06/29/2016 12:26 EDT | Updated 06/29/2016 12:59 EDT

Influential LGBTQ Music Videos You May Have Forgotten

Musicians and directors have used music videos to tell stories about the LGBTQ community for decades, even if the themes were often buried as subtext.

And for many young people growing up in small cities or communities, the visual elements of their favourite songs were a rare window into an outside world of acceptance.

Here are five influential music videos with LGBTQ themes worth revisiting:

Rough Trade, "High School Confidential''

Unrequited lesbian lust was the centrepiece of the Toronto new wave band's precedent-setting 1980 single, which climbed the Canadian Top 40 chart despite its lurid lyrics. The music video took a safer path, with androgynous lead singer Carole Pope singing to the camera while male-female flirtations played out in a school hallway. But the message was clear for gay and lesbian viewers looking for any morsel of positive acknowledgment in the mainstream.

RuPaul, "Supermodel (You Better Work)''

Madonna's "Vogue'' opened up a whole new wave of house-influenced dance music, but few tracks were as fresh as this 1992 hit which rocketed the gender-blurring drag performer onto the charts and into every corner of mainstream consciousness. "Supermodel'' portrayed RuPaul as a fashionista who dominated the runways but still didn't mind shooting hoops with the guys. The video was cheeky and fun, and before long RuPaul was everywhere — splashed across billboards, TV shows and even signing a deal as a MAC Cosmetics model. Roll your eyes if you must, but RuPaul showed that confidence and perseverance can go a long way.

Melissa Etheridge, "Come to My Window''

Her lyrics about a secret love were inextricably linked with Etheridge's decision to come out as a lesbian in early 1993, just around the time as her label released this song as a single. Interpretations of the music video abound, but it's hard to ignore that Etheridge was making a less-than-subtle point by having actress Juliette Lewis play a mental patient losing her sanity while trapped in her bedroom cell. Etheridge had freed herself from that prison and — along with kd lang and Ellen DeGeneres — helped pave the way for a new era.

Christina Aguilera, "Beautiful''

While the song "Beautiful,'' penned by lesbian songwriter Linda Perry, has been adopted by some in the LGBTQ community as an anthem itself, the 2002 music video is sometimes overlooked for its breakthrough representation. The clip features a gay couple open-mouth kissing in public as they ignore the stares of passerbys while another scene has a biological man confidently dressing in women's clothes. Those were only two of many characters portrayed in the video but their presence left a lasting impression when it spent 16 weeks on the MuchMusic Countdown.

Hozier, "Take Me to Church''

With more videos putting a positive spin on LGBTQ themes than ever before it was startling to see the Irish musician's frightening portrayal of a young gay couple, whose lives are torn apart when one is violently attacked over his sexuality. The 2013 video probably wouldn't have aired on TV back in the heyday of music videos, but in the YouTube era it sparked a viral sensation which helped turn "Take Me to Church'' into a chart success. While the song's hit status seemed to overshadow the video, which was released around the time Russia's anti-gay laws were enacted, it remains a stark reminder that LGBTQ rights and freedoms can't be taken for granted.

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