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LGBT music

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) music is grouping of musical genres that focus on the experiences of gender and sexual minorities[1][2] as a product of the broad gay liberation movement.

LGBT music spans the entire spectrum of popular music.[1][2] Lyricism and song content typically express the frustration, anxiety, and hope associated with non-normative sexual and gender identities, offering marginalized groups a vital platform for expression.[3][4] Recently, popular music has "provided an arena where marginalized voices can be heard and sexual identities shaped, challenged, and renegotiated."[2] Mainstream music has begun to reflect acceptance of LGBT and queer musicianship.[5][6]

Origin of the term

The origin of the genre arose during the 1980s when post-disco dance and house music, Hi-NRG, and freestyle music became more prevalent in the United States and LGBT artists gained prominence for exploring popular music trends.[7] DJ Larry Levan started his DJ career at the gay disco Paradise Garage.[8]


In the 1890s, New Orleans began testing different prostitution policies which led to brothels and gay musicians like Tony Jackson or Bessie Smith.[9] Jazz was born from many homosexual artists. As it flourished, blues performers like Lucille Bogan and Ma Rainey began singing about their sexual adventures with other women.[9] Soon after jazz took off, Broadway shows and musical audiences began to take shape as well.

Despite progress in LGBT tolerance and acceptance, musicians still remain marginalized in popular music. American composer Leonard Bernstein had many homosexual relations, often with other musicians and composers despite being in a heterosexual marriage.[10] Artists like Bernstein, Stephan Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, Dimitri Mitropoulos and many others were subject to hiding their sexual identities from the public. American pianist Liberace was famously closeted and vehemently denying allegations of homosexuality until his death in 1987, suing a Daily Mirror columnist for insinuating his sexuality.[11]

In spite of currents of intolerance in the United States, Broadway continued providing a platform for gender and sexual minorities, culminating to the production of lauded musicals like Kinky Boots, Hair and The Color Purple.

LGBT artists and music

In the 1970s, disco culture offered a multitude of platforms for expression for gender and sexual non-conforming individuals.

While popular music has always included LGBT artists, the increasing social tolerance of the late 20th and early 21st centuries allowed such artists to come out publicly. Early examples of this arose with the sexual liberation movement, with artists such as Elton John, Village People, Sylvester, Tom Robinson, Jill Sobule, Indigo Girls, k.d. lang, Queen, David Bowie,[9] Little Richard, Esquerita, Melissa Etheridge, Janis Ian, The B-52's, Cher, Kylie Minogue, Grace Jones and Marc Almond, among others.

The 1980s saw increased exposure to LGBT culture, namely genderbending and cross-dressing, in the music industry with artists such as Culture Club, George Michael, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Pet Shop Boys, Dead or Alive, and Erasure. Gay icons during this decade included Diana Ross, Cyndi Lauper, Britney Spears, Melba Moore, Loleatta Holloway, Jessica Lowndes, Gloria Gaynor, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Bob Mould, Madonna, Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford.

An increase in pro-LGBT laws and artists condemning homophobia in their music populated much of the 1990s. Groups such as Placebo, Alcazar, Right Said Fred, Mana and more joined the ranks of allies and LGBT musicians. Bands such as Pansy Division and Tribe 8 led the queercore offshoot of hardcore punk that helped solidify LGBT arts in the decade.[12]

The 2000s saw LGBT music branch off into its own genre, and new artists like Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera, Will Young, The Scissor Sisters, The Gossip, RuPaul, Jeffree Star, Mika, Dario, Adam Lambert, t.A.T.u., Sakima, Dawnstar, and Troye Sivan supported a growing industry, spreading the message of equality and positivity.

In 2012, Against Me! singer and guitarist came out as a trans woman and changed her name to Laura Jane Grace.[13] Country singer Chely Wright came faced death threats and declining record sales after coming out in 2011. She made Wish Me Away, a documentary about her experience and it won several major awards in 2012 including trophies from the Los Angeles Film Festival, the Seattle LGBT Festival and the Tallgrass Film Festival.[13] And openly gay artists such as Tegan and Sara gained popularity; the duo produced a pro-tolerance advert jingle for Oreo in 2014.[14]

Many openly LGBT musicians have become very successful, such as Elton John, who has the best-selling single in Billboard of the 1990s ("Candle in the Wind 1997"), and the single "Anything is Possible"/"Evergreen" by Will Young, which was the best-selling single of the decade in the 2000s.[15] Country singer Ty Herndon came out as gay in 2014, after three number one hits on Billboard Hot Country Songs.[16]

Some popular LGBT artists and bands today are Kehlani,[17] Hayley Kiyoko, Demi Lovato, Pabllo Vittar, Mary Lambert, Halsey,[18] MUNA,[19] Kevin Abstract (Brockhampton), Sam Smith, Le1f, Azealia Banks, Sia, Electrosexual, Perfume Genius, Courtney Barnett, Troye Sivan, Angel Haze, Hurray for the Riff Raff, SINCLAIR, Against Me!, Rostam, Tom Goss, Shura, Superfruit, Years and Years, PVRIS, Frank Ocean, ILoveMakonnen, Billy Gilman,[20] Syd, Ladyhawke and Mykki Blanco.[21][22][23] Prominent electronic music artist and synthesist for the band LCD Soundsystem, Gavin Rayna Russom came out publicly as a transgender woman in July 2017.[24] In April 2018, Janelle Monáe[25] came out as queer with her album Dirty Computer, and released the song "Make Me Feel"; the music video detailing a woman's attraction to two club goers.

