It’s October! What does that mean? It’s finally Gay History Month! It’s amazing just how many people have shaped LGBTQAI+ history, even as far back as Alexander The Great in 356-323BC!
Sadly, as much as there have been many notable LGBTQAI+ figures over the centuries, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Virginia Woolf, and Oscar Wilde, we are nowhere near as accepting of queer culture as we should be. There are still so many issues to confront, laws to overturn, and minds to be opened. However, here are a few people in the music industry who have helped move LGBTQAI+ rights forward.
- Elton John – Yellow Brick Road
Elton John has greatly impacted the LGBTQAI+ community through his music and his own journey with his sexuality. Although he was initially married to a woman, Elton John came out as gay and has been with his partner for over 25 years. He’s done a vast amount of charity work, including raising millions for AIDS relief work in Africa.
- Freddy Mercury – Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Initially, in relationships with women, Freddy Mercury explored his sexuality and ultimately embraced his life as a gay man during his time as the frontman for the band Queen. He didn’t do huge amounts of activism during his life, but instead inspired people with his openness to be himself and his hard-hitting lyrics. His death put a spotlight on AIDS and to this day his bandmates donate money to AIDS-related charities.
- George Michael – I Knew You Were Waiting For Me
A highly closeted artist, George Michael came out after being caught in a sensitive position in a public bathroom. His music, support of HIV/AIDS charities, such as the Terrance Higgins Trust, and his general support of LGBTQAI+ causes have helped and inspired many people who have struggled with their sexuality.
- Dusty Springfield – I Only Wanna Be With You
Dusty was a woman who never shied away from doing what was right. From challenging apartheid in Africa by playing to multicultural audiences (for which she was deported) to challenging sexist behaviour from male counterparts, she always used her fame to highlight issues which needed addressing. She had openly admitted to being sexually attracted to women several times during interviews and gave hope to others who felt the same but were suppressed by a closed-minded British society.
- Ricky Martin – I Am Made Of You
Ricky Martin broke onto the pop scene with the hit ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ in 1999 and was immediately marketed as an exotic sex symbol. However, in 2011 he released his autobiography where he stated that he was gay and all of the difficulties he had while being presented as a heterosexual male to his fans. Nowadays, he advocates for LGBTQAI+ rights in the US and Puerto Rico.
- Michael Stipe – No Time For Love Like Now
Michael Stipe has become a household name as the front man for R.E.M. He has never come out as gay, stating in several interviews that he classes himself as a queer artist, as queer to him suggests the grey areas surrounding being gay. He’s in a long-term relationship with a man and has shed light on the treatment of LGBTQAI+ prisoners within the prison system along with Elton John.
- K. D. Lang – Crying
K.D. Lang came out in an interview with Advocate in 1992 against her label’s wishes and has been known since as one of the first openly gay females in pop history. Immediately recognisable for her signature androgynous style, she became an instant icon for lesbians across the world. She’s advocated for LGBT rights and has raised awareness and funds for AIDS research and care.
- Melissa Etheridge – Bring Me Some Water
Ever since coming out in 1993, Melissa Etheridge has been involved in LGBTQAI+ activism for many years. From helping other celebrities to come out, to writing a song in reply to how Russia handles gay rights, she has contributed vastly to the LGBTQAI+ community. Perhaps her biggest contribution – she was involved in coming up with the L Word!
- Petshop Boys – It’s A Sin
During a time when being gay was vilified, The Pet Shop Boys used a clever combination of catchy pop music and lyrics containing prominent LGBTQAI+ messages in order to bring the idea of queer rights to the mainstream. Most recently, their hit song It’s A Sin was used as the theme song for the tv series of the same name, which covered the AIDS crisis back in the 80s/90s.
- Sam Smith – Love Me More
Sam Smith came out as queer in 2014, later identifying as genderqueer and adopting they/them pronouns. They have stated publicly that LGBTQAI+ rights are nowhere near what they should be and have been actively trying to help make them more up-to-date. Sam Smith has dedicated an Oscar to LGBTQAI+ rights and has also released new music challenging the Catholic church’s treatment of queer rights.
- Scissor Sisters – Return To Oz
Scissor Sisters are an American band whose lead singer, Jake Shears, is gay. They have worked to make LGBTQAI+ rights more mainstream and have been involved in several queer-friendly projects. Ana Matronic, one of the band members, has recently made a video for Amnesty International to call for an end to LGBT hate in South Africa.
- Mika – Grace Kelly
Mika has never labelled himself but has stated that he has relationships with both men and women. His songs are full of his own experiences regarding relationships with men and he has openly discussed what it’s like to be a queer artist of colour.