Pride Month 2021

Pride Month. A time for people in the LGBTQ+ community to come together and be unapologetically themselves. A time where people can look back on legendary figures within the community and see how far the world has come in accepting those for who they are, regardless of their sexuality. When it comes to talking about the LGBTQ+ community, intersectionality should be considered as there are many whose experiences are so unique that it differentiates them from fellow members within the community. Today we talk about those unique experiences, and about members who have thrived in spite of issues they have faces.

Dusty Springfield

Dusty Springfield was not only a glamourous persona whose music was compatible to the likes of Mavis Staples and Aretha Franklin, but an unsung queer icon that we often overlook to this day. Springfield has been hailed as, ‘the only white woman singer worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the great divas of 1960s soul music,’ but we know her for her peroxide blonde hair and colourful aesthetic. 

In a time where being in any relationship but a heterosexual relationship was frowned upon, Springfield acted heroically in an interview for the London Evening Standard, where she admitted to being ‘perfectly capable of being swayed by a girl as by a boy’. 

This candid statement was not met with a kind response, and ultimately caused her popularity to drop in the seventies. Springfield made her way to Los Angeles and fell in love with American Actress Teda Bracci and they unofficially wed in 1983. After a fleeting love affair, the pair separated two years into the marriage. 

Springfield was extremely active in the seventies gay scene. Soon enough becoming an icon in the drag queen community as she was depicted as the sole form of femininity. Many drag queens copied her looks because it allowed them to challenge gender roles. In little words, Springfield was the Camp Icon of her time. 

Un-apologetic to the end, Springfield made sure to never conform to norms of the music industry and was open about her love for everyone because in the words of Springfield herself, ‘people are people’. 

Written by Niamh McCabe

Hope Tala

After officially coming-out as queer this year, the Bossa-Nova, 90s R&B world of Hope Tala seems to open up glimmers of lights within her music. The intentional ambiguity of Tala’s lyrics gives way  for people of all ages, genders, races, sexualities to delve into and fall deep within her own genre of music that is so unique in itself. 

Tracks like Lovestained move everyone to a state of tranquillity where the words feel familiar and nostalgia with its boss nova beats and faint tin drums; better yet, uses no gendered terms within it. Tala mentioned before the importance for Queer people to see themselves in her music but that she writes what feels natural to her. 

As both a songwriter and an English Literature Graduate, Hope tells that Sylvia Plath’s penmanship is one of her main influences with her music, which is seen in her open-ended lyrics and verses that read just like poetry.

Not only was it during university that Hope decided to take music seriously but more significantly, it was the 1st song she put on Soundcloud that she initially uploaded to try and get the attention of the girl she liked, that led to her becoming more passionate about her music. Making music both in London and travelling out to L.A. to begin the works of her first full-length album which will hopefully come out this year.

When figuring out her own sexuality, Hope has always mentioned that listening to people that mirrored her feelings within their songs was important for her in the journey of discovering her own queer identity. As well as seeing her create music that others are able to connect to in that way, feels like her journey has come full circle.

Written by Nicole Ndlovu

Kehlani

Kehlani’s presence amongst fellow Queer musicians is one of self-awareness and an example that sexuality is not only complex but fluid too. Kehlani, who uses she/they pronouns, came out as Lesbian this year and fans were quick to congratulate her.

People speculated over Kehlani’s sexuality after giving birth to their baby girl Adeya, however, Kehlani had always stated prior that they had never fit into a certain category and that they would just label themselves as Queer. They remind us that sexuality is fluid and that nothing has to be set in stone, so for Kehlani to now feel comfortable labelling themselves as Lesbian serves as a constant reminder of that. 

Kehlani’s awareness of the privileges they have within the LGBTQ+ community gives way for conversations about how intersectionality works within a marginalised group; Kehlani acknowledging that trans people, gay men and black masculine gay women have more difficulty masking their sexualities in a world that is still heteronormative. 

Kehlani makes sure to highlight the presence of Black Trans Women in their life by involving them in their work, a recent and notable piece being the “Can I” music video which involves sex workers. The video ended with a message from activist Da’Shaun Harrison who brings light to the increased difficulties for black sex workers- primarily in the United States.

By being surrounded by Queer people in their day-to-day life, Kehlani mentions how it allows for more honest conversations and teaching moments for themselves, especially since this generation is beginning to stray away from aged fears and taboos about those in the LGBTQ+ community. Listen to those already within marginalised groups who are also part of the LGBTQ+ community and remember that intersectionality is key when understanding your privileges within this group.

Kehlani’s 2017 single Honey serves as a song that many young queer, specifically WLW individuals can relate to as its acoustics and rawness of the lyrics complement each other; ending with:

Isn’t love all we need? Is it love?To be the same prophesy? Is it love?Do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti, is it love?

Love.

