The Queer Frontier: Opening the Closet on Queer Women in Music
Written by Lily Moon on 18 May 2018
The LGBT community over the last 30 years has been well represented by men in music. Legends such as Freddy Mercury, George Michael, and Elton John paved the way for future queer artists to express their sexuality openly. But what about the women? The LGBT community hail artists such as Madonna, and Cher as gay icons due to their flamboyancy and activism for gay rights, but were not queer themselves. Queer female representation in music today is more visible than ever, with artists such as Halsey and Angel Haze openly discussing bisexuality and pansexuality, gay artist Hayley Kiyoko releasing music about female/female relationships and desire, superstar Demi Lovato opening up about her sexuality, and THAT performance with Kehlani, you know the one (and if you don’t, here is a link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=httj6rBAiIM). Women within the LGBTQ+ community are being represented more than ever, so when did it all start and why did it change? I look back at some personal key moments
t.a.T.u – All the Things She Said
Even though I was still young, and understanding my identity and sexuality, I will always remember t.a.T.u being my first experience of queer culture. The Russian duo dominated the early 2000’s with their song All the Things She Said which was accompanied by a music video depicting the duo as a lesbian couple segregated from society, a political and social statement concerning widespread homophobia. It was something that shocked the majority of people, the song and video was being played everywhere, on every music platform, and in my opinion opened the door for commercialised music about sexual expression for queer women.
Katy Perry – I Kissed a Girl
It’s been over 10 years since Katy Perry released the controversial song I Kissed a Girl, a anthem that stuck in everyones heads. Although the song was a huge breakthrough in terms of bringing female sexuality into the limelight, there are skeptics within the LGBTQ+ community perceiving the lyrics to be offensive to gay culture, devaluing bisexuality, and providing disingenuous justifications for a woman kissing another woman. During the 10th anniversary of the song Perry spoke to Glamour magazine addressing the controversial lyrics “We’ve really changed, conversationally, in the past 10 years. We’ve come a long way. Bisexuality wasn’t as talked about back then, or any type of fluidity… If I had to write that song again, I probably would make an edit on it. Lyrically, it has a couple of stereotypes in it. Your mind changes so much in 10 years, and you grow so much. What’s true for you can evolve.”
Angel Haze rewrites Macklemore’s Same Love
During her 2013 #30GOLD freestyle series, Angel Haze rewrote Macklemore’s hit Same Love, a lyrical call for an understanding of LGBTQ+ rights and culture in which Haze uses her personal experiences staring from her childhood.
“At age 13, my mother knew I wasn’t straight / She didn’t understand but she had so much to say / She sat me on the couch, looked me straight in my face / And said ‘You’ll burn in hell, or probably die of AIDS.”
As a pansexual, Haze tells the very vivid and reals story of what it is like for some people to come out. Whilst this version of the song was highly praised by fellow artists and the LGBTQ+ community, there was some within the community like the rapper Le1f who didn’t like the idea of Macklemore (who is straight and originally sang the song) being hailed a voice for the LGBTQ+ community when there are plenty of LGBTQ+ artists are fully capable of speaking up and representing a community.
Hayley Kiyoko- Girls Like Girls
Hayley Kiyoko has become bit of a gay icon among the LGBTQ+ community. It’s been a long time coming but finally queer female sexuality and non binary relationship’s are having its moment within commercial pop. The song Girls like Girls speaks for itself, when speaking to Us Weekly, Kiyoko said “I loved the idea of how all these guys always are stealing other guys’ girls and I was like, ‘There’s no female anthem for a girl stealing another guy’s girl.” The music video for the song currently has 90 million+ plays on YouTube since its 2015 debut, sending a powerful message to wide audiences, especially a demographic of young adults; those who are struggling with sexual identity and self-acceptance.
“I really wanted to create a video that kind of gave that a platform and gave girls some representation in a positive way during a time like that when you’re just so fragile and innocent in that self-discovery moment.” – Hayley Kiyoko for Us Weekl
Syd’s debut album, Fin
Syd’s Fin album was a win in terms of acceptance of queer music in the music industry, especially urban music. Never before had hip-hop felt like a place for LGBTQ+ artists and fans, and suddenly with the release of former OFGWKTA member Syd’s album, it felt as though they were visible, and that at last they might be accepted. This album proved that a urban female artist can make songs and videos surrounding sexuality and feelings for female’s such as the song “Girl” and find a space in a saturated marketplace, is a real positive step in acceptance creating more opportunities for queer women of colour to flourish within the industry.
With all the progression we have made in commercial popular music genres, could we now look back on I Kissed a Girl and view it as a bygone era for monetising and fetishising queer culture? I personally would like to think so. There are more queer female role models than ever representing the community, I think the understanding, acceptance, and visibility of LGBTQ+ culture will become widespread through the real experiences of those who represent the community on a global scale.