Despite gifting the world of music some of its biggest icons, ranging from Bowie to Freddie Mercury to Dusty Springfield to Frank Ocean, it can often feel as though that queer musicians still face an impenetrable rainbow ceiling to break; none more so than transgender and non-binary artists. Nevertheless, these extraordinary creatives still strive to make music that both hones in on their personal struggles and experiences and transgress social norms in order to make their voices heard. In celebration of Transgender Awareness Week, we have complied of the top 12 trans/non-binary musicians you need to know.
This rapper and performance artist has not only made a mark on pop music with her fast and ferocious flow, but also by becoming the first living rapper to openly acknowledge being HIV-positive when she revealed her status on her Facebook page in 2011. In addition to her courageous HIV activism, Blanco also draws public attention to the struggles of queer life by raising awareness of her experiences of being refused service by a shop assistant due to her transgender identity and suffering transphobic abuse from a fellow passenger by simply travelling on a Delta Airlines flight. Regardless of her misfortunes, her music and performance style are committed to making waves and pushing boundaries.
Although at a very early stage in her music career, German pop princess Kim Petras looks set for world domination through a strategy of glamour, stilettos and copious amounts of pink. She has been the focus of much media attention since the age of 13, shedding light on issues of gender dysphoria in childhood and early adolescents and paving the way for serious discussions on laws surrounding sex reassignment surgery. Nowadays however, Petras can be seen fronting sickly-sweet slices of bubblegum pop and worshipping Paris Hilton.
Queen Zee and The Sasstones
These rowdy DIY-punks, headed by the boisterous trans rebel Queen Zee, fuse together elements from genres as oppositional as hard-core and pop to make noisy, angry yet unforgettable sound. Brazen, brash and oozing with flair, when the band aren’t penning outsider anthems or staring in outrageously gaudy videos, they can be seen tearing up the stage through ferocious sets after relentlessly gigging throughout the latter half of this year. On being a trans artist in the music industry, Queen Zee has said, “we roll up, we’ve got a transgender-fronted, hardcore band and people go ,’What the fuck?! How do we sell this?!!’ But on the other hand, we do have people who want to sell it and use that as our unique selling point. That can become problematic as I don’t want to be used as a novelty. I see myself as a transgender person in a band. It’s not a transgender band.
Storming the industry like a much-needed breath of fresh air, the Brisbane-native’s slick rhymes, super sass and saucy lyrics have helped the rapper establish her place one of 2017’s hottest new talents. This aside, she is not afraid to use her platform to fight for change as she proudly brings attention to issues affecting both the transgender community and women of colour. With her first headline tour just announced fresh of the heels of her lauded EP, Diaries of a Thotaholic, expect big things to come from this full-frontal up-and-comer.
Two Steps on the Water
Possessing a sound almost too innovative to pin down with words, the self-described “emotion punk/heavy folk” trio disarm the senses with their intimate and revealing lyrical content. Conjuring up a mixture of longing, discontent and hope, it would be difficult to find better music to brood to. The band’s singer and guitarist, June Jones, even bravely (and successfully) raised enough money through an online crowd-funding campaign to under facial feminisation surgery, which put into perspective the hardships of body image and self-esteem that affect many trans and non-binary individuals.
Hailing from Detroit, the agender rap goddess burst onto the scene in 2012 with the release of her free mixtape Reservation to widespread critical acclaim while dealing with issues of homophobia, racism and rape culture in her lyrics. This led to a Sia collaboration, 3rd place in BBC’s Sound of 2013 and an immortal place in the hall of fame of queer hip-hop. On her gender, the MC has said, “When I hear people use the word ‘her’ around me I’m like, Who are they talking about, you know? I just have felt this about myself for so long.”
As a NYC-based jazz-pop artist who is documenting her gender transition through her music, you probably don’t have many artists like Ms. White on your playlist. Armed with a catalogue of finger-clicking-good tunes, if Ms. White’s smooth and suave delivery doesn’t win you round, her sharp wit certainly will. Her most recent track, ‘Fuck Men’, is a playful and light-hearted number that still pack enough of a punch to make a strong statement.
“If you had to wear my shoes, you would probably take them off too,” purrs singer-songwriter Shea Diamond in the opening of her rousing trans anthem ‘I am her’. Unashamed, unabashed and unbothered, her huge vocal power rises above the dirty guitar riffs and pulsing drums to deliver a message of unity, love and pride – A true star on the rise.