Written by Nicole Ndlovu

Lady Gaga

This list would not be complete without mentioning the revolutionary artist that is Lady Gaga. As a loud and proud bisexual woman, Lady Gaga has created a space for anyone considered different in our predominantly heteronormative society. Through both her music and her activism she projects and protects, female and LGBTQ+ voices. She has faced much controversy and backlash in the media yet remains one of our generation’s most extraordinary artists. 

She is a powerhouse and will go down in history for her contributions to music, acting and the LGBTQ+ community. She also founded the Born This Way Foundation which works with young people who are struggling with their mental health. After the tragic death of one of her young LGBTQ+ fans, she met with former president, Barack Obama to discuss anti-gay bullying in American schools, which is just one example of her dedication to creating a safer and more inclusive space for everyone. She is a personal role model of mine, and many others, and helped ease my own coming out process for which I will be forever grateful. 

Written by Elizabeth Rich

Lauren Jauregui 

Lauren Jauregui joined the music industry as a fresh faced 16-year-old after auditioning for the American X Factor. With little life experience and as much knowledge any innocent teenager has at that stage of life, she joined one of the biggest girl bands ever, Fifth Harmony. 

I was a teenager and watched myself grow up alongside the band, I played their songs when I had my first heartbreak and as I got myself ready for my first party. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I started playing their songs when I was lost over my sexuality, repeating lyrics like a calming prayer when everything felt all consuming. 

Lauren came out as bisexual in 2016 in an open letter to Donald Trump where she stated, “I am a Cuban-American bisexual woman, and I am so proud of it.” For me, suddenly everything I was feeling made sense. I’d watched lesbian artists and loved their art but one of my favourite singers coming out so openly and proudly as bisexual was incredibly comforting. It was also incredibly brave to do whilst being in a girl band, as dating rumours between her and fellow bandmate Camila Cabello had been created since the beginning of the band. In a recent interview she spoke about that time in her life saying she found it “Disgustingly uncomfortable because I was queer, but she was not,”. Whilst claiming her sexuality, Lauren Jauregui also spoke out about and broke down the stereotype of predatory behaviour from queer women towards their straight friends. 

Jauregui went on to create gay anthem “Strangers” with fellow queer performer Halsey. Since then, she has been an active voice for LGBTQ+, working with charities and remaining fiercely politically outspoken on social media whilst supporting her queer comrades. 

Written by Jessica Matthewson

Leiomy Maldonado

A true champion of the ballroom scene, renowned as ‘the wonder woman of vogue’ and the originator of multiple popular dance moves, Leiomy Maldonado is a talented trans artist who, throughout the years, has taken the art of vogueing across the world through iconic ball performances, dance workshops and even add campaigns. Most recently she has featured as a main judge on the vogue performance show ‘Legendary’, with its second season having just come to an end. 

Growing up in 90’s New York, Leiomy was introduced to vogueing through the ballroom scene and has become one of its biggest names. She famously originated the ‘Leiomy Lolly’, a hair-whipping dance move that today has been used by the likes Beyonce and Lady Gaga and it even made its way into the ‘Whip my Hair’ music video by Willow Smith back in 2010. 

Since joining the cast of Legendary, Leiomy has acted as the true vogue professional on the panel, and instead of being looked down upon for being queer, trans, or black, these things are celebrated and she is revered as a ballroom legend whom people look to for advice. Being the only one on the judging panel with actual vogue experience she has been able to teach not only the other judges, but the audience at home about what to look for in a ball performance. 

Not only has Leiomy lived and breathed vogue her entire life, she has also opened up the world of ballroom to the media and masses who until now have been largely unaware of the scene. She has helped shape and lift the ballroom scene and vogueing as a dance style into the limelight, and with Legendary having been renewed for a third season, Leiomy continues to cement her place as a trans trailblazer and a pillar of the ballroom community.   

Written by Andy Chung

Lil Nas X

Through music and media, Lil Nas X’s unapologetic attitude and artistic expression have to be one of the impressive contributions to the LGBTQ+ community I have seen.

The man cannot stop taking the internet by storm and is no stranger to social media; his first Global hit Old Town Road took off on TikTok. His most awe-inspiring being from MONTERO (Call me by your name.) His music video was unapologetic and was outright bold. Lil Nas X faced a wave of controversy to which he directly responded on social media platforms with an immense amount of sass and humour. Responses to homophobic retorts with, “Who cares, I’m hot” and the like, directly show that there is nothing to be ashamed of for healthily expressing himself, which many LGBTQ+ still have to hide.

After that, he has continuously shared his true colours. Whether it’s his photoshoot for Vogue or an appearance on the Saturday Night Show, he normalises wearing whatever they are comfortable in and ignoring traditional gender stereotypes.

