We love their music. We adore their personalities. And yet, we don’t know much about their path to success. Their songs illustrate major moments in their lives, and we feel as if we know everything about them, but truthfully we don’t. We can’t begin to put ourselves in their shoes, but we can listen to their stories.
In honor of Pride Month, we asked some of our favorite rising LGBTQ+ artists to share their experiences being so unapologetically themselves in the public’s scrutinizing eye. These seven artists opened up about their inspiring journeys maneuvering through the complicated music industry, and how they eventually came out on top.
Being exposed to the music industry genuinely helped me accept myself and my sexuality. When I was younger, I had a pretty traumatic coming out experience at 14 years old after telling my best friends I was gay and being totally abandoned for it. That made me suppress who I was for basically the rest of my life.
Many years later when I signed with my manager and my record label, I was terrified to tell them too, scared that they might drop me. That comes from a very real fear - fear that you are not going to be accepted for something that is out of your control which I know is felt by many across the LBGTQ+ community.
It wasn’t until I started writing my own music that I used my experiences and my stories to create painfully honest songs that could be relatable and would remind people that you aren’t the first and won’t be the last, that there is a lot of love and support out there for you. Writing songs like “If Our Love Is Wrong” and my latest single, “No Matter What” gave me a huge sense of closure and empowerment, but not only that, it gave me a new sense of purpose - to create music that people could soundtrack to their lives.
So far I have received messages by the thousand thanking me for helping people with their struggles and their successes. It’s the most gratifying thing I could ask for in this job and is what keeps me making the music I make.
When I think about my time in the music industry and how it relates back to my sexuality, I can’t help but feel blessed and lucky. Throughout my career, I have been surrounded by people who have truly cared for my well-being and have encouraged me to be myself, and to be happy. Though, I think I do not exactly owe my luck to these people, but rather to the countless creatives and trailblazers who have come before me and challenged the way our society views LGBTQ+ artists. It is to them, Elton John, David Bowie, Lady Gaga, Grace Jones, Robert Mapplethorpe, and so many others, that I give my thanks. Because of them, I have always been supported to be honest and to create authentically. Happy Pride Month xx.
When I go to/play a show, I see a “door man,” “sound guy,” “monitor guy,” and if I’m playing a show, 9.5/10 times I will be paid by, you guessed it, a man. While I don’t have factual research on whether or not a man was chosen over a women for the job or if there’s just a shortage of women applying for these positions, I do have first hand experiences of peers (both men and women) telling me in confidence that they’d prefer a man over a women in these positions. Of course I ask “WHY?” And most of their reasons: “because of lack of experience.” *Confusion emoji* Consequently, I’ve had female peers (who’ve aced the same sound engineering programs as male peers) tell me they constantly lose job opportunities to men in these positions as well as production, FOH, tour management, merch, etc. How does this effect me? Where do I begin? Not only is it uncomfortable being sized up by every “sound guy” as soon as I walk on stage for soundcheck, hear them talk differently to my male bandmate, occasionally make a joke to my female drummer about “actually hitting the drums” (not funny), and then of course treat me slightly better but in that “oh! you’re a useful object” kinda-way after I’ve slayed (duh). It’s clear the music entertainment industry is a patriarchal mess. For a long time, I was under the illusion that people in this freeing, artistic field couldn’t possibly think men are superior to women. Then I pulled the wool from my eyes and slowing saw the wolves dressed in sheep’s hippie clothing. Most lineups I see are equally if not predominately female fronted. Sometimes this is a conscious decision because I need to experience relatable art in order to understand myself as an artist. My ideal archetype would be an equal balance of sexes (and races!) because I am both feminine and masculine. Obviously there are men working in these positions who try to not see gender and work on rewiring their brains from the patriarchal wash we’re all spun from. But unfortunately, as a female in the music industry, there are obstacles to jump through just to create and be. (And I’ve only just scraped the indy surface.)
More pop songs about gay sex in 2019🏳️🌈— Leland (@LelandOfficial)December 31, 2018
My experience being an openly gay artist and songwriter in the music industry (and I can only speak from my own perspective) has been refreshingly positive, surrounded by support and shown me that at the end of the day, the best songs still tends to win. The road to accepting myself and my sexuality, has paralleled with my music, specifically how it has grown and evolved. When I finally sat down with myself and said “it’s time to be who you are and be happy with who you are,” it felt like I wrote my most authentic songs to date.
Being gay has definitely been a challenge in that people in the industry can sometimes think that defines you. Their scope tends to become even narrower than just being a woman in the business in general. I feel that it has made me sharp though and forced me to really try to become my own special thing and create my universe. I would never trade my path for anything it’s given me invaluable perspective.
I think the most refreshing lesson I’ve learned over the past few years is that people will really surprise you. The music industry is a bizarre, messy world, but I’ve been met with acceptance by pretty much everyone that I’ve met or worked with.
Beyond that, I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of support and love that I have received from strangers for being unforgivingly, exactly myself. The support that I feel from my “fans” is more than just acceptance, it feels like an unspoken deep understanding. It’s a support system that gives me so much comfort, as well as a space to continue to constantly learn about myself, grow, and evolve as an artist and human.
Coming to terms with my sexuality has been a confusing, often scary journey, but I’ve found the most confident and fearless version of myself— a huge part due to the connection that I’ve found with likeminded people through doing music. Everyone’s process of self-discovery and learning to love themselves is unique, but I hope that being honest and open in my music and online naturally creates a space that encourages people to be themselves and be fearless. It’s way fucking cooler to be yourself than to be anyone else!!
i came out after i’d entered the “industry.” i was terrified. i had a mentor of mine once make a statement asking me “you’re not gay, right?” after i’d come back from a treatment center for alcoholism and he didn’t know where i had been. that stuck with me for years. but i came out and found so many queer artists and writers. and so so many allies in this industry. i’ve tried to be more and more open and honest in my work. i’ve learned that one voice or one song can really make a difference. i’m trying to do just that.
Celebrate Pride Month with us and check out these artists and more of our favorite LGBTQ+ artists down below: