LGBTQ+ Artists: Fighting Back Through Indie Music

LGBTQ+ Artists: Fighting Back Through Indie Music
29th June 2023 Elena
LGBTQ+ Artists and Bands Fight Back.

We’re in June of 2023. It’s bittersweet that we still need to talk about LGBTQ+ rights. However, if we were in June of 1969, the Stonewall uprising, we would realize how far we’ve come. During this period, LGBTQ+ individuals faced widespread discrimination and harassment, including frequent police raids on bars and establishments.

This blog isn’t about spurring up a debate or speaking on behalf of anyone. We’re firm believers in having an independent and unique voice. But we also believe we all have the right and duty to use it. After giving you some background on LGBTQ+ and Pride Month, get ready for some musical goosebumps from the best LGBTQ+ Indie Artists and Bands.

How did Pride Month start and why?

On the night of June 28th, 1969, the police raided the Stonewall Inn. Patrons and LGBTQ+ community members had endured enough mistreatment and decided to fight back. This uprising lasted for several nights and sparked a wave of protests, demonstrations, and organizing efforts within the LGBTQ+ community.

Music, like protests, was also chosen to express this social injustice and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. Inspirational figures like Marsha P. Johnson transcended politics to the realm of music. The notorious band Antony and the Johnsons took after the surname of Marsha as an influential figure in the New York City queer community and co-founder of STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries).

We’re not going to talk about her tragic ending and the whole controversy that surrounds it. Just like Marsha was known for using her smile and happiness as a political tool, we’d like to be known for using indie music to empower communities.

LGBTQ+ Artists and Bands

Antony and the Johnsons /ANOHNI

Antony Hegarty, now known as ANOHNI, is an English-American singer, composer, and visual artist that started with the indie band Antony and the Johnsons. Although ANOHNI, as a solo indie artist, has yet to release her most activist work with My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross (July 7th, 2023), she spoke out about the discrimination faced by transgender individuals in the music industry.

In songs like “For Today I Am a Boy” (I Am a Bird Now, 2005), we dare your heart not to skip a beat when she sings:

One day I’ll grow up, I’ll feel the power in me

One day I’ll grow up, of this I’m sure

One day I’ll grow up, I know whom within me

One day I’ll grow up, feel it full and pure

Well, that boy grew up into an even more empowered and confident artist whose next album we can’t wait to sink into.

Perfume Genius

Perfume Genius is the stage name of Mike Hadreas, an American indie pop musician and singer-songwriter. He started releasing music as Perfume Genius in 2008, however, it was his first album Learning (2010) that helped define his music as delicate and introspective, through piano-based compositions and emotional lyrics. “Mr. Peterson” is probably one of his most controversial and tragic songs, as the last verse says:

Mister Peterson

I know you were ready to go

I hope there’s room for you up above

Or down below

What seems to be a love story between two people soon turns into a song about an inappropriate student-teacher relationship (Hadreas was sixteen) and abusive power. What’s heartbreaking is that after you listen to the entire piece, it’s still unclear what he feels about Mr. Peterson and what he continues to represent for Hadreas. This is probably the result of having your feelings, and yourself, repressed for so long.

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens has touched upon LGBTQ+ themes in his songs and openly identifies as queer. What he will never describe himself as is “Christian”. His name might ring a bell if we place it next to “Mystery of Love“, nominated for an Academy Award as the feature song for the movie Call Me By Your Name (2017). However, he began exploring this coexistence between Christianity and homosexuality in his second album Seven Swans (2004). Although some interpret these songs to represent the longing for an intimate relationship with another man, others believe that this relationship is with God:

You gave your body to the lonely

They took your clothes

You gave up a wife and a family

You gave your ghost

However you decide to interpret these songs, the truth is that controversy is served. But, as mentioned before, that’s not why we’re here. Our aim is to shed light on every corner of indie music.

Mary Lambert

Mary Lambert is an American singer-songwriter known for her powerful vocals and vulnerable lyrics. She identifies as a lesbian and has been outspoken about her experiences with discrimination as well as body image issues. She officially came out with the song “She Keeps Me Warm” from the 2014 album Heart On My Sleeve:

And I can’t change, even if I tried

Even if I wanted to

My love, my love, my love, my love

She keeps me warm

She keeps me warm

Lambert’s song was actually written after she featured in “Same Love” (2012) co-written and produced by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Macklemore managed to make this song into an unofficial anthem for same-sex marriage supporters. Pretty amazing.

Tegan and Sara

Tegan and Sara are a Canadian indie-pop (sometimes labeled as indie rock) duo, who are actually twin sisters. They’re both openly gay and have been active advocates for LGBTQ+ rights. Unlike the previous case, marriage is not for everyone. In “BWU” Tegan and Sara talk about how marriage isn’t the only way to prove you love someone:

I love you

I don’t need a ring to prove that you’re worthy

You’re under my skin

It’s easy, I don’t need a lock to prove that you trust me

I walk the walk

Fair enough. But in order for marriage to be an option, it first needs to be a right. And this is something that many before had to fight for.

LGBTQ+ Indie Musicians: Final Thoughts

Music is just one of the many forms of expression that we have as humans. And that’s our aim: to share with you the different perspectives that indie artists experience the world with. Always descriptive, never prescriptive.

Very much like the LGBTQ+ community, indie music is not about labels. It’s about making room for everyone and being open to feeling and experiencing something new. And, whether you like it or not, it’s especially about respecting the right of others to enjoy it.

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