. This song captures it all in a sensual, hypnotic, powerful way. Donna all the way!" — Boba K, musician
"An LGBTQ artist that really had an impact on me was Phranc. She was a folk singer and an influence for the riot grrrl movement, whose roots were in the L.A. punk scene as she started off in a band called Nervous Gender. I bought her album Positively Phranc when I was 13, and the opening track, called "I Like You," was a modest song that conveyed the noblest kind of admiration for a "special friend." This really bolstered my sense that who I was—and what I desired—was okay. Her totally hot butch look on the cover also put some courage in my heart somehow!" — Andy Butler of Hercules & Love Affair, musician
"Rebel Girl" by Bikini Kill
Not technically a gay anthem but also not not one, I always felt like screaming along with Kathleen Hanna about best friend love that borders on sexual tension was about as queer as you could get. — Gabrielle Korn, global editor-in-chief at NYLON
"Fade Into You" by Mazzy Star
"Unrequited love. Raise your hand if you're familiar. As an awkward super-shy queer kid, this was my jam. I used to joke that I fell in love with every alt girl I met, but it was the kind of joke that was kind of true and this was the song that would immediately play in the background in my head when my current crush would walk into the room." — T.V.
"Faith" by George Michael
"I didn't discover this song until my sophomore year of high school when I watched and fell in love with Roger Avary's The Rules of Attraction. That movie opened my eyes to many things, but I fell particularly in love with Ian Somerhalder's Paul Denton. The scene between him and his ex, lip-synching to this song in their underwear while their mothers—Faye Dunaway and Swoosie Kurtz; iconic!—pop pills and booze in the downstairs hotel lobby was so liberating; they were carefree, comfortable, and in the moment—as carnal and momentary as it was. The song itself is the perfect flirt, the bright side of unrequited love." — Hayden Manders, senior staff writer at NYLON
"Dancing On My Own" by Robyn
"It may seem like an obvious choice, but this song spoke to me so much. It's a heartbreaking, unrequited love song about a girl who loves a guy who loves another girl, but I very much related to it from a gay man's perspective. I intentionally sang it that way when I covered the song with the hope that maybe I can also help people have something to relate to and maybe even help inspire them to come out to their friends and family. Robyn's song changed my life—I hope I am able to do the same for others with my own music." — Calum Scott, musician
"Walk On the Wild Side" by Lou Reed
"'Walk On the Wild Side' by Lou Reed is my favorite LGBTQ song. It's about different gender-bending radical individuals expressing sexual fluidity and throwing up a middle finger to conformity. Lou Reed is an icon for his sexual promiscuity and carefree attitude towards heteronormative constructs. He is an inspiration to me for that." — Grace Mitchell, musician
"Dirty Talk (Laidback Luke Remix)" by Wynter Gordon
"Something about these bright, propulsive synths awaken my unsocialized inner queer. In fact, I blasted this song for inspiration as I drove to my first gay date! This song will forever give me my jush." — Daniel Huskey, senior video producer at NYLON
"Spice Up Your Life" by the Spice Girls
"Honestly, the Spice Girls shaped me into the queer boy I am today. 'Spice Up Your Life' is an anthem for fun where the 'chicas [go] to the front' and everyone, no matter their background and identity, is welcome. It's Girl Power in song form that revels in the ultimate form of LGBTQ expression: dance." — H.M.
"Deeper Well" by Emmylou Harris
"This song helped me come out to myself in my mid-twenties when I was still deeply religious and married to a man. The song's underlying spirituality and sense of seeking helped empower me to untangle myself from my marriage and faith and start becoming the person I wanted to be." — Jeanna Kadlec, writer and founder of Bluestockings Boutique
"Building a Mystery" by Sarah McLachlan
"This one has been with me a long time, and I still return to it as an anthem and ode—to me, from me. It's all about this person revealing their true self at night and wearing a lot of masks, but being beautiful beneath it all, and working carefully towards a mystery all their own." — T.V.
"It's Not Right But It's Okay (Thunderpuss Club Remix)" by Whitney Houston
"I joke that this song made me gay—thanks for playing the single CD in the car, mom and dad! Obviously, that is scientifically false, but, culturally, it shaped my taste in music, self-expression, and attitude from the first time I heard it as a young thing too little to know what a circuit party was. Thunderpuss' lyrical flip of Houston's comeback track—putting the "I'm gonna be okay/ I'm gonna be alright" at the beginning instead of the end—immediately elevates the song into a hair flip of a self-empowerment song. The tribal drums did, and still do, something to my body that no song has done to me before. It's downright powerful. Houston doesn't let the bastard get her down, asserting her prowess and self-assurance. Through this song, she showed me the only thing between getting what you want in life is yourself. Thunderpuss just so happened to spin it over a beat made for strutting your stuff down whatever sidewalk, runway, or subway aisle life throws your way." — H.M.
"Untouchable Face" by Ani DiFranco
"Hi, hello, from college, me to you. Ani DiFranco will forever be the one, but this was one of her songs that really spoke to me. I felt like she was singing to and about me, having experienced the feelings of unsteadiness and desire for the unavailable, and preference for solitude over the ache of it all." — T.V.