He has become the role model for the community he wanted to be and has said in an interview with The Guardian, “I 100% want to represent the LGBTQ+ community.” In these interviews, he has shed light on the varied experience that many of the community face and growing up in a conservative environment.

He may not be the first openly gay artist, but I personally think he is a brilliant creative visionary, and his talent has brought more representation of the community into the mainstream media.

Written by Ally Dunne

Nirvana

Nirvana left behind a legacy as one of the most important and influential bands in the history of rock music. They almost singlehandedly lifted the Seattle music scene, which would become better known as grunge, from underground obscurity to chart-topping mainstream success. Paving the way for a slew of acts including Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam. 

Part of their legacy, which perhaps isn’t spoken about as much, is their outspoken support of the LGBT community. 

While Kurt Cobain drew influence from the likes of Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin, he was also deeply uncomfortable with the rampant misogyny and homophobia often found in their music. As a result, Cobain wanted to make it clear that anyone who listened to Nirvana’s music holding these reprehensible views was not welcome to do so. In the liner notes of their album Incesticide, a collection of B-sides released in the wake of the surprise global success of Nevermind, Cobain wrote: “If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different colour, or women, please do this one favour for us – Leave us the fuck alone. Don’t come to our shows and don’t buy our records”. 

A similar message was included in the liner notes of follow-up album In Utero. “If you’re a sexist, racist, homophobe or basically an asshole, don’t buy this CD. I don’t care if you like me, I hate you”. 

Nirvana backed up their words with action as well, playing a benefit concert in 1992 to oppose legislation on an Anti-Gay bill that was being pushed through in Oregon at the time, called Measure 9. On the matter, Nirvana said: “Measure 9 goes against American traditions of mutual respect and freedom, and Nirvana wants to do their part to end bigotry and narrow-mindedness everywhere”. 

Kurt Cobain showed that it was possible to be a successful rock musician while still maintaining your moral integrity, and that you could write music that the world would take notice of without having to degrade people or resort to using lazy, untrue stereotypes in your music. For these reasons and many more, Cobain and Nirvana continue to be an inspiration for people everywhere.

Written by Logan Walker

Sam Smith

English singer and song-writer, Sam Smith, shot to the top of the charts back in 2012 with their single Latch. From then on their music has touched the hearts of millions, their beautifully constructed lyrics has managed to cover issue anyone can face. When singing about heartbreak, their fans can feel every emotion through their angelic voice. Smith is an icon that has thrived in face of unfair coverage by the heteronormative media, and whilst rising has helped hundreds through their music and boldness.

“Best month of the year.” At the beginning of June, the icon that is Sam Smith took to Instagram to wish a happy Pride Month to everyone that was celebrating. They shared some of their favourite artists, photographers, filmmakers, and musicians from the queer community that changed their life. In 2017, Smith came out as genderqueer saying, “I feel just as much a woman as I am a man.” In 2019, Smith then revealed they were non-binary and embraced themselves for who they are. They contribute to the community through lyric choices in their songs making them fully exclusive by not using male or female descriptors. 

Smith has always been open about their sexuality and loves to display the love they have for the LGBTQ+ community by taking part in Pride parades and sharing their experiences with the world. Smith truly is a role model to all young people who have felt uncomfortable in their bodies and show them that social gender identities don’t define who you are. 

Written by Emma Barton

Sophie

On January 30th, 2021, Scottish DJ and music producer SOPHIE unfortunately passed away. This month marks the first Pride Month since her death, so it seems important to highlight all her accomplishments within the industry and for her community. SOPHIE was a trans woman born in Glasgow. She rose to fame in 2014 after the release of her single ‘Lemonade”. Going on to earn a Grammy Award nomination in 2018 for Best Dance/Electronic Album for her debut album Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides.

She worked with world famous artists across the globe. Charli XCX, also known as the queen of the gays, worked with SOPHIE on multiple occasions. They collaborated on the iconic track and EP ‘Vroom Vroom’ which peaked at number two on the Billboard charts, a massive feat for a British artist. The artist also frequently teamed up with Kim Petras, Rihanna, and was also confirmed to be doing a collaboration with Lady Gaga for the Born This Way anniversary.
 
Before coming out as a trans woman, SOPHIE kept her personal identity relatively anonymous and received lots of disgusting media scrutiny for how she identified. The first time her voice and image were used was in her music video for the sensational “It’s Okay to Cry” in 2017. She appeared nude from the chest up in front of a backdrop of clouds. Seen as a coming out announcement she sent shockwaves across the industry. This beautiful Scottish artist has left her mark in the world and whilst she has gone her music will always live on. SOPHIE’s story marks the importance of supporting and welcoming trans artists into the industry. Trans voices need to be heard, especially in these perilous times we live in. So, seek out some trans and non-binary artists so this fabulous industry can be as inclusive as possible.  

Written by Arran Procter

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