We have had legends and gay music icons paving the way for the LGBTQ community over the years, such as Elton John, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears, and Lady Gaga. These queer music icons have done so through their legacy and by raising awareness, utilising their music, creativity, and initiatives for the community.
Today, a new wave of new LGBTQ icons in music is ready to take over the reins. From Lil Nas X to Janelle Monáe, they speak to the community through music and a restless energy to drive change. These new artists aren’t afraid of expressing their sexuality with boldness and creativity.
Diversity in the artists we look up to allows music fans to relate to them more personally, whether it’s identifying their message or their compositions. From breaking down gender barriers by wearing a dress made for the opposite gender, to speaking out about their sexuality, these incredible gay music icons have influenced many to be themselves through sheer confidence and harnessing the art of expression.
Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X is breaking down many cultural barriers within the music industry right now, and the 22-year old is only just getting started. He has been blazing trails since he released “Old Town Road,” all the while remaining unapologetic with his art after coming out as gay. In the intervening years, he’s noticeably gained in the confidence to express himself, whether it’s sharing a kiss with a male dancer on live TV at the 2021 BET Awards or showing up in a bold lilac Atelier Versace outfit at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards.
R&B singer-songwriter and video director Kehlani has long identified as queer and bisexual, since coming out in 2018. The 26-year-old has been able to express her music confidently and gave us one of the most incredible albums of 2020, titled It Was Good Until It Wasn’t. She has gone so far as to proclaim herself a lesbian via a TikTok video in early 2021. Even with a daughter in tow, she has been keeping busy in the studio and at her company, Honey Shot Productions, where she produced incredible music videos all throughout the pandemic.
At 26 years old, Troye Sivan became a pop phenomenon for his incredible music and being outspoken about his identity as a gay man. This Australian YouTube sensation instantly related to music fans worldwide when he stepped into the scene with his teen-friendly Blue Neighbourhood album in late 2015. The singer continuously delivers anthems to his fans and has inspired many to be the best versions of themselves.
In 2018, psychedelic soul artist Janelle Monáe came out as a pansexual, but in the world of music, she refuses to be pigeonholed due to her deft mixing of different genres. By fusing funk with R&B and soul, Janelle Monáe is always setting trends, especially on her 2018 album Dirty Computer, which reflects on her experience discovering her sexuality. The singer also ventured into acting and has garnered recognition for her star presence, which we will surely see more of on the silver screen.
This Latino sensation embraces his feminine side with a skin-tight leather dress in “Yo Perro Sola”, and more subtly too with just some simple nail polish to show off his flamboyant sense of style. Although he identifies as a heterosexual man, Bad Bunny is undeniably unafraid to break down walls, and he does it so effortlessly – which is why he quickly became an LGBTQ ally.
The openly bisexual artist recently announced their pronouns as “she/they” in an Instagram post. Despite critics trashing 26-year-old Halsey for using her sexuality as a marketing strategy, she is never one to keep quiet about it and claps back to speak her truth. The singer-songwriter also advocates for homelessness within the LGBTQ community – just one of many instances where she has her gigantic platform and incredible music to continuously speak for the community.
The former One Direction member is not afraid of pushing himself with his fashion, including donning a lilac Gucci dress in the music video for his single, “Falling”. He’s often seen wearing pearls or nail polish in public, and while at One Direction supported the likes of Michael Sam, who is the first openly gay athlete to be drafted in the NFL. Harry Styles has been a vocal supporter of the LGBTQ community for years, and we love him for that.
Brittany Howard is the vocalist in the blues-rock outfit Alabama Shakes and is a five-time Grammy Award winner. The singer-songwriter proudly supports Southerners on New Ground (SONG), an organisation that fights for LGBTQ liberation for those living in the American south. Her dedication to supporting people of colour and immigrants in the rural areas speaks highly of her passion for putting encouragement and compassion first within a community that people don’t talk openly about.
Years & Years
Years & Years lifts us with their bubbly queer pop anthems. Vocalist Olly Alexander not only played one of the most exciting roles on the British TV series It’s a Sin, and has captured the hearts of many fans in celebrating queer identities. From 2016’s pro-LGBT video for “Desire” with Tove Lo, to speaking to the thousands of fans at Glastonbury Festival in 2019 on the importance of LGBT equality, Years & Years’ mantra of “we’re going to have to help each other out” has made them a crowd favourite for their commitment to the cause.
Haitian-Canadian DJ and record producer Kaytranada has worked with incredible artists like Kali Uchis, The Internet, Craig David, Goldlink, and many more. The two-time Grammy Award winner came clean in a 2016 Fader interview, shedding light on a homophobic and exploitative music industry. In it, he spoke about how he had to learn to fit into gay culture and fight against pressure from the black community – words that resonated with many fans within the hip-hop scene. At just 28-years-old, Kaytranada has visibly changed the music industry for the better while citing fellow LGBTQ musicians like Lil Nas X and Brockhampton as inspirations.
Sashay to this banging playlist.
Cover Credit: Erik Pendzich / Alamy Stock Photo
Elevate the way you listen to music with KEF
Writer | Kevin Yeoh
When he isn’t making sure Sound of Life stories are published in a timely manner, Kevin enjoys wandering aimlessly in Kuala Lumpur city, going down the YouTube rabbit hole and discovering new music.