This might just be Madonna’s most meaningful award yet.
On Saturday, the pop icon was named the newest recipient of the Advocate for Change Award at the 2019 GLAAD Media Awards ceremony in honor of a lifetime of accelerating LGBTQ acceptance in popular culture and beyond.
“Growing up I always felt like an outsider, like I didn’t fit in. It wasn’t because I didn’t shave under my armpits, I just didn’t fit in,” Madonna, 60, said in her acceptance speech, after being introduced by A League of Their Own costar Rosie O’Donnell.
In her speech, the singer also paid tribute to her first dance teacher and mentor.
“The first gay man I ever met was named Christopher Flynn,” she said. “He was my ballet teacher in high school and he was the first person that believed in me. That made me feel special as a dancer, as an artist and as a human being. I know this sounds trivial and superficial but he was the first man to tell me that I was beautiful.”
Madonna added, “He took me to my first gay club in downtown Detroit. I told my dad I was having a sleepover at a girlfriend’s house — that got me grounded for the rest of the summer.”
And later the star honored her other close friends who died.
“After I lost my best friend and roommate Martin Burgoyne and then Keith Haring, happy birthday Keith, I decided to take up the bullhorn and really fight back,” Madonna said.
GLAAD is the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer media advocacy organization.
Other honorees at the event, hosted by RuPaul’s Drag Race alum and A Star Is Born‘s Shangela, included Andy Cohen, Don Lemon, Janelle Monáe, Samantha Bee and the FX series Pose.
News of Madonna’s meaningful accolade was first announced last month.
A GLAAD press release cited the superstar’s lasting commitment to raising awareness about the HIV/AIDS crisis — particularly the inclusion of a “Facts about AIDS” leaflet inside her 1989 album Like a Prayer.
Over the years, the singer also performed at numerous AIDS benefit concerts, established a benefit dance marathon, and proved her willingness to speak out against anti-LGBT policies and practices around the globe, particularly in the United States, Romania, Malawi, and Russia.
Recently, while ringing in the start of 2019, Madonna gave a speech about equal rights at New York City’s famed Stonewall Inn.
“I stand here proudly at the place where pride began, the legendary Stonewall Inn, on the birth of a new year,” the singer said. “We come together tonight to celebrate 50 years of revolution.”
According to Variety, Madonna has been named Stonewall’s ambassador for their 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots, which launched the gay rights movement.
“If we truly look and we truly take the time to get to know one another, we would find that we all bleed the same color and we all need to love and be loved. As we stand here together tonight, let’s remember who we are fighting for and what we are fighting for,” she added. “We are fighting for ourselves. We are fighting for each other. But truly and most importantly, what are you fighting for? We are fighting for love!”