Queer musicians were usually overlooked by the audiences before David Bowie entered the scene in 1969 with his breakout hit “Space Oddity”. He was undoubtedly the most innovative musician of his generation due to his experimentation with difficult themes like spirituality and society. David came out in 1972 in his performance of “Starman” that changed the whole dynamics of LGBT music and paved the way for its entrance into the mainstream music. His alter ego “Ziggy Stardust” was a better representation of his creativity and fearless art.
LGBT musicians have opened a door for addressing sensitive issues through music to reach people in a less offensive way. Freddie Mercury is still remembered for his glitzy and pretentious stage presence but he was strangely quiet in his private life. Although he never associated himself with any of the LGBT issues of his time, his image contributed heavily to the acceptance of LGBT artists by the society. In 1994, Michael Stipe of R.E.M came out as queer but kept his image mysterious and vague throughout his career. Melissa Etheridge wasn’t ashamed of her lesbian identity as she was a prominent LGBT rights activist. She devoted her life to make the image of LGBT people more acceptable in straight and homophobic societies. Frank Ocean came out in 2012 despite not being vocal about his sexual identity and private life.
The general public started to acknowledge LGBT musicians in the late twentieth century and in the early twenty-first century, more artists came out defying the fear of being rejected or segregated by the society. Elton John, Village People, Sylvester, Tom Robinson, and Jill Sobule are a few notable names of that era which is marked as the beginning of a great movement. Elton John revealed that he is a bisexual while being interviewed by the famous “Rolling Stone” magazine in 1976. He is considered as the most popular gay musician of all time. Elton John founded the “Elton John AIDS Foundation” in 1992 to address the difficult issues like HIV and other STDs in society. The organization has raised around $200 million since its inauguration. He is the inspiration for young LGBT artists and an active member of various LGBT movements.
Madonna was first introduced to the gay communities by her ballet teacher, Christopher Flynn, who was a gay man himself. Since then, she has raised voice against LGBT discrimination on several occasions. In 2010, she strongly condemned the bullying of gay teens and the resulted suicides on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”. She further said, “In fact, I wouldn’t have a career if it weren’t for the gay community.” Lady Gaga made her bisexuality public in an interview with Barbara Walters in 2009. She has helped thousands of LGBTQ people through her foundation “Born This Way Foundation”. Her song “Born This Way” has become an anthem for LGBT people also “Bad Romance” and “Love Game” are very popular in gay communities.
Tommy Gabel, lead vocalist and guitarist of the band “Against Me”, revealed his plans of transitioning in May 2012. He is now performing under the name “Laura Jane Grace”. His image is definitely contributing to the acceptance of transgender artists of his generation. Jacqueline Rollins, famously known as “Missy Miss Behave,” started her career as a musician under the name Sterling Rollins but after going through the transition, she began to use her new name “Missy Miss Behave” and “Jagged Weather” was her first production. The album can be seen as the autobiography of her eleven months-long period of transition as it is comprised of eleven songs; one song for each month. She is strongly in favor of a self-governing community for LGBTQIA artists and performers across the globe. Rollins wants to play her part in the most significant moment of this generation. She is using her music to explore unconventional genres and themes and relate them to the LGBT issues.
Due to the efforts of the above discussed LGBT revolutionists, many gay artists today have successful careers and are making the most of mainstream music. It is clear that our future generations will enjoy gender-free art and the LGBT artists will be provided equal opportunities to achieve what they deserve.