LGBTQ+ people of color have a solid part to play in the music industry. With creativity often blooming with oppression, LGBTQ+ POC have lots to offer!
In this article, we will cover some of the most prominent LGBTQ+ POC in music history and the struggles they have faced. Issues of racism, homophobia, HIV, personal trauma to name a few are all too common when discussing these inspirations.
For pride, we owe these people the credit they deserve that is often overlooked. Being part of two minority groups inevitably means these people face challenges that most of us do not.
Their narratives must be documented to aid and encourage acceptance within the wider audiences and solely celebrated for their talents and achievements.
Be sure to stay until the very end so you don’t miss out on any of these icons and their achievements!
Modern terminology can be a little confusing so we’re going to break down the terms and look closely at what does POC LGBTQ+ mean.
What does LGBTQ+ mean? Firstly, we will be using the term ‘queer’ a lot throughout this article. This refers to an umbrella term used to describe all LGBTQ+ people. Due to a derogatory past, the term is subject to controversy but has become a widely accepted term in recent years.
LGBTQ+ is an abbreviation of the full acronym that includes all queer people. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer making up the commonly used term with the + for inclusion of any other sexualities or gender identities.
POC stands for people of color. This excludes only white people and includes any person of color no matter of ethnic background.
Therefore, LGBTQ+ POC represents any queer person of color!
We’re so excited to present to you our top 10 inspirational LGBTQ+ people of color, so let’s get stuck in!
Franki Knuckles is a true musical legend. Labeled the father of house music, he firmly lands himself on this list. Frankie Knuckles was a gay man living in Chicago in the 1980s and practically invented house music.
He originally played disco from the 70s. However, he was deeply involved with the development of Chicago house, the root of all house music sub-genres.
In 1977, legend Larry Levan recommended Frankie as a DJ and landed him a residency at the renowned Chicago club The Warehouse. This followed with Frankie opening his own club, The Power Plant which allowed his talents to flourish evermore.
Songs like ‘Your love’ and ‘the Whistle Song’ are still much loved house tracks today and have become anthems in dance music.
Frankie Knuckles is a legend and still a hero to many house fans. Sadly, Frankie is with us no more following his sudden passing in 2014 at the age of 59.
This is truly an artist that may be gone, but will never be forgotten. We love and owe so much to you Frankie Knuckles! Rest in peace.
This Haitian-Canadian record producer brings us a revolutionary meld of different genres like electronic dance music, R&B, and hip-hop. The likes of Madonna, Mary J. Blige, and Kendrick Lamar have recognised his beautifully unique music.
As a hip-hop artist coming out as gay Kaytranada said how he was over bring closeted: “I felt like there were two people inside of me. I was trying to be someone I was not, and I am frustrated that people didn’t know who I was”.
He has been widely celebrated for his decision to open up but was also a cause for concern for the artist. He wanted people to enjoy his music for what it is. Additionally, Kaytranda didn’t want to be placed in a box and his sexuality make him commercial to only a queer audience.
His albums like ‘9.99%’ and ‘bubba’ gained extreme traction winning awards such as the Juno breakthrough artist of the year award and the Grammy’s best dance recording award.
Through his talents, Kakytranda turned himself from an under the raider producer to a sought-after star! He has become a largely recognised LGBT POC.
The mother of blues herself! Ma Rainey is another undeniably iconic musical figure. Officially her sexuality is up for debate but to those who look closely all the clues are there.
Ma sang very suggestive lyrics which most people recognised as her expressing herself as bisexual. Oh, and police arrested her for holding a queer orgy! So from that, we’re pretty confident in saying Ma Rainey was part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Ma Rainey during her travels ended up getting signed by Paramount, a furniture company at the time that was delving into recordings. This led to Rainey releasing the first-ever blues track followed by hundreds more between 1923 and 1928.
Furthermore, Ma Rainey went to work with the likes of Louis Armstong and Thomas Dorsey and inspiring musicians like Janis Joplin! One famous line from Rainey is still thought of very fondly between queer people, “Went out last night with a crowd of my friends. They must’ve been women, ‘cause I don’t like no men.”
Ma Rainey’s achievements have been celebrated many times being inducted to the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and even being featured on a US stamp!
‘You Make me Feel’ and ‘Do Ya Wanna Funk’ are still favorites of many today. Sylvester is a disco icon and fondly remembered 30 years after his death following AIDS-related complications.
He started his early career as a drag queen, Sylvester was a genderqueer femme black man when genderqueer wasn’t a concept. Staying true to his personality and sexuality, he never submitted to the pressures of social norms and he didn’t need to. Sylvester became a star!
Surrounding himself with POC LGBTQ+ folk, Sylvester even became close friends with a group of transgender women early in his career.
Being a queer icon himself and supporting many queer and POC around him, Sylvester is someone who will go down in queer history.
Honey Dijon is an American DJ who broke out into the mainstream scene a few years back. As a trans woman, Honey Dijon was inspired by the early gay black pioneers of dance music and can still be heard in her music today.
Being introduced to dance music in her early teens in the pioneering clubs, Honey has a unique perspective of dance music and experienced its roots for herself which is rare today.
Honey Dijon has become not only a prominent figure within music but a prominent LGBTQ+ people of color within culture. Now entering the world of fashion, she has produced the soundtrack for Louis Vuitton’s men’s show!
