How does a song become a gay anthem? Like the LGBTQ community, our soundtrack is vast and diverse. There are disco classics featuring our favorite, big-voiced divas. There are the introspective slow jams that mirror our struggles with self-acceptance and social rejection. There are viral sensations that caught our attention, and underground tracks that some of us have yet to discover. While it's impossible to define exactly what makes a song "gay," this list definitely isn’t straight.
To keep this countdown diverse, artists were only allowed one song on this list. Don't forget to follow our playlist on Spotify below. And for more stories about the LGBTQ community and our fiercest allies, follow Billboard Pride on Twitter and Instagram.
50. "Grace Kelly," Mika, 2007
Several of Mika’s songs could have made this list (“We Are Golden,” “Lollipop,” or “Last Party,” a song about Freddie Mercury’s infamous party before he died), but “Grace Kelly” is why we fell in love with him in the first place: He’s authentically queer and has no interest in conforming.
49. "Heavy Cross," Gossip, 2009
48. "Go West," Pet Shop Boys, 1993
47. "It’s Raining Men," The Weather Girls, 1982
Izora Armstead and Martha Wash were introduced to each other singing backup for Sylvester, who gave them their group’s original name: Two Tons o' Fun. While the duo saw a handful of their songs hit the dance chart, “It’s Raining Men” was their only Hot 100 entry (charting at No. 46).
46. "Follow Your Arrow," Kacey Musgraves, 2013
The way Musgraves nonchalantly suggests to “kiss lots of boys -- or kiss lots of girls, if that’s something you're into,” was seen as an attack on Christianity by some, while others said it was positive a shift for country music.
45. "Dancing On My Own," Robyn, 2010
Robyn was inspired to write this earworm by her love for sad, gay disco anthems. Any gay guy who says he hasn’t related to this synthy jam shouldn’t be trusted.
Originally written for George W. Bush, the song took on a bigger meaning after Prop 8 -- an anti-gay marriage state constitutional amendment -- was passed in California. The ban was lifted in 2013.
42. "Brave," Sara Bareilles, 2013
The singer-songwriter revealed she wrote this catchy ode to courage as a love letter to a friend who was struggling to come out as an adult.
41. "Dancing Queen," ABBA, 1976
Fun fact: Former Republican presidential nominee John McCain listed this chart-topping song (which hit No. 1 in 1977) as his favorite song during the 2008 election cycle.
40. "People Like Us," Kelly Clarkson, 2012
Expect Clarkson’s catalog to be on heavy rotation at any lesbian karaoke night. This song, with lyrics like “this is the life that we choose” and “come out, come out if you dare,” added sparks to (false) rumors that Clarkson could be gay. Though straight -- and now married -- Clarkson accepted the rumors as a compliment.
39. "I Want to Break Free," Queen, 1984
38. "Firework," Katy Perry, 2010
When you look at her one-two punch of her femme-bashing "Ur So Gay" and her exhibitionist faux-lesbian "I Kissed A Girl," in a post-Gaga era, this song felt more opportunistic than authentic. But Perry has seemingly become more progressive and it would be hard to find a pride parade not playing this booming (pun intended) anthem.
37. "Come To My Window," Melissa Etheridge, 1993
From her album Yes I Am, this Grammy-winning song was the first to be released after Etheridge came out as a lesbian publicly.
36. "Finally," CeCe Peniston, 1992
The euphoric gay staple is one of many songs featured in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert -- both the movie and stage adaption.
35. "We Are Family," Sister Sledge, 1979
This song plays during the famous scene in The Birdcage where Gene Hackman dons drag to avoid being noticed by the paparazzi. While the four members of Sister Sledge are actual sisters, the song took on a deeper meaning with the gay community being one big family.
34. "All The Lovers," Kylie Minogue, 2010
33. "The Origin of Love," 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch,' 1998
Years after the Off-Broadway production premiered, the show was finally brought to Broadway. Winning the 2014 Tony Award for best revival of a musical, the show featured several actors taking on the titular role over its year-long run, including Neil Patrick Harris, Taye Diggs, Darren Criss and the show’s writer and original lead, John Cameron Mitchell.
32. "Rebel Girl," Bikini Kill, 1993
The band is one of the pioneers of the feminist riot grrrl movement. The song, featuring lyrics like “rebel girl / you’re the queen of my world,” and “in her kiss I taste a revolution,” has recently seen a resurgence after being featured in both Orange Is The New Black and a viral DIY pro-Hillary Clinton clip.
31. “What I Need” by Hayley Kiyoko (featuring Kehlani), 2018
30. "Raise You Up/Just Be," 'Kinky Boots,' 2012
The drag-centric musical took home six Tonys, including best musical; best score (with music and lyrics by gay icon Cyndi Lauper); and outstanding actor in a musical, for out-and-proud Billy Porter’s comeback performance as Lola, a drag queen.
29. "Ima Read," Zebra Katz (feat. Njena Reddd Foxxx), 2012
While there are several underground queer hip-hop artists that deserve recognition (Le1f, Cakes Da Killa, Mykki Blanco, to name a few), Katz and his Paris Is Burning tribute is a standout.
28. “LGBT” by CupcakKe, 2016
27. "Take Me I’m Yours," Jobriath, 1973
Self-described "rock’s truest fairy," Jobriath was the first openly gay musician to be signed to a major label. For his television debut on The Midnight Special, the glam rocker initially planned to play this S&M-themed jam, but had to switch tunes after a producer objected.
