Music to be proud

All-Time Top Gay Anthems

Richard Burnett
Lady Gaga

I will never forget the time pop icon Cyndi Lauper opened for Cher at Montreal’s Bell Centre back in 2002: Cyndi stole the show midway through her opening set when she walked centre stage draped in a Rainbow flag to sing True Colors with only Montreal musician Kat Dyson accompanying her on acoustic guitar.

The sold-out house of 18,000 screaming fans gave Lauper a five-minute standing ovation before she even sang one note.
I was so overwhelmed I had tears in my eyes. “So did I,” Cyndi told me afterwards. “I have friends and family who are gay. When I became a mom [in 1997] I sat down and read all the letters I got from people who said when True Colors came out [in 1986] it was the one thing that kept them going because they were suicidal, afraid of being disenfranchised by their families.
“It is wrong to be that depressed about who you are. I saw my [lesbian] sister go through it. So when I stand there and sing True Colors, it’s no longer my song. It’s everybody’s song. When I stood there and waved my hand at the audience, it meant power to the people. Because they stood up for themselves. It’s not about me.”
And so True Colors has become a gay anthem.
That got me thinking about gay anthems in general. They are usually sung by big-voiced divas and deal with the following themes: overcoming hardship, the search for acceptance, celebrating unashamed sexuality and hard-won self-esteem. The songs offer no apologies and love conquers all.
I ranked the All-Time Top Gay Anthems twice before, for HOUR magazine in 2008, then again for The Montreal Gazette in 2012.  So for Fierté Montréal’s 10th anniversary, I newly compiled the Top 10 Gay Anthems by polling the Top 5 choices of 31 fabulous (straight and queer) friends and colleagues. Many choices this year were influenced by the mass shooting at the Pulse Orlando nightclub. Each first choice got five points and last choice got one point. The results are:
1.   Born This Way – Lady Gaga
2.   You Make Me Feel (Mighthy Real) - Sylvester
3.   I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross
4.   Love is the Message – MFSB
5.   It’s Raining Men – The Weather Girls
6.   I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
7.   Over The Rainbow – Judy Garland
8.   La Vie en Rose – Grace Jones
9.   Free – Ultra Nate
10. Same Love – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lambert
Read Burnett’s national queer-issues column Three Dollar Bill online at

Here are each participant’s Top 5,
their survey comments edited for brevity.


Christine Long, CTV Montreal personality
  1. Born This Way – Lady Gaga
  2. Billy Brown – Mika
  3. 3 Power of Love – Frankie Goes to Hollywood
  4. Lakmé – Leo Delibes
  5. I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross 
Michelle Sweeney, soul queen will perform at Fierté Montréal’s Diva Den concert on Aug. 12
  1. I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor: “It’s an anthem I sing all the time and the lyrics still touch my heart.”
  2. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester
  3. It’s Raining Men – The Weather Girls
  4. Over The Rainbow – Judy Garland
  5. I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross
Mathieu Chantelois, Executive Director, Pride Toronto
  1. La Vie En Rose – Grace Jones: “How does it get better than this!? The combination of bossa nova music and Jones’ amazing vocals make this THE  anthem.”
  2.  Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed
  3. Miss Chatelaine – kd lang
  4.  I U She – Peaches
  5. Over the Rainbow – Judy Garland 
Michael Hendricks, legendary LGBTQ activist
  1. Over the Rainbow – Judy Garland: “Nothing captures the silent striving of my childhood and adolescence like it does. Oddly, we thought we got there when HIV hit …”
  2. I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
  3. Walk on the Wild Side - Lou Reed
  4. Smalltown Boy – Bronski Beat
  5. I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross
Martha Chaves, comedian
  1. Relax – Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
  2.  I’m Every Woman – Chaka Khan: “I understood it as an instruction to Climb Every Woman, which I did. You know, Montreal is Disneyland for lesbians and in those days it was easy to go on every ride that Jilly’s had to offer.”
  3.  I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
  4. We Are Family – Sister Sledge
  5. Born This way – Lady Gaga
France Joli, “Come to Me” disco diva
  1. Born This Way – Lady Gaga
  2. True Colors – Cyndi Lauper
  3. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester
  4. Same Love – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lambert: “This song was written during the campaign for Washington Referendum 74 which, once approved in 2012, brought marriage equality to Washington State. This Song of the Year nominee was performed at the 56th Grammy Awards while Queen Latifah officiated the mass wedding ceremony of 33 same-sex and straight couples, and brought me to tears.”
  5. I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross: “As I danced to this megahit as a teen, it was instantly clear to me that it would become a timeless gay anthem.”
Puelo Deir, Divers/Cité co-founder
  1. The Killing of Georgie Parts 1 and 2 – Rod Stewart: “I had this on repeat for an entire week after the Orlando massacre. Cathartic.”
  2. Same Love – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lampert: “Ordinarily this song wouldn’t make the cut. So many divas, so little time, but this hip hop song reminds that despite the gains, some people still want us dead.”
  3. Vogue – Madonna: “I remember a bunch of us voguing down Ste-Catherine St. after being pummeled by the cops in the infamous Sex Garage kiss-in outside cop Station 25 in 1990.”
  4. I Am What I Am – Gloria Gaynor
  5. Teenage Dream – Glee cast
Lynn Habel, Editor-in-Chief, Tourisme Montréal
  1. Same Love – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lampert 
  2. Born This way – Lady Gaga
  3. I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
  4. F**kin’ Perfect – P!nk
  5. Simple – kd lang
Ana La Sabrosa, Montreal drag queen
  1. Born this way – Lady Gaga. 
  2. I’m coming out – Diana Ross 
  3. A quién le importa? – Alaska y Dinarama: “I had to include a Latin gay anthem. Thalia’s cover is quite good too.”
  4. YMCA – Village People
  5. Sissy That Walk – RuPaul 
Trevor Barrette, playwright and actor
  1. Born This Way – Lady Gaga
  2. I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross
  3. We R Who We R – Ke$ha 
  4. Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen 
  5. She Keeps Me Warm – Mary Lambert 
Plastik Patrik, Montreal nightlife legend and DJ
  1. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester 
  2. 3e sexe – Indochine: “Pour mes potes gender-queer.”
  3. Lady Stardust – David Bowie: “He wrote it about me.”
  4. Do You Really Want to Hurt Me – Culture Club
  5. Travesti – Nanette Workman (from Starmania): “Une reine, ça rocke.”
Tranna Wintour, comedian
  1. Désenchantée – Mylene Farmer 
  2. Laissez-moi danser – Dalida: “A declaration of freedom, of keeping hate at bay and staying tapped into loving energy; a message to the haters: ‘Just stay the hell away from me and let me dance!’”
  3. I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross
  4. Freedom ’90 – George Michael 
  5. Don’t Rain On My Parade – Barbra Streisand 

