Transgender musicians are making their voices heard. From punk rock to hip-hop to folk, trans musicians are showcasing their talents across countless genres and making statements while doing so. In 2016, Against Me! singer Laura Jane Graceburned her birth certificate on stage to protest transgender discrimination in North Carolina. Others, such as Shea Diamond, declare their identities while seen proudly dancing around New York. Here are 10 trans musicians that you need to know.
Shea Diamond, both an activist and a singer-songwriter, belts out the bold anthem “I Am Her” with soul and strength. “There’s an outcast in everybody’s life / And I am her,” she sings. According to Diamond, the song began as a statement to a world which said she shouldn’t exist and now stands as an anthem “for all those that felt shunned for simply being who they were.”
Anohni is not afraid of tackling topics often considered controversial. In “Drone Bomb Me,” Anohni sings of a nine-year-old Afghan girl whose family has been killed by a drone bomb. Her latest album, Hopelessness, covers issues from climate change to Guantanamo Bay. “I wanted to do something that was gonna go down fighting,” Anohni told Pitchfork.
3. Skylar Kergil
Skylar Kergil, an American activist, singer-songwriter and YouTube personality, has a folk sound that sends a statement. “Strangers stare and they want to be the first to/ Ask for my life in one word/ But it's not that simple," Kergil sings in "Tell Me A Story."
4. AH MER AH SU
Star Amerasu, a self-professed “poptronic princess,” chronicles her complicated encounters with anti-anxiety medicines known as benzodiazepines (or benzos) in the song “Klonopin.” The light lullaby peeks into the taboo topic of prescription pill use and abuse. “I got problems, you got problems, they got problems, we all got problems / Why don't we just run away, come again another day,” Amerasu sings.
5. Laith Ashley
When Laith Ashley made headlines as one of the first transgender male models to appear in a national campaign, it was only the start. His first single, “Can’t Wait,” has a catchy pop tune. “Come on over girl / Baby, let me love you,” Ashley croons in the chorus.
6. Against Me!
In “Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! tells the tale of gender dysphoria. “You want them to see you / Like they see every other girl,” Grace sings. “They just see a faggot / They'll hold their breath not to catch the sick.”
The punk rock track seeps the pain and frustration that many transgender people feel. Since coming out publicly in 2012, Grace has talked often and openly of her identity. Recently, Grace told SF Weekly that she feels free -- a sensation she never had in the first part of the band’s life.
“Stay/And show them what you're made of,” Shawnee sings in “Warrior Heart.” As a two-spirit person, the Canadian Mohawk songstress is a vocal advocate for indigenous youth. Shawnee is using purchase proceeds from “Warrior Heart” to support the We Matter Campaign in an effort to end aboriginal youth suicide and empower indigenous youth.
Ryan Cassata’s “We’re the Cool Kids” is the tune to listen to when all else feels hopeless. Cassata said that the song is about coming together, battling ignorance “and hopefully beating it.” In the song, Cassata sings, “We're changing things and we're leading this movement/ We're gonna prove it/ That we're the cool kids.”
The season 9 runner-up of RuPaul’s Drag Race tells her truth as a trans woman in “Civil War.” "I'm an army of one, marching alone/ Fighting for my life," she sings, stirring up emotions.
10. The Cliks
Lucas Silveria, known as the front man of The Cliks, was one of the first transgender men to be signed to a major label recording contract. The Cliks released Snakehouse with Warner Music Canada in 2006. After transitioning, Silveria admitted that he needed to take on a new sound. The Motown swing of “Savanna” is something to be swayed by.
11. KC Ortiz
“When I was 17 or 18, I wanted to be the nextLil' Kim,” Chicago-based rapper KC Ortiz told Billboard in an conversation with LCD Soundsystem's Gavin Rayna Russom about President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender military members. The former Air Force personnel released her second album Church Tapes this July.