This list will introduce you to twenty essential transgender musicians, singers, and producers you should know.
Although a number of transgender artists have seen huge success in recent years, some of the most influential transgender artists have been around for a long time. Many of the artists included in this list were born multiple decades ago, and exhibited great bravery in exhibiting their transgender identity before the world was ready to receive it.
Let’s dive in and learn about these iconic transgender musicians.
20. Laith Ashley
In June 2018, Laith Ashley performed his single ‘Can’t Wait,’ alongside other tracks, at the Pride parade in Los Angeles. He performed alongside other mainstream acts including fellow trans community member Kim Petras. He has appeared in Taylor Swift’s video for ‘Lavender Haze’ as well as starring in his own.
Coming from a religious background – his father a Catholic and his mother a Christian – Ashley was tentative about coming out. Initially declaring himself homosexual, he later came out as a transgender man and began transitioning in 2014. He now uses his platform to campaign for transgender issues.
19. Skylar Kergil
Documenting her transition from female to male on YouTube, Skylar Kergil has been a keen singer-songwriter for many years weaving his activism throughout his performances. Kergil has dabbled in punk with his first band Degenerexix, as well as experimenting with a more folky sound.
Having performed at multiple open mic nights and more intimate concerts, the singer-songwriter has been spurred on to create music and art but his passion for activism within the trans community.
18. Teddy Geiger
In 2006, American singer-songwriter Teddy Geiger’s album Underage Thinking peaked at No, 8 on the US Billboard 200 album chart. The album spawned two singles ‘For You I Will (Confidence)’ and ‘These Walls.’ She later went on to record the album LillyAnna which received critical acclaim from Billboard, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times.
Claiming to “know she was female at 5 years old,” Geiger came out in 2017, the same year she was working with Shawm Mendes on his album Illuminate. The artist has expressed that she had little connection to the trans world as a youth but didn’t delay in embracing it and realising “nobody cares if I was femme.”
17. Baby Dee
Baby Dee began her musical career as a street performer which she returned to after beginning her transition into becoming a woman. After a couple of lacklustre album releases, Dee teamed up with Will Oldham and Matt Sweeny who produced her thirst studio album Safe Inside the Day which kickstarted her success.
The album displayed Dee’s eccentric personality and gained significantly more attention than its predecessors. She went on to record three more albums throughout the 2010s, each experimenting with new sounds and free-form styles.
16. Our Lady J
Although best known as a screenwriter and director – she has worked on shows like Pose and American Horror Story – Our Lady J is also a prolific musician. After freelancing as a collaborative pianist, she musician performed at Carnegie Hall, being the first transgender woman to do so.
Our Lady J grew up in an Amish community and come out in 2004. Throughout her career, multiple celebrities have been endeared to her and her story, such as Dolly Parton, and Our Lady J has been an active force in the transgender community, speaking out against those who have, to use a polite term, mis-stepped.
15. Cidny Bullens
Cidny Bullens had an impressive career in the 70s, serving backup vocals on tours and albums with Rod Stewart and Elton John, and providing vocals on the Grease soundtrack. He also released his own music during the 1970s and most recently in 2020. His 2020 album Walkin’ Through This World is his first release as Cidny Bullens – formerly Cindy Bullens.
Cidny Bullens came out as a transgender man in 2012 after his monumentally successful music career. His work since has loosely featured themes around his transition and has also debuted a “one wo/man show” entitled Somewhere Between – Not an Ordinary Life.
14. Against Me!
Against Me! Is an American punk rock band whose career lasted over twenty years before announcing a hiatus in 2020. Formed by singer and guitarist Laura Jane Grace, the group has won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Music Artist in 2015.
Grace came out as a transgender woman in 2012 and, after a complicated couple of years, released Transgender Dysphoria Blues. After suffering from gender dysphoria throughout her childhood, the frontwoman wanted the album to express her experiences as a trans woman and the social repercussions of being one.
13. Honey Dijon
Honey Dijon, also known as Honey Redmond, grew up in Chicago in a music-orientated family. After frequenting clubs in her teens, Redmond began performing as a DJ in the 1990s. Influenced heavily by Chicago’s house scene, the DJ moved to New York and began performing in the city’s underground club circuit.
Redmond has been a keen advocate for trans rights throughout her career as she is a member of the community herself. Being a black trans woman DJ has made her passionate about speaking of her experiences and exhibiting how music has been a crucial way in which she has expressed herself.
12. Nomi Ruiz
Nomi Ruiz began her singing career upon the release of her debut album Lost in Lust through her own independent label. Her most notable work is with the group Jessica 6, an electric pop group formed by Ruiz. The group have released three albums and has received mostly positive reviews from both fans and critics.
Not much is known about Ruiz’s transgender journey and instead has been more outspoken about her experiences as a transgender musician. She has written multiple essays that have expressed her feeling about how toxic masculinity has provided obstacles for her in the industry.
11. Jackie Shane
Jackie Shane is considered a pioneer transgender performer. She is best known for her single ‘Any Other Way’ which was a Top 10 hit and gained national chart success in Canada in 1967. Shane released her first single in 1962 and continued to have a successful music career throughout the 1960s.
In her performances, the singer would often wear long hair, make-up, and jewellery, defying the favoured straight-edge appearance in Tennessee. Her ambiguous appearance and question-dodging tendencies earned her the label of drag queen and it wasn’t until 2017 that her identity as a trans woman was confirmed.