Robert Ouimet, legendary DJ and Godfather of Montreal Disco
  1. Love Is The Message – MFSB: “The song that brought together everybody without discrimination.”
  2. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – Boys Town Gang: “Perfect cruising song.”
  3. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester 
  4. I Was Born This Way – Carl Bean
  5. Fuck Off  – Jayne County & The Electric Chair: “This is my last-call song: Listen to the lyrics!”
Eric Pineault, president, Fierté Montréal
  1. Born This Way – Lady Gaga 
  2. Ziggy (un garçon pas comme les autres) - Céline Dion 
  3. Gay Messiah – Rufus Wainwright 
  4. La différence – Lara Fabian
  5. I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross
Matthew Fox, Digital Editor, enRoute Magazine: “These are songs that I’ve gone to since the Orlando massacre.”
  1. Express Yourself – Madonna: “Unlike Gaga, who shrugs and says, ‘My excuse is that I was born this way,’ Madge says, ‘Take who you are and scream it loudly.’”
  2. Your Disco Needs You – Kylie Minogue
  3. Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen: “Because not enough gay men know how important, flamboyant and true Freddie was. Now more than ever, we shouldn’t stop.”
  4. It’s a Sin – Pet Shop Boys 
  5. Alive – Sia: “Perhaps a bit too new to be in the running, but no song in the past five years has captured the feeling of survival and striving that is a key ingredient to gay anthems.”
Florence Gagnon, founder of Lez Spread The Word
  1. Deceptacon – Le Tigre
  2. We Are Familiy – Sister Sledge
  3. I Love it – Icona Pop
  4. Désenchantée – Myléne Farmer
  5. I Drove All Night – Céline Dion
Michael Venus, Executive Director, Centre Never Apart
  1. I Was Born This Way – Carl Bean 
  2.  Music Sounds Better With You – Stardust
  3. River of Freedom – Deee- Lite: “This track was written for Stonewall 25 which I attended in 2004. It was a monumental moment that always inspired me to overcome the evils of homophobia and celebrate my tribe!”
  4. Rise Up – Parachute Club 
  5. Stay Together – Barbara Tucker: “Watching Miss Tucker perform this at Wigstock 99 gave me life.”
Arshad Khan, festival director at Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival
  1. Meray Angnay Mein – Amitabh Bachan: “Later in life I realized it was trans and queer phobic, but at the time it was exciting to see a famous actor in drag.”
  2. Karma Chameleon – Culture Club: “First time I ever saw a boy wearing lipstick! I was eight and shocked and delighted.”
  3. Losing My Religion – R.E.M.
  4. Yesh Dosti – Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey: “1970s iconic Indian ‘friendship’ song that is extremely queer.”
  5. Live to Tell – Madonna
Dane Stewart, a.k.a Pup Dane, crowned Pup Montreal 2016
  1. Over The Rainbow – Judy Garland: “Those who attended the Montreal memorial for the victims of the Orlando shooting know the power this song has to bring a crowd to tears.”
  2. I Am What I Am – Gloria Gaynor
  3. Human Nature – Madonna
  4. Born This Way – Lady Gaga
  5. Let It Go – Idina Menzel 
Ugo Nganga Gitau, Montreal DJ
  1. Love Is The Message – MFSB
  2. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Inner Life Featuring Jocelyn Brown: “The reassuring motherly voice of Mama Brown gave hope, warmth and comfort at many gay churches (a.k.a. nightclubs) in times when being gay wasn’t as easy as today.”
  3. The Ha Dance – Masters At Work: “What the ‘Amen Break’ is to Hip Hop, the ‘Ha Dance’ is to Gay Ballroom Culture.”
  4. Free (Mood II Swing Extended Vocal Mix) – Ultra Nate
  5. Be Yourself – Danny Tenaglia
Steve Galluccio, playwright and screenwriter
  1. Holiday – Madonna
  2. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester 
  3. Born This Way – Lady Gaga 
  4. True Colors – Cyndi Lauper
  5. I Feel Love – Donna Summer: “Saw a dude dancing to this at an Italian wedding back in the mid-70s and I knew for sure I was gay. Dude happened to be the groom. I wonder if he knew he was gay as well.”
