As those who know me personally can attest, I am a massive music fan and am constantly recommending music to close friends. I am also openly pansexual and listen to a lot of queer musicians. I am always enthusiastic to discover new, talented voices in the LGBTQ+ community. I recently searched “LGBT” into Spotify to look at some playlists and immediately found a problem. The most popular LGBTQ+ playlist on Spotify mainly featured songs like “Girls/Girls/Boys” by Panic! At the Disco and “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry.
Both songs are controversial attempts at representation. I feel “Girls/Girls/Boys” has wrongly become a bi pride anthem: It’s about a guy insistent on dating a bi girl who doesn’t like him back, claiming she should come to her senses (“push another girl aside and just give in”) and pick him because he’s a guy. The song also claims that bi girls “can’t decide,” which negatively plays into the stereotype that bi people are indecisive and confused. “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry is a song many queer women despise for its hypersexualization of female-female relationships and its usage of the male gaze (“hope my boyfriend don’t mind it”) to do so.
I had issues with these songs being the most visible representation of my community and disliked the lack of queer musicians of color and trans musicians present on the playlist. And so, here is a list of LGBTQ+ musicians who have impacted me significantly, and who deserve recognition for their talents. I could go on for ages listing LGBTQ+ musicians who deserve more recognition, so I limited myself to the 10 that inspire me most (in alphabetical order):
Laura Jane Grace: trans; she/her
Against Me! is an American punk band from Florida, fronted by openly trans activist, singer, and guitarist, Laura Jane Grace. Grace has been known for her outspoken personality, publicly burning her birth certificate, and writing about being trans very directly in her lyrics and song titles.
Ah-Mer-Ah-Su: trans; she/her
Star Amerasu, who goes professionally by Ah-Mer-Ah-Su, is a black, trans woman and pop musician from the Bay Area. Her music, although pop, tackles personal issues like racism, drug abuse, identity, loss, and sexual assault.
Angel Haze: pansexual, agender; they/them
Angel Haze is a black, agender American singer and rapper. They have collaborated with well-known musicians like Sia and Eminem, and share very personal lyrics. At the beginning of their career, Haze released several mixtapes online for free. Haze has explained that they/them pronouns initially made them uncomfortable due to the frequent usage of they/them as plural pronouns. Angel Haze also avoids using gendered pronouns in song lyrics.
Anohni: trans; she/her
Anohni is an English singer and composer currently living in the United States. She formerly fronted Antony and the Johnsons (named for queer activist Marsha P. Johnson). In 2016, she was the second openly trans person nominated for an Academy Award. Her debut solo album, Hopelessness, discusses heavy political themes like drone warfare, climate change, grief, and of course, as the title implies, the feeling of hopelessness.
Ezra Furman: bisexual, gender-non-conforming; he/him
Ezra Furman is an openly bisexual, Jewish, gender-non-conforming singer-songwriter from Chicago. Ezra has discussed disenchantment with androgyny and queerness being appropriated by straight musicians who promote misogyny. Ezra recently stated in a tweet that he does not wish to be called gender-fluid, as he “does not know if he is” and “does not like the way you say it/” He has also stated that although he/him pronouns are his “go-to,” and the pronouns he prefers, that she/her and they/them pronouns do not make him uncomfortable. He also writes about gender identity in his lyrics.
Joe Stevens: trans; he/him
Joe Stevens is a folk musician from Sacramento, California. Joe was a member of Coyote Grace from 2006 to 2012, and released his debut solo album Last Man Standing in 2014. Joe’s music is catchy, upbeat, and fun, while still addressing his more difficult experiences of being a trans man.
Princess Nokia: bisexual; she/her
Princess Nokia is an Afro-Puerto Rican singer/rapper from New York, known best for her single “Tomboy.” She’s publicly discussed her experiences growing up in foster care and has shared that she had been a victim of abuse. She’s also a very outspoken feminist, and recently threw soup at a man using racial slurs and hit a man who harassed her at a concert, and considers herself a huge fan of riot grrrl bands and a total 90’s kid.
Shea Diamond: trans; she/her
Shea Diamond is a black, trans singer/songwriter from New York City. She ran away from home at fourteen, lived in and out of foster care, and spent time in a men’s prison for a crime committed to obtain funds for transitional surgeries. While serving her sentence, she got to know other trans women who shared similar experiences. Her single “I Am Her” appeared on the soundtrack for LGBTQ+ documentary series When We Rise.
Ezra Miller: queer; he/him
Lilah Larson: queer; she/her
Sons of an Illustrious Father is a grunge-folk band from New York, composed of Josh Aubin (bass, vocals), Lilah Larson (vocals, guitar), and Ezra Miller (drums, keyboard, vocals). Lilah Larson is an openly queer musician and outspoken intersectional feminist. Ezra Miller (of Perks of Being a Wallflower and Justice League fame) is also an openly queer feminist, Jewish actor, and musician. Recently the trio released the single, “U.S. Gay” as a heartbreaking and personal response to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.
Cash Askew: queer, trans; she/her
Kennedy Ashlyn: queer; she/her
Them Are Us Too is a queer femme band from the Bay Area, heavily influenced by 80’s shoegaze and goth bands. The two cited Depeche Mode and The Cure among their many influences. Guitarist, Cash Askew, unfortunately, passed away in the Oakland warehouse fire in 2016.