Queer culture has always been centered around music, LGBTQ+ bands are of course no exception. Pride is time to recognize the achievements of LGBTQ musicians and gay bands as well as the struggles they face whilst expressing themselves to the world.
Marsha P. Johnson, a bisexual transgender woman of colour threw the first brick that sparked the LGBTQ+ liberation movement. In New York 1970, one year after the Stonewall riots the first pride parade. Since then, countless people have celebrated pride around the world with 5 million attending New York pride in 2019, the 50 year anniversary of Stonewall.
Pride is not only a time for LGBTQ+ folk to celebrate and feel safe, but showcase the underrepresented work and talent of LGBTQ+ people from around the world. LGBTQ+ influence in music is undeniable, but something that is often overlooked. It is our responsibility to give these people the credit they deserve and recognise the impact on music they have had.
As part of Pride, we wanted to share with you a few of the most influential LGBTQ+ bands in history. Heavy metal fashion, coming out as transgender, iconic music videos, the AIDS pandemic.
In this article, we will cover the life, work and achievements of bands and band members who have influenced music culture and what it has become today.
Be sure to stay until the very end so you don’t miss out on some great artists!
So with that being said, let’s jump into our number 10 spot!
Limp Wrist is an American punk rock band that has massively influenced the ‘queercore’ punk subculture. Reclaiming the derogatory term ‘limp wrist’, they became an iconic gay rock band with equally as iconic LGBTQ musicians.
In 1998 Los Crudos vocalist Martin Sorrondeguy, a 22-year political punk band veteran founded Limp Wrist in a basement.
Their influence on queercore is undeniable; “we put the ‘core’ back into queercore” to quote the band themselves. With song titles like “I Love Hardcore Boys, I Love Boys Hardcore”, we can see why.
Taking a political stance, their songs often covers issues concerning the gay community like their song ‘Want Us Dead’, referring to the treatment of gay people in society.
Limp Wrist is still a popular name today with a pre-order sell-out of their latest album, ‘Facades’ in 2017. Founder, Martin Sorrondeguy has also recently published a 400 photo book capturing the punk scene over 25 years. An extensive and unique historical documentation of punk.
Laura Jane Grace’s came out as trans in 2012. Her experience as a trans woman and with gender dysmorphia is documented in the band’s sixth studio album, Transgender Dysmorphia Blues. Outside of her influences within punk, she became an icon for transgender people.
Songs like ‘True Trans Soul Rebel’ and ‘Baby, I’m An Anarchist!’ are still deeply valued as transgender rock anthems. Laura Jane Grace is an LGBTQ musician who will be helpful in the hearts of many queer folks.
With a few losses and gains in members, Against Me! are still alive and kicking today with 2019 seeing their most recent tour.
Legendary Birmingham-born rock band, Judas Priest is one of the most successful metal bands in history. They have received multiple Grammy nominations and won the Music Guru award in 2005. The band has also appeared in an episode of the Simpsons!
With lead singer Rob Halford publicly coming out as gay in 1998, Judas Priest became a beacon for queer rock lovers. Despite this, Judas Priest never became recognized as a gay rock band due to their mainstream status.
Rob Halford’s influence of fashion within heavy metal is perhaps understated. Judas Priest is known for sparking the trend of adding leather and chains into the wardrobes of rock artists and fans worldwide. But where did Judas Priest find its influences? Gay clubs and Vogue of course!
Rob Halford, closeted at the time, was inspired by the leather and chains of kink clothing and underground fashion that he found in gay clubs and British Vogue. This influence has ultimately led to what rock fashion is today!
A lesser-known influential gay band, Nervous Gender is an American electronic punk rock band. Credited for originating ‘electropunk’ and becoming inspirations to the founders of queercore, Nervous Gender has hugely influenced the music scene.
But with these achievements, it’s hard to understand their failure in rising to commercial fame. Their relaxed use of harsh erotica and provoking the audience meant this gender-bending trio was shunned by the wider audience.
Formed in 1978 by Michael Ochoa and the late Gerardo Velasquez, they released their first album ‘Music From Hell’ in 1981. They started their live career playing for iconic drag queen Divine furthering their queer influence.
Divine ended up opening for Nervous Gender instead of the other way round, only reaffirming their status as prominent LGBTQ musicians.
Tribe 8, who are sadly no more, are considered as one of the first queercore bands with some of punks most influential LGBTQ musicians. Taking their name from tribade, a homosexual sexual practice, you don’t get queerer than this!
With lyrics delving into themes such as nudity, transgender issues, and even sadomasochism, queer sexual expression and LGBTQ+ issues became a popular, but controversial focus of Tribe 8.
With such influential but controversial careers, a documentary about the band’s neofeminist lives, ‘rise above’ received the best documentary at the 2003 San Francisco LGBT Film Festival.
Founder, transgender man Lynn Breedlove went on to dedicate himself to LGBTQ+ charity work and being commended in San Francisco during Transgender Awareness Week.