Kristofer David, bedroom DJ and disco historian
  1. I Feel Love (Patrick Cowley Mega Mix) – Donna Summer
  2. Go West – Pet Shop Boys
  3. Dive In The Pool – Barry Harris
  4. It’s Not Right But It’s Okay – Whitney Houston: “Thunderpuss turns an okay album track into Nippy’s hottest dance track ever.”
  5. Feel What You Want (Junior Vasquez Remix) – Kristine W.
Manny, Montreal drag legend 
  1. Love Is The Message – MFSB
  2. Smalltown Boy – Bronski Beat
  3. Any song by Grace Jones
  4. Pride (A Deeper Love) – Aretha Franklin
  5. Freedom ‘90 – George Michael
Brad Fraser, playwright and screenwriter
  1. It’s Raining Men –The Weather Girls
  2. Free – Ultra Nate
  3. Bizarre Love Triangle – New Order: “Broke away from the restraints of dance music and offered something new.”
  4. Gloria – Laura Branigan: “Still makes queers squeal and run for the dance floor.”
  5. Born to Be Alive – Patrick Hernandez: “Took gay bars out of the disco era.”
Claudy Philius, legendary Montreal party promoter: “The classics will always be the songs that inspire pride... Rarely, in my opinion, has a new song caused inspiration.”
  1. Love Is the Message – MFSB: “A black gay anthem.”
  2. I Don’t Know If It’s Right – Evelyn Champagne King 
  3. Love Hangover – Diana Ross 
  4. I Was Born This Way – Carl Bean 
  5. Ima read – Zebra Katz
RM Vaughan, author and playwright
  1. Candle in the Wind – Elton John: “Because it clears any dancefloor on earth and then you get to go home.”
  2. Here You Come Again – Dolly Parton: “Not because of the lyrics but because it’s what I say 40 times when I walk down Church Street and see the same 40 hags on every goddamn corner.”
  3. Le Freak – Chic: “Because there is nothing about the song that will complicate any available emotions. Should be played in airports.”
  4. Disclosure – Magnets ft. Lorde: “Because the song is about an affair and that is very hopeful to me personally because Lorde is a genius but she styles herself like an extra from Grey Gardens, and from this I understand that there is sexual hope for us all.”
  5. Dammn Baby – Janet Jackson: “Because she is Janet Jackson and we are not.”
Ferrin Solano, Social Media and Outreach Coordinator at Cinema Politica Concordia
  1. I’m Here – Cynthia Erivo (from The Color Purple): “After the Orlando shootings, this ode to resilience and self-empowerment was all I could listen to for a week.”
  2.  Standing in the Way of Control – The Gossip
  3. My Offence – Hercules & Love Affair: “I don’t want to be part of any gay rights movement that comes at the expense of women and the feminine. I crank this up in front of the Masc4Masc crowd and give them a good twirl.”
  4. Enough is Enough – Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand 
  5. Travelin’ Thru – Dolly Parton
Jef Elise Barbara, indie pop musician
  1. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) - Sylvester 
  2. Running Up That Hill - Kate Bush 
  3. Supermodel (You Better Work) – RuPaul
  4. Relax – Frankie Goes to Hollywood 
  5. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) – ABBA
Marleen Menard, cabaret performer and host of Diva den at Fierté Montréal on Aug. 12
  1. Comme ils disent – Charles aznavour
  2. La Vie en Rose – Grace Jones: “It was last-call song in all the gay clubs in NYC in the early 80s.”
  3. It’s Raining Men – The Weather Girls: “Total madness on the dancefloor and still is.”
  4. Free – Ultra nate
  5. Any song by Madonna.
Bugs Burnett 
  1. I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross
  2. It’s Raining Men – The Weather Girls
  3. Free – Ultra Naté
  4. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester
  5. Over the Rainbow – Judy Garland
Sheena Hershey, legendary drag queen who passed away on Feb. 5. This is Sheena’s Top 5 from 2008:
  1. Beautiful – Christina Aguilera
  2. (Pride) A Deeper Love – Aretha Franklin 
  3. La Vie en Rose – Grace Jones
  4. I Am What I Am – Shirley Bassey
  5. Don’t Rain on My Parade – Barbra Streisand