This list will introduce you to some of the transgender musicians, singers, and producers who have helped pave the way for trans artists today.
Although a number of trans artists have seen huge success in recent years, some of the most influential artists on the scene have been around for a long time.
Many of the artists included in this list were born decades ago, and showed great bravery in exhibiting their transgender identity before the world was ready to receive it.
Let’s dive in and learn about some of the iconic transgender musicians who forged the path for our generation.
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 he has also debuted a “one wo/man show” entitled Somewhere Between – Not an Ordinary Life.
Viewing himself as a trans “elder,” Cidny is vocal about trans issues today, stating in a recent interview, “We’re holding on by a thread to any kind of civility in this country. Trans people are now the center of misunderstanding at this moment.”
Laura Jane Grace
Laura Jane Grace is known as the lead singer of the punk band, Against Me!, and the most notable example of a transgender punk rock artist.
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.
Grace has discussed her story in detail, including the details of her surgery.
“The cliché is that you’re a woman trapped in a man’s body, but it’s not that simple,” she said in one interview. “It’s a feeling of detachment from your body and from yourself. And it’s s****y, man. It’s really f*****g s****y.”
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, Shane 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.
In an interview with the Guardian, Shane explained that she always knew she was a woman, although others didn’t identify her that way.
“At five years old, I would dress in a dress, hat, purse and high heels and go up and down the block – and enjoy it,” she said.
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.’ Geiger 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, realising “nobody cares if I was femme.”
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 90s.
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 how music has been crucial for her self-expression.
“When I talk about all of the things that I’ve gone through as a trans person, and as a queer person, and as an underground DJ, to be able to occupy these spaces with these artists, it’s still mind-blowing for me,” she said in an interview with the New York Times.
“And I’ve gotten to do it through my love of house music.”
Ezra Furman is perhaps best known for providing the soundtrack for the Netflix series Sex Education. The series famously deals, in a sophisticated and sensitive manner, with a spectrum of sex and gender issues.
Furman has released multiple albums including Day of the Dog, Perpetual Motion People, and Transangelic Exodus. She was the lead singer and guitarist of Ezra Furman and the Harpoons with whom she released four albums.
Furman is bisexual and uses both she/her and they/them pronouns. In April 2021, she came out as a transgender woman.
“I’m a trans woman and a mom. This is possible,” she famously proclaimed in an interview with Rolling Stone.
Inspired by the likes of 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, she has always identified as a girl. In one interview, she recalled the way people responded to her femme behaviour as a child.
“I got whoopings for walking like a girl, for using the restroom sitting down like a girl,” she explained in the interview. “Even singing when I was little, I remember being corrected: ‘Put some bass in your voice.’ It was like robbing me of the only joy I had in this world.”
The singer rediscovered her voice behind bars and began her career in activism after her release. Through her talent, Diamond transcends labels and genres alike.
Wendy Carlos is and musician and film score 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 experienced 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.
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 earning 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.
In an interview, Anohi stated, “My closest friends and family use feminine pronouns for me.”
“To call a person by their chosen gender is to honour their spirit, their life and contribution,” she continued. “‘He’ is an invisible pronoun for me; it negates me.”
In 2007, Petras released ‘I Don’t Want It at All’ causing a snowball effect of success. Notably, she was 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.’
It was back in 2007 when artist made headlines for being one of the youngest transgender people of her generation. She was sixteen years old when she underwent surgery.
‘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.
Sophie tragically died in 2021, aged 34, as she was climbing her roof to look at a full moon.
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