Diversity & Inclusion

Diversity & Inclusion Staff Group

Music and the LGBTQ+ community over the years

Music and the LGBTQ+ Community can be described as synonymous. Over the years, 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.

LGBTQ+ music began back in New Orleans in 1890. New prostitution policies led to brothels and gay blues musicians coming into the fray. As it flourished, blues performers like Lucille Bogan and Ma Rainey began singing about their sexual adventures with other women.

The 70s saw the opening of Frankie Knuckles’ The Warehouse Club in Chicago, a members-only venue that was frequented mainly by black and Latino gay men.

The 80s boosted an increased exposure to LGBT culture in the music industry, especially gender-bending and cross-dressing with artists such as Culture Club, George Michael, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and others.  Music videos began to allude to LGBT relationships, including The Pet Shop Boy’s “Domino Dancing”, and Madonna’s “Vogue”.

From the 1990s onwards, pro-LGBTQ+ laws have helped condemn homophobia in society and had a surge in allies. This is also shown as LGBT music branched off as its own genre, with the likes of Lady Gaga, Will Young, Adam Lambert, Billy Eilish and lots others supporting the growing industry and spreading the message of equality and positivity.

History has brought forward some incredible LGBTQ+ pioneers in the music industry. Here are just a couple of brilliant people who have been a part of the LGBTQ+ movement in the industry.

Freddie Mercury

“Closeted throughout his life, Mercury, who was bisexual, engaged in affairs with men but referred to a woman he loved in his youth, Mary Austin, as ‘the love of his life,’ according to the biography Somebody to Love: The Life, Death, and Legacy of Freddie Mercury. Freddie’s sexuality certainly influenced Queen’s music and image, but this was a band that truly crossed each barrier in the musical sense as well as through LGBT representation.

Janelle Monáe

“Being a black queer woman in America … someone who has been in relationships with both men and women — I consider myself to be a free-** motherf**ker,” she said in a Rolling Stone cover story. Janelle Monáe identifies as pansexual and her music regularly speaks to her experience as a woman, as a queer person, and as an androgynous person.

David Bowie

When homosexuality was still considered a shameful secret to many, Bowie told the world he was gay, and music — and the lives of many of his fans and followers — would never be the same. Many saw a kindred spirit in David Bowie’s various characters and gender-bending style, beginning with his first androgynous persona, Ziggy Stardust, in 1972.

Elton John

Elton John has continued to use his enormous influence to raise millions for his AIDS charity and in 2005, Elton also used the first day that civil partnerships could be held in the UK to make a very public statement with his long-term partner, David Furnish.


Sophie Xeon, a.k.a. SOPHIE, is a Scottish singer with a flamboyantly unique sound and already has renown as a producer, behind songs by Charli XCX and Madonna. In 2015 she told the rolling Stone,“I’d rather collaborate with my friends who are whatever gender they please, or have very fluid ideas about gender…I view the people that I work with, girls and boys and people who identify as whatever gender they please, as strong individuals.”

Now with her solo debut, Sophie’s come out of the darkness and into the light as a woman. Her recent singles have toyed with the multitudes of her gender expression through song. Unfortunately, Sophie passed away in January 2021 at the age of 34, following a sudden accident but ill be known for being an icon of liberation.

Kathryn Espino, CIPA

Date published: 9 June 2021

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