I remember the moment I first heard Christian Holden, the non-binary singer and bassist of Massachusetts emos The Hotelier, screaming ‘I felt weak in woman’s wear, genderfucked dilated stuck holding a stare’ in the song Life In Drag; the visceral anger behind it, the feeling of being lost and alone in a world that still has yet to accept people like Holden. It’s a song sandwiched between songs about suicide and societal power structures in an album that remains one of my favourite of all time, a hook upon which The Hotelier pinned the personal and the societal in a spellbinding song which flirts with hardcore in a way the band hadn’t before.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Tennessee-based artist Julien Baker’s debut album, Sprained Ankle, grappled with religion and sexuality with a quiet maturity far removed from Holden’s biting rage. Instead, Baker presents the apparent conflict with a melancholy surrounding as two parts of her identity come at loggerheads: her Christianity and her queerness.
The music world is often hostile to LGBTQ musicians, and where it isn’t, it often feels more like marketing as opposed to genuine regard for the musicians. The backlash to the allegations against PWR BTTM involved many lashing out at the LGBTQ community, in a way that was not reflected in the wake of allegations against Brand New and others. It betrayed a hostility to a section of the musical community that is all too apparent.
With Bohemian Rhapsody surrounded in controversy for its portrayal of Freddie Mercury’s sexuality, it is all the more vital that LGBTQ musicians are given open and honest coverage. There is no more open and honest coverage than their own music, so I implore you to give LGBTQ artists a listen. The aforementioned The Hotelier and Julien Baker are great starts, but there are so many more. Queen and Judas Priest hold the classic rock banner, whilst the underground has Worriers and Nervus. And who could ignore the remarkable Against Me, whose frontwoman Laura Jane Grace discussed her gender dysphoria on the remarkable Gender Dysphoria Blues.