10. Rae Spoon
Rae Spoon wanted to become a songwriter at the age of 17. Focusing on country music, they recorded with a variety of instruments such as the banjo and mandolin. Their breakthrough album Superioryouareinferior dabbled in electronic sounds and was nominated for a Polaris Music Prize in 2009. In the 2000s, Spoon founded the record label Coax Records as “an answer to underrepresentation for many groups in the music industry.”
Spoon initially identifies as a transgender man despite an anxious childhood caused by their father’s religious beliefs. Now, the artist prefers the pronouns they/them and has claimed to feel rejuvenated upon making the decision.
9. Ezra Furman
Ezra Furman is best known for providing the soundtrack for the Netflix series Sex Education which deals with a spectrum of sex and gender issues. She has released multiple albums including Day of the Dog, Perpetual Motion People, and Transangelic Exodus. Furman was also the lead singer and guitarist of Ezra Furman and the Harpoons with whom she released four albums.
Furman has come out as bisexual and uses both she/her and they/them pronouns. It wasn’t until the April of 2021 that the American singer-songwriter came out as a transgender woman.
8. Shea Diamond
Heavily inspired by Whitney Houston and Tina Turner, Shea Diamond, born ShaGasyla Diamond, is an American singer, songwriter, and transgender rights activist. Her song ‘I Am America’ provides the theme song for HBO’s series We’re Here. She was also nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Music Artist in 2019.
According to Diamond herself, she has always identified as a girl and used to behave in ways people around her disapproved of. The singer found her voice behind bars and began her career in activism after her release. Through her talent, Diamond transcends labels and genres alike.
7. Wendy Carlos
Born in Rhode Island, Wendy Carlos is and musician and composer known internationally for her film scores and electronic music. The artist came to prominence with Switched-On Bach, an album consisting of pieces by Bach performed on a Moog synthesizer. The album popularised the synth and earned Carlos three Grammy Awards, making her the first transgender recipient of the accolade.
Carlos experiences gender dysphoria at a young age, claiming to prefer long hair and girls’ clothes. In 1968, Carlos began hormone replacement treatments and finally underwent sex reassignment surgery in 1972. It wasn’t until 1978 that she disclosed her transgender status.
6. Ryan Cassata
Born in 1993, Ryan Cassata is the first openly transgender musician to perform at Warped Tour in both 2013 and 2015. His track ‘Soda Cans’ has come to be considered a trans anthem.
Alongside his music career, Cassata has also been documenting his experience as a transgender man on his YouTube channel. He has presented at multiple schools and conferences on topics such as coming out and Gender Identity Disorder. At just 29 years old, he has delivered speeches at over fifteen universities including Harvard.
5. Lucas Silveira
Lucas Silveira founded the rock band The Cliks in 2004 and has released four albums with the group. His music has appeared on the L Word soundtrack, he has toured with Cyndi Lauper, and has worked with The Weeknd. The artist has also appeared on various TV shows including The Late Late Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Silveira, as a child, always knew he was a boy and came out in 2004 as a transgender man. Despite this, he doesn’t think of himself as trans by identity claiming it feels more political than personal. The singer-songwriter is credited as being the first transgender man to sign with a major record label, writing about LGBTQ issues in his music.
Harisu has enjoyed a successful career as both a pop singer and actor. Born in 1975, the artist released her debut album Temptation in 2001, entering the K-pop music scene, which peaked at No. 32 on the Music Industry Association of Korea K-pop albums chart. She was nominated in both 2001 and 2002 at the Mnet Asian Music Awards for Best New Female Artist and Best Dance Performance respectively.
Although assigned male at birth, Harisu always knew she was a female. By the time she left school, she was undergoing hormone replacement therapy and later underwent many cosmetic surgeries to appear more feminine. She is the Republic of Korea’s second transgender entertainer.
Born in 1971, Anohni began her musical career performing with an ensemble of musicians in New York. Part of the band Antony and the Johnsons, she released two studio albums, the second earner her the Mercury Music Prize. Her solo album Hopelessness won her a Brit Award and was received with critical acclaim.
In 2016, Anohi was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song for ‘Manta Ray’ in the film Racing Extinction. Through this, she became the first openly transgender person nominated for the award. Anohni uses the pronouns she/her and feels it’s important to honour a person’s choice of pronouns.
2. Kim Petras
Kim Petras began releasing music under Joyce Records through which she released a string of singles. In 2007, Petras released ‘I Don’t Want It at All’ causing a snowball effect of success most notably being picked by Spotify as one of four RISE artists.
Petras has won a Grammy Award, an iHeart Radio Music Award, an MTV Europe Music Award and a Queerty Award for her collaboration with Sam Smith on ‘Unholy.’ ‘Unholy’ topped the charts making Petras the first openly transgender solo artist to reach No. 1 in the United States and the first to receive a Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.
Known for pioneering the hyperpop microgenre, acclaimed producer Sophie Xeon – better known as SOPHIE – had a bold and experimental take on pop music. After initially gaining attention for her music on SoundCloud, she began collaborating with artists such as Charlie XCX, working on music for XCX’s upcoming studio album. She also worked with Madonna on her track ‘Bitch, I’m Madonna.’
An elusive figure, not much was known about Sophie’s personal life until October 2017 when her voice and image were used in a solo release. Seen by many as a coming-out video, she confirmed her trans identity later on and called music her method of communication.
Header image: Honey Dijon
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