Celebrating LGBTQ+ Icons - Elton John
Throughout Pride month, Shepherd and Wedderburn’s PRIDE Network members will release a series of articles on LGBTQ+ Icons. These individuals have created a lasting impact and influence on society and possess unique combinations of talent, charisma and the ability to inspire and resonate across generations.
This article will focus on the iconic trailblazer, Sir Elton John. Born Reginald Dwight in 1947, John has used his platform throughout his illustrious career to champion LGBTQ+ rights, challenge stereotypes and promote inclusivity. His mark on the world of music has been legendary, but he has also been an inspiration throughout his personal life with his husband, two children and his charity work.
John rose to fame in the 1970s, when he was recognised for his powerful voice, unquestionable piano skills and flamboyant sense of style. His music is played across the world, and he is currently about to finish a world tour at the age of 76. But his music has resonated particularly with the LGBTQ+ community due to its and his openness. In 1988, John officially made the announcement that he was gay. His stature within the LGBTQ+ community has been supported by his husband, David Furnish, and their two children, Zachary and Elijah. In 2005, John and Furnish entered into a civil partnership, becoming one of the most high-profile same-sex couples to do so.
Beyond his personal journey, John has been a tireless advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. He has used his fame and fortune to fund numerous LGBTQ+ organisations, raise awareness and fight against discrimination. In 1992, he established the Elton John AIDS Foundation, a philanthropic endeavour that has raised hundreds of millions of dollars to support HIV/AIDS research, prevention and education. Through his foundation, he has not only saved countless lives but also provided hope and comfort to those affected by the epidemic. John continues to host his annual Oscars viewing party in support of his HIV foundation and to this date has raised over $9 million from this event alone.
John's music has also served as a source of solace and empowerment for the LGBTQ+ community. Songs like "Your Song," "Rocket Man," and "I'm Still Standing" have become anthems of love, resilience, and self-acceptance. His emotional ballads and energetic performances have provided a sense of belonging and unity within the LGBTQ+ community, allowing individuals to find strength in their shared experiences. Furthermore, John has collaborated with other LGBTQ+ artists, using his platform to amplify their voices and shed light on their unique perspectives. His collaborations with artists like George Michael, RuPaul, and Lady Gaga have celebrated diversity and fostered greater understanding and acceptance.
In 1998, John was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to music and charitable work. Additionally, his philanthropic efforts and support of the LGBTQ+ community were also recognised by President Barack Obama in 2014 when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United State’s highest civilian honour. John’s impact on the LGBTQ+ community has been immeasurable, and he has been recognised to the highest degree for it. Still, he continues to fight for a more inclusive and accepting society through his pursuit of equality and iconic songbook.
Written by: Zachary Stewart, trainee solicitor in our Banking & Finance team and member of the firm’s PRIDE Network.
"Being gay doesn't define who I am, but it has certainly contributed to the person I've become."