You can say a lot about Madonna. I truly think she built such an incredible legacy, but is doing everything now to destroy it. Yes, she is a victim of vicious sexism and misogyny, but completely gives into the wishes of her critics so they can further tarnish her. Perhaps she is being brave. Perhaps she is sticking her middle finger up at her critics. In the last five years, however, she has failed to do what she has successfully done with her whole career: reinvent herself. That said, accusing her of having anything to do with starting the AIDS virus is revolting in so many ways.

Let’s get to the chase: The beef between Bill Werde and I has become mainstream and it appears that Werde is trying to use all his industry minions to stop me. Some of the reports of his minions contain false information that I claimed Madonna was the reason for the spread of AIDS. This is absolutely disgusting in so many ways, especially because Madonna–no matter what she has become–was a lead activist in the fight against AIDS. But I will admit to making a revolting mistake.

In my Examiner blog, which I don’t have access to anymore, I (being very misguided) claimed that Madonna helped encourage the spread of AIDS. I was pretty much repeating what Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters said and–unfortunately–agreed that Madonna’s encouraged unsafe sex, etc. at a time when AIDS was rampant. I feel so sad about this and don’t know what drug I was on that day. Madonna was a pioneer AIDS activist and an activist for human rights, in general.

In the 1980s, at a time when gay people were dropping like flies because of the disease, Madonna took a stand against the mainstream bashing of gays that could have ruined her career. Madonna’s speech at her Madison Square Garden AIDS benefit in 1987 touched me as a child. My uncle was just diagnosed with HIV at that time and nobody, except my father and I, wanted anything to do with him. Hearing Madonna’s speech on MTV moved me. I couldn’t believe how brave Madonna was to take a stand like that.

My church, school, and family took a rabid stand against homosexuals, AIDS and AIDS victims. At church, we were taught that homosexuals started AIDS, it was a punishment from God, and that we shouldn’t treat homosexuals with an ounce against respect–after all, they were sinners and Jesus hated them. In retrospect, it is quite interesting that three of the priests at my parish were later imprisoned for sexually abusing teenage boys. But there was no retrospect in the 1980s–it was nothing but hate. And it will be repeated again unless we learn our lessons.

The fact that Lady Gaga’s little monsters (most who are gay) go around from blog to blog telling people to “die of AIDS, faggot!” is absolutely disgusting. This actually started in 2011 and was aimed towards Madonna and her fans. Yet, Lady Gaga, who I’m sure has compassion for people with AIDS, did nothing to encourage her fans to stop this behavior. She did finally speak out about her fans’ behavior (but not specifically the AIDS jokes), but only because her career was on the wane.

However, the “Get AIDS and Die Faggot” trend has been popular in the young gay community for the past three years. It’s as if these young men don’t realize what the previous generation of homosexuals had to go though. They didn’t wake up getting a shocking call that their best friend suddenly died of AIDS complications and was too ashamed to tell those close to him what was happening. They didn’t have to sit in front of a television set watching Eddie Murphy (who many suspect is bisexual) making jokes about those “Faggots getting AIDS” while the rest of their family members and friends laughed. Unfortunately, they didn’t witness Madonna taking what many believe is the bravest stand a celebrity ever took.

Madonna’s record company thought she was being too gay friendly. Madonna, however, witnessed her best friend Martin Burgoyne die of AIDS before her eyes in 1986. She witnessed her ballet teacher, Christopher Flynn, die of the disease as well. She took the sadness of their deaths and turned it into a revolution that changed history. Before Roseanne, before Ellen, and before Magic Johnson, Madonna was condemned for asking Forrest Sawyer on Nightline why it isn’t acceptable for people to see gay people snuggle with each other, but graphic violence was fine. For most people over 35, Truth or Dare was the first movie that explicitly dealt with the gay lifestyle. Madonna was called a “sicko” then, but within a couple years, homosexuality started to become a mainstream topic. Whether you like her or not, Madonna opened doors for a lot of people.

My uncle was a huge Madonna fan. He was too weak to get the Like a Prayer album when it came out on March 21, 1989. I didn’t care for Madonna then, but still skipped school so I could buy the album the second Record City opened. I opened the album cassette sleeve (I remember being allergic to it for some reason), put the cassette in my walkman, and was going to put the headphones on his ears as soon as I arrived at the hospital. When I arrived, I found out my uncle was no longer here. I felt cheated. But today, whenever I hold that cassette in my hands, I feel nothing but value and power.

We may not like the way Madonna has aged. We may not like her processed dance music anymore. We may not like her pretentious efforts to save the world. But at a time when the world wanted all gay people to drop dead, Madonna was a savior. And we should all be grateful for that.

By Angela Cheng through Pop Music Gadfly