Seeing black trans women being celebrated in the media is a heartwarming sight that gives us hope for the future of minority groups.
Mykki Blanco is a queer-rapper that broke through from the scene in New York and has become a celebrated artist. Working with people like Björk and Basement Jaxx, this underground rapper broke through into the limelight.
Queer-rap has started to become mainstream with people like Le1f, Zebra Katz, James Indigo, gaining huge popularity within recent years. All bring their femme black brilliance to all of their creations.
Blanco’s career took a turn for the worse in 2015. Struggling to survive as an artist and dealing with something extremely personal. Blanco found out earlier in their career that she had contracted HIV.
Flooded with self-hate and secrecy she sunk into a dark place. Decided to go public she would be the first rapper to be open about their HIV for over 20 years!
Flooded with support and kind words, Blanco could live secrecy-free and bloom again into the rapper this amazing trans woman is today.
Tracey Chapman, despite many thinking she is a closeted lesbian has never actually disclosed her sexual orientation. Despite many instances suggesting so, we don’t want to assume but Tracey deserves a spot on this list nonetheless.
Tracey has produced some of the most emotionally stirring music of the modern day. With somber lyrics often about personal issues, many LGBTQ+ people of color have taken refuge in her music.
Tracey Chapman has also dedicated her life to social activism. In 2004, she rode in the AIDS/lifecycle event only strengthening her connection with queer people.
Frank Ocean has become one of the most celebrated artists in recent times. He practically reinvented the genre of R&B, and this prominent singer is a beloved POC LGBTQ+ person. ‘Channel Orange’ and ‘Blonde’, platinum-certified albums are some of the most prominent works of music in the 21st century.
After rumors started to circulate about Ocean’s sexuality he opened up about falling in love with a boy in a touching story. Usually staying out of the media’s spotlight, this was a big moment for Frank.
Additionally, as a more recent prominent artist, Frank coming out was not questioned and generally did not alter people’s perceptions of him.
Being widely accepted in a very hetero-dominated world was a huge moment for LGBTQ+ people of color globally.
We could write a whole article on Prince! This gender-blending legend impacted many people’s lives and his loss deeply hit both queer and black communities.
Prince was truly confusing. They fit no categories, no norms, they were their true self and nobody else. One of Prince’s songs includes the lyrics “I’m not a woman, I’m not a man, I am something that you’ll never understand.”
Prince went on to later change their name to a symbol, only further separating them from the societal norms each of us is categories in. The ‘love symbol’ consisted of both male and female gender symbols and proved a huge point of controversy.
This name change was a rebellion against the label Warner Bros for their strict and limiting schedule. Becoming a technical nightmare for record labels, interviews, any media coverage, their popularity began to decrease.
However, Prince’s revolutionary gender mashing and never succumbing to social pressures make them a queer legend.
A more recent addition to this list but Lil Nas X has become an LGBT POC icon! The combination of rap and country music is a strange concept that Lil Nas executed with perfection.
As a black person singing country and a gay person rapping, he is already inspirational! Fighting homophobia within rap and racism within the country, Lil Nas has had to fight against oppression to become the success he is today.
If you haven’t seen Lil Nas X’s ‘Montero’ music video yet you must be living under a rock! Pole dancing down to hell in thigh high heels wearing a wig, ICONIC! Lil Nas X did not just slay the devil in Montero, he slayed us all!
Lil Nas has received multiple awards for his musical achievements including two Grammy’s and the MTV Video Music Awards for best video both for ‘Old Town Road’.
There is no shortage of inspirational LGBTQ+ POC. Having fought through the blockaids of homophobia and racism already makes these artists an inspiration despite their musical achievements.
For LGBTQ+ people of color, there is very little representation in the media. Both the issue of race and sexuality are still relatively raw and touchy subjects.
With positive representation of LGBTQ+ or POC lacking, the combination of these two is rare. Femme black boys, black trans women, all LGBTQ+ POC need people who represent them to be seen and celebrated.
We need a bigger push for both POC to be celebrated in the LGBTQ+ community and LGBTQ+ people to be celebrated within POC communities. Recent changes have been made to encourage this inclusion with a LGBTQ+ POC flat with additional black and brown colours to represent racial diversity.
As we celebrate pride we give credit for the challenges LGBTQ+ POC people face every day. If you do not support queer people of colour you are neither an Allie to either community, period.
To show your support during this celebratory period, donate to LGBTQ+ POC organizations, buy music from queer black artists, support trans POC. This community of people are fighting against all the odds and need all the help and support they can get. So fly you LGBTQ+ POC flag high!
Is there anyone we missed? Let us know in the comment section below. Also, if you enjoyed this article, be sure to share it on your social media. Tag us @musicgateway!
We hope you enjoyed this article and have been inspired by these artists who laugh in the face of social norms. If you did, why not check out another on our blog? Here are articles on 10 Of Our Favourite LGBTQ+ Artists, Best Gay Album Covers and the Best Pop Songs Of All Time to get you started!
Also, be sure to check out our Music Gay-Way playlist on Spotify for some of the top LGBTQ+ tunes!
If you haven’t yet got your Pride playlist sorted yet, then you’re in luck – you can take this one! Let our playlist be your soundtrack for June. Enjoy!