For all my school-aged life as a weird (read: gay) and socially awkward (read: creative) only child growing up in what I was sure was the smallest town in the South, I just wanted to feel understood. I spent most of my time imagining I was somewhere else, that I was someone else.
In high school I used my allowance to buy the two-disc CD The Fame and it felt like a whole new world opened up to me. I listened to it over and over, and I listened to every following album over and over again when they were released. Lady Gaga showed me that it was cool to be different, that I didn’t need to be ashamed to be gay, that I could be myself (and also wear a lot of glitter). I could not have imagined then all of the hardship and pain that these albums would help get me through.
My parents got divorced when I was in college, and a few years later my Dad and I moved to New York: I to Brooklyn, and he Upstate to the Finger Lakes. It was like all my childhood dreams had finally come true now that I’d reached my mid-twenties. I’d finally made it! I had a girlfriend who I loved, an apartment in the greatest city on earth, and so much ahead of me.
Then, the Pandemic hit. The world shut down and in the midst of this, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. He and I quarantined together and between his chemo treatments we raised a flock of baby chickens and took walks through the orchard trees on the farm where he lived. As things got more challenging, we put our paws up and danced to my favorite Lady Gaga songs to make him smile.
In July of 2020, the cancer won. I had lost my best friend. Devastated, I listened to Chromatica on repeat. My girlfriend and I danced to Rain on Me and I tried to find joy, but all I could seem to see were tears. Less than 6 months later, my mom received a terminal ALS diagnosis. It seemed likely that I would be an orphan by the time I turned 30. There have been so many days I have asked why, so many days I have felt like giving up.
There have been so many times I haven’t known where to turn for support or who to ask for help. At the Chromatica Ball this summer, I learned about the Born This Way Foundation. To hear someone as influential as Lady Gaga say that she also struggles with mental health, that she sees us and will fight for and with us in a world that so often doesn’t, to know this is life saving and life changing. Surrounded by what felt like every queer person in the New York metropolitan area, the love, support and togetherness in the stadium was palpable. It was like Pride all over again—or, better!
Lady Gaga’s presence in the fight for social justice and the way her music makes all of us, her fans, feel seen has had such an influence in my life since I was a didn’t-know-she-was-gay teenager to now. Lady Gaga has shown me again and again that I am not alone in my pain. She has made me feel like, somewhere, I will always find a hand to hold.