For teens struggling with their sexuality and gender identity, finding comfort and people to connect with can be difficult. The following is a list of artists who are/were part of the LGBT+ community who, while making all round good music, also may help you if you identify as anything but heterosexual and need support. Also, take a listen if you just enjoy quality music.
Source: Brooklyn Vegan
An incredibly underrated band’s frontman, Matt Rogers, looks back on being a closeted teen in their latest album ‘Voyager’. Creating an album talking to himself as a closeted teenager, not only allowed him to explore his own feelings, but is a voice to every closeted teen who may share Rogers’ feelings of loneliness and not being able to share parts of yourself with the people around you. The cathartic nature of Voyager helps many teens as it gives hope to teenagers who may have rendered themselves hopeless. Whilst there is a great flow to each track, the broad range of sounds on this album and the fact that it is not limited by its exploration of sexuality and the theme of secretiveness means there’s something for everyone.
Car Seat Headrest
Source: The Bay Bridged
What started as a solo project by frontman, Will Toledo, at the end of high school, is now a highly successful four piece band. Toledo’s older music is that of a kid struggling with both his sexuality and young relationships, particularly in Twin Fantasy, which talks about a gay relationship casually and doesn’t bask in the obscenities that some people associate with homosexuality. His awkward take on issues that impact most teens and young adults such as drugs, sex, and insecurity make him extremely relatable. This combined with the significance of his highly contextual lyrics, and instrumentals, ranging from danceable to slow and sombre, result in a great listening experience, regardless of what you identify as. Furthermore, getting a crowd of straight guys to sing “I pretended I was drunk when I came out to my friends”, is an achievement in itself.
source: El Anexo Arte Contemporáneo
A prominent figure in the mid-1920’s and someone who remains important to this day, Josephine defied all social norms of her time, being a black, bisexual women who partook in the french resistance during WWII and an active in the civil rights movement. In Josephine’s Story by Judith Mackrell, the unspoken sexual and gender fluidity of the time are highlighted as she speaks of Josephine being “transfixed” by the fact that “women wore tuxedos and monocles in open view, while men flaunted lipstick and kohl(In berlin)”. Her defiance of societal norms and having such a big impact on French pop music and jazz, lands her as an icon to, not only people looking for comfort within themselves, but anyone who loves music.
The fluid views of this experimental band on sexuality and gender are made clear through both their overtly sexual lyrics and performances. Kevin Barnes, the frontman and founder, is quite open about his non-conformist gender and sexuality and embraces this through his extravagant, fun music videos. An example of this is the ‘It’s Different for Girls’(linked above) music video, which depicts a diverse group of people and is abundant in queer imagery. Barnes shared his views in an interview, where he said
“In a way I feel like most of us transition back and forth, psychologically, between female and male, and that sexual identity is a fluid concept…If mainstream society encouraged everyone to explore the different sides of our psyches and sexuality I imagine we wouldn’t even have a use for words like ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ or ‘transitioning.’” -Kevin Barnes
Source: Chart Attack
Although being problematic in many ways, Lou Reed is a huge icon for the LGBT+ movement and is someone who was able to help normalize gender fluidity, transgenderism, and bisexuality, which was seen as the epitome of vulgar when he was writing his first few solo albums. While rumours of him having to endure electroshock therapy during his teen years for ‘homosexual urges’ have been shut down by his sister who claims it was for mental health issues, his 1974 song ‘kill your sons’ and saying that “That’s what was recommended in Rockland County to discourage homosexual feelings.” creates an unclear image of the situation.
His openness about the conversion therapy and feeling unaccepted, along with his striking ‘arrogance’ and ‘coldness’ creates him to be much more complex than just the token gay character or the token asshole, and is a reflection of how he didn’t subscribe to the stereotypical views that the entertainment industry love to enforce on the LGBT+ community. His lack of submitting to what the media would have wanted him to be, and his ability to be completely who he wanted to be, makes him a great role model to anyone who feels like they don’t belong in what the media view as the LGBT+ community.
Known mainly for her acting, Kiyoko is a great example of someone who overcame a struggle with her sexuality through writing songs. Kiyoko is vocal about not having a role model, growing up, and wanting to be a role model to young kids who are LGBT+.
“that’s why my fans and I relate to each other. My music reassures them that they aren’t alone” -Hayley Kiyoko
she said in an interview with Paper magazine. The theme of being a closet lesbian and conquering the fear of unrequited love is present throughout Kiyoko’s song, particularly in the “Girls like Girls” music video(linked above), which reflects this in quite a youthful way, without dismissing the incredibly emotional nature of becoming truly yourself.