Tyler the Creator and Frank Ocean at Coachella in 2012

Straight and cisgender allies have also produced LGBT-oriented music. Country artist Phil Vassar released the song "Bobbi with an I" in 2009, which uses a humorous narrative to encourage acceptance of transgender individuals. Singer-songwriter Hozier released the song "Take Me to Church", whose music video partially focused on religion-based homophobia.[26] "1-800-273-8255", a song performed by Logic and Alessia Cara, dealt with homophobia and the pain that it results in. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis teamed up with Mary Lambert to make "Same Love", a song about same sex marriage that focused on the message that love conquers all. The music video for Avicii's single "Silhouettes" depicts a person undergoing sex reassignment surgery.

Lady Gaga's 2011 song "Born This Way" has been called a gay anthem for its message of self-love.[27] Singer and actor Christian Chavez used his song "Libertad" to make a stance for gay rights and sexual freedom.[13]

OUTMusic Awards

Since 2001, the American OUTMusic Awards program has functioned as an annual LGBT awards ceremony that mirrors the Grammys. OUTMusic Inc., a 501 (c) 3 organization, was re-founded as the LGBT Academy of Recording Arts by Diedra Meredith in 2007.[28] The awards are to recognize some of the LGBT artists who have made significant contributions to the music industry.[29][30]

See also


  1. ^ a b Taylor, Jodie (August 2012). "Taking it in the ear: On musico-sexual synergies and the (queer) possibility that music is sex". Continuum. 26: 603–614 – via Taylor & Francis Online.
  2. ^ a b c Taylor, Jodie (2012). Playing it Queer: Popular Music, Identity and Queer World-making. Peter Lang. ISBN 9783034305532.
  3. ^ Feigenbaum, Anna (2010-12-01). ""Now I'm a Happy Dyke!": Creating Collective Identity and Queer Community in Greenham Women's Songs". Journal of Popular Music Studies. 22 (4): 367–388. doi:10.1111/j.1533-1598.2010.01251.x. ISSN 1533-1598.
  4. ^ "History of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Social Movements". []. Retrieved 2018-04-13. External link in |website= (help)
  5. ^ "Mainstream music embraces LGBT perspective". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2018-04-13.
  6. ^ Sloop, John (August 2005). "In a Queer Time and Place and Race: Intersectionality Comes of Age". The quarterly journal of speech. 91: 312–326 – via Taylor & Francis online.
  7. ^ Friedrichs, Ellen. "GLBT music, books and Entertainment". Retrieved 15 January 2011.
  8. ^ []
  9. ^ a b c Susoyev, Steve (April 2018). "David Bowie made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music". Lambda Literary Review – via ProQuest.
  10. ^ Hubbs, Nadine (April 2018). "Bernstein, Homophobia, Historiography". Women & Music – via ProQuest.
  11. ^ Thornton, Michael (2013-05-24). "The lonely Liberace I knew". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  12. ^ Gomillion, Sarah; Giuliano, Traci (25 Feb 2011). "The Influence of Media Role Models on Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Identity". Journal of Homosexuality. 58 (3): 330–354.
  13. ^ a b c Staff, Billboard. "25 Pivotal LGBT Moments In Music". Billboard. Billboard. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  14. ^ "Tegan and Sara Oreo Jingle".
  15. ^ "History of Ricky Martin's peak position". Archived from the original on 2 October 2011. Retrieved 15 January 2011.
  16. ^ "Ty Herndon Comes Out As Gay".
  17. ^ Ahmed, Insanul. "Kehlani Discusses Shady Managers, Her Bisexuality, and Her Many Tattoos". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  18. ^ Martins, Chris. "Art-Pop Singer Halsey on Being Bipolar, Bisexual and an 'Inconvenient Woman'". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  19. ^ Bruner, Raisa. "Hear Girl Band MUNA's Uplifting New Song for the LGBTQ Community, 'I Know a Place'". Time. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  20. ^ Shelburne, Craig. "Billy Gilman Comes Out as Gay". CMT. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  21. ^ Kitchener, Shaun. "Pride 2017: The gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender popstars conquering music". Express. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  22. ^ "25 Pivotal LGBT Moments In Music". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  23. ^ LaCount, Amy. "16 LGBT Musicians Who Are Shattering Stereotypes and Making It Big". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  24. ^ "LCD Soundsystem's Gavin Russom On Coming Out as Transgender | Pitchfork". Retrieved 2018-05-09.
  25. ^ Sieczkowski, Cavan (2013-09-12). "Janelle Monae Discusses Gay Rumors, Lesbian-Tinged Lyrics In 'Electric Lady'". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  26. ^ Stumme, Clifford. "What does "Take Me to Church" by Hozier Mean?". The Pop Song Professor. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  27. ^ Moniuszko, Mono. "Mainstream music embraces LGBT perspective". USA Today. USA Today. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  28. ^ Robinson, Charlotte (February 11, 2016). "Diedra Meredith Talks LGBT Academy of Recording Arts & More". Huffington Post.
  29. ^ Kane, Matt (August 17, 2012). "LGBT Academy of Recording Arts Announces 8th Annual OUTMusic Awards". GLAAD.
  30. ^ "About". OUT Music Awards. Retrieved 7 May 2015.