26. "Smalltown Boy," Bronski Beat, 1984
25. “Bloom” by Troye Sivan, 2018
“Bloom” is a soft, gentle ode to opening up to a new paramour -- in more ways than one. Sivan confirmed the song’s sexy subtext wasn’t an accident with a since-deleted tweet: #bopsforbottoming.
24. "Got To Be Real," Cheryl Lynn, 1978
Not only was this disco classic featured heavily in Paris Is Burning, but it made an appearance in the first season of Will & Grace as well. Will (Eric McCormack) is singing the song in the mirror while shaving, to which Grace (Debra Messing) quips, "We're just like fifty men and a mirrored ball away from being a gay disco."
23. "A Little Respect," Erasure, 1988
In what appeared to be a response to the British government’s damning Section 28 act (which criminalized the promotion of homosexuality, resulting in the closing of lesbian, gay and bisexual support groups across British schools and colleges), the song questions “What religion or reason could drive a man to forsake his lover?”
22. “I Am Her” by Shea Diamond, 2016
21. "Freedom! ‘90," George Michael, 1990
While it was widely speculated that this was his version of coming out (“I think it’s time I told you so / there’s something deep inside of me / there’s someone else I’ve got to be”), Michael explained that the song was actually about liberating himself from his former image with the band Wham!. Nearly a decade later, Michael came out publicly.
20. "Y.M.C.A.," Village People, 1978
This disco classic was taken by many as an implicit ode to the gym's reputation as a popular cruising location -- it even comes from an album titled Cruisin''. "Y.M.C.A." hit No. 2 on the Hot 100 in 1979, but has since become a parody of itself. Thankfully, Grindr exists these days.
19. "Raise Your Glass," P!nk, 2010
The outspoken ally’s toast to underdogs was a Hot 100 No. 1 and features scenes from a gay marriage in its music video, inspired by her best friend’s wedding. Cheers!
18. "If I Could Turn Back Time," Cher, 1989
17. "Keep On Livin," Le Tigre, 2001
This battle cry’s message of resilience seems simple on the surface, but it resonates deeply. The band was known for their sociopolitical lyrics, specifically when it came to issues of feminism and LGBT rights.
16. "Take Me Or Leave Me," 'Rent,' 1996
Actress Tracie Thoms initially auditioned for the stage version of Joanne in Rent but the role was given to Fredi Walker. Almost a decade later, Thoms was cast in the film adaptation -- which led to a role in the Broadway revival of the rock opera.
15. "Over The Rainbow," Judy Garland, 1939
Dating back to at least World War II -- when homosexual acts were illegal -- the term "friend of Dorothy" was underground slang for a gay man. While investigating homosexuality in Chicago, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service discovered that gay men used this term to refer to themselves. They started a massive witch-hunt for the elusive “Dorothy” in hopes that she would reveal names of gay service members.
14. "Relax," Frankie Goes To Hollywood, 1983
13. "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)," Sylvester, 1978
The uber-fabulous Sylvester was so beloved by the San Francisco gay community that they gave him a standing ovation at the 1988 Castro Street Fair that lasted more than 10 minutes. Too ill to attend the event, he looked out at his fans from a wheelchair on his apartment balcony. He planned his own funeral, insisting that he be buried in an embroidered red kimono and matching red lipstick.
12. “Sissy That Walk” by RuPaul
11. "Closer to Fine," Indigo Girls, 1989
Whether it's in a dive bar or in a two-hour car ride like the infamous The L Word scene, nearly every lesbian will participate in a sing-along of this introspective anthem at some point.
10. "Vogue," Madonna, 1990
It’s quite the task to choose just one track from Madonna’s discography, but the safest bet is this song, inspired by queer vogueing subculture. The tune was originally recorded as a B-side, but ended up topping the Hot 100.
9. "True Trans Soul Rebel," Against Me!, 2014
8. "Don’t Leave Me This Way," Thelma Houston, 1976
This Motown Hot 100 No. 1 hit was appropriated by the gay community as an anthem for friends lost to the AIDS epidemic. As part of a commissioned "public space statement," artist Nayland Blake juxtaposed the title of the song against an image of a bouquet of flowers with their tangled roots showing.
7. "Let’s Have a Kiki," The Scissor Sisters, 2012
6. "Constant Craving," k.d. lang, 1992
This track garnered three Grammy Award nominations for Lang, including song of the year and record of the year. She walked away with the award for best female pop vocal performance. The song maintained its place in lesbian culture when it was covered on Glee by Naya Rivera, Idina Menzel and Chris Colfer in the episode where Rivera’s character, Santana, came out to her parents.
5. "Beautiful," Christina Aguilera, 2002
4. "True Colors," Cyndi Lauper, 1986
Inspired by her lesbian sister, Lauper has been an advocate throughout her career. Years after the uplifting ballad hit No. 1 on the Hot 100, Lauper co-founded the True Colors Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness for LGBT youth.
3. "I Will Survive," Gloria Gaynor, 1978
In 2014, Gaynor caught heat from the gay community when she delayed a gig at The Abbey in West Hollywood. Citing her religious beliefs, she reportedly insisted that managers remove all the go-go dancers from the room. Controversy aside, this song’s staying power is undeniable: RuPaul sent two queens packing on the same episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race for not doing justice to a lip sync of the gay staple.
2. "Born This Way," Lady Gaga, 2011
1. "I’m Coming Out," Diana Ross, 1980
Even at its conception, this song was a gay anthem: After seeing three drag queens impersonate Ross at a New York discotheque, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards were inspired to write something for her gay fandom. Ross almost got cold feet releasing it but Rodgers convinced her to go with it. She took his advice and landed her sixth Hot 100 top 10 hit as a solo artist.