However, publicly speaking about BDSM and femme butch culture, Lynn was controversial even outside of music and is still considered contentious by many feminists.
Needing no introduction, the B-52s have been favorites of the queer community for a long time. With song titles such as ‘Hot Pants Explosions’, and ‘Quiche Lorraine’ the campness of the band speaks for itself.
From Ru Paul featuring in the music video of ‘Love Shack’ to losing member Ricky Wilson to HIV, the B-52s have been centered around LGBTQ+ culture. With 4 out of 5 of the original members identifying as LGBTQ+, it’s safe to say the B-52s were a gay band despite that not being their goal.
Describing themselves as the “tacky little dance band from Athens”, they rose to fame during a time of a hetero male-dominated punk scene.
Being nominated for multiple Grammys and winning the 1990 VMA’s best group video for ‘Love Shak’, the B-52s have rightfully stated their claim as musical stars.
Playing last at a concert in February last year, the B-52s have successfully held a 45-year career. With 4 out of 5 of the original members identifying as LGBTQ+, the B-52s are queer icons that have dominated the mainstream.
Twin sister duo, Tegan and Sarah are an Indie pop band from Canada. Formed in 1995 this openly gay duo has racked up achievements within and outside the music industry.
These two multi-instrumentalists released their most recent album in 2019, ‘Hey, I’m Just Like You’. During the production of their high school memories, they found cassette tapes of pop music songs they had made between the ages of 15 and 17.
These songs from their teens have become the main influence of their most recent album retaining the ‘essence’ of their early sounds.
2016 saw the two set up the Tegan and Sara foundation fighting for “economic justice and representation for LGBTQ+ girls and women ”.
Together as LGBTQ musicians, they use their platform to spread awareness and create a positive change.
Pansy Division formed in 1991 by singer-songwriter Jon Ginoli and bassist Chris Freeman. Delving into a mix of pop-punk and power pop, they became recognized as the first openly gay rock band!
Later becoming the most commercially successful queercore band in history touring with the likes of Greenday.
Involved in a scene where LGBTQ+ people are underrepresented, Pansy Division wanted to fill the niche; “we thought that should be in existence, so we did it ourselves” – Chris Freeman, Founding member.
In 2019 they released their eighth and most recent studio album ‘singles and such’ following multiple releases since 2010 and their more referenced, ‘That’s So Gay’ in 2009. The singles and such album contains songs like ‘F**k Buddy’ and ‘Bill and Ted’s Homosexual Adventure’ staying with the gay music bands theme.
A more recent band to make its way into our favorites is this political punk group, Aye Nako. Bringing a modern sound to punk music, this Brooklyn based quadruple uses music to send a message of community-oriented and queer-friendly ideology.
This gay band that describes themselves as ‘weirdos’ produces “sad punk” about being black, queer, and trans.
Leader singer Mars Dixon, a transgender man has spoken multiple times about how black and trans are not typical of rock music.
Rising above the white, cisnormative, Aye Nako is bringing diversion into the scene whilst spreading their political message through music.
Jayne Country was an American rocker who formed the band Wayne Country And The Electric Chairs upon moving to London in 1977. The band later changed its name to Jayne Country And the Electric Chairs due to the lead singer being transgender.
Known as one of the first waves of gay punk bands in the 70s, Wayne And The Electric Chairs became a well-known name in the music world working closely with the likes of the Backstreet Boys.
Known as the first transgender person within rock, Jayne Country became an inspiration to transgender punk lovers.
Inspired by the likes of David Bowie and Pete Burns, the queer influence of Jayne Country’s music is clear. Jayne released The Safari Years Jayne Country And The Electric Chairs album in 2020.
People still listen to and love their music today over 40 years since they formed. Jayne has also gone on to work on maybe films involved in LGBTQ+ narratives.
The influence of LGBTQ+ people in culture is undeniable, music being the most prominent. There are little genres that don’t have some queer influence along the way.
From coming out as trans to singing about porn, LGBTQ+ bands have always been a controversial topic of discussion.
These LGBTQ musicians use their voices and platform to speak up about issues the LGBTQ+ community face. They read between the lines of aggressive sexuality, oppression and shokery. From LGBTQ metal bands to LGBTQ+ indie bands, they each hold the desire to be accepted and treated equally.
Queer folk have seemingly impacted punk more so than other genres. The controversy and aggression of punk draws in people who don’t ‘fit in’ with society. The music itself is a protest against the norm and allows an expression of solidarity with all those who aren’t conventionally ‘normal’.
During pride month it’s so important to share the work and talent of underrepresented LGBTQ+ folk. Often LGBTQ+ musicians’ queerness is left out of the mainstream publicity or their queerness stops them from becoming mainstream.
Their sexuality is often ‘forgiven’ because of the talent they have to offer, it is time to celebrate every inch of these artists for who they really are.
Do you agree with our list? Is there anything we missed? Let us know in the comment section below. Also, be sure to share the love and repost this article on your socials to celebrate pride month! Don’t forget to give us a tag @musicgateway!
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!