LGBT+ Music Icons

Image credit: Alexis Martinez

The Music industry is no stranger to LGBT+ icons. David Bowie and Prince, two recently passed great names, epitomise the ability to use music for self-expression, however derivative that self might appear to be. Bowie in particular, with his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust, completely redefined self-identification in music in a way which fostered a great LGBT+ following.

Some artists, such as Elton John and George Michael, had a much more troubled time using music as a means to fully express themselves. Both artists were plagued by media scrutiny of their sexuality - something which unfortunately still exists today. LGBT+ artists should be free to allow their sexuality to shape their music as much or as little as they like, without external pressures. However, in my opinion, whilst it is still considered ‘huge news’ to speculate about individuals and whether or not they identify as LGBT+ the music industry has not yet become quite accepting enough.

There also seems to be a clear gap in music between the number of openly gay or bisexual male artists and the number of females who feel comfortable enough to be equally as open, or who are treated with the same level of respect. This is of course a gap which mimics some of the tensions still existing in general in the wider society. Nevertheless, many proclaimed female ‘gay icons’, though they may be keen activists for LGBT+ rights, are themselves not members of the LGBT+ community.

Beyoncé, Barbra Streisand and even Judy Garland are upheld, amongst others as artists whom the gay community particularly embraces. However, in recent years, artists such as Lady Gaga have been able to fly the LGBT+ in mainstream music, with many many others campaigning tirelessly in less well heard genres of music, for example Donna Dresch and Patricia Barber.

At the end of the day what is most important is that music is a safe space for artists, however they identify themselves sexually, to experiment and create. Though pioneers in the industry have opened up an environment in which this is possible, there is certainly still breathing space for further improvement. 

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