I Will Love the Way I Am

Hayley Kiyoko burst onto the LGBT music scene in June 2015 with the release of her music video ‘Girls Like Girls’. As a previously obscure artist, ‘Girls Like Girls’ was incredibly important for Kiyoko, gaining her a massive LGBT audience. Since then, she has gone on to release several more songs and music videos centring around female same-sex attraction, including Cliff’s Edge, (notably the first of her music videos where she displays her own sexuality), Sleepover and Feelings.

She also takes a main role in her videos production, having directed and starred in all of her videos since ‘Cliff’s Edge’ (with the exception of One Bad Night, which she directed, but doesn’t star in). Kiyoko shows female same-sex attraction in an explicit way often not shown in media: she subverts tropes of men chasing after women in ‘Feelings’, a continuous shot video portraying Kiyoko in the stereotypical masculine role, playing chase with another girl, gauging whether she is interested in her.

Her work has led fans to bestow nicknames upon her including ‘Lesbian Jesus’, highlighting her importance to her fans: primarily young women who also experience attraction to women. Fans of Kiyoko have praised her music for empowering them, and for helping them to accept their sexuality.

 

Similarly, Janelle Monaé made a very recent venture into LGBT music. Her 2018 music video, ‘Make Me Feel’ features Monaé pursuing both a male and female love interest, in a club setting with the bisexual pride flag colours featuring prominently.  Previously, Monaé hinted at same-sex attraction in her 2013 video ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’, but ‘Make Me Feel’ is her first video overtly celebrating bisexuality. It was received extremely well by fans, being dubbed a ‘bisexual anthem’ and accumulating over 11 million views on YouTube in 2 months.

Since the release of ‘Make Me Feel’, Monaé has released a further three music videos, all making strong feminist statements and focusing on relationships between women of colour. Her music empowers women to own their sexuality, and challenges taboos around female sexuality that are still prevalent in society, where derogatory terms are thrown at women who are vocal about their sexuality, while men are often praised for doing the same.

Monaé has been praised by fans and the LGBT community extensively, creating a lot of excitement on social media around her new album. Her music consistently challenges stereotypes and taboos within society and participates in important discussions surrounding race and sexuality in the music industry.

 

Another important voice in LGBT music is singer/songwriter and DJ SOPHIE. SOPHIE pushes the boundaries of music genres and is notorious for her minimal social media presence and limited interviews. While she dislikes the idea of ‘coming out’, SOPHIE has been open about being a transgender woman since the release of ‘It’s Okay to Cry’ in 2017. SOPHIE chose to remain relatively anonymous at the start of her career, only placing her voice and image alongside one another for the first time with the release of ‘It’s Okay to Cry’.

SOPHIE’s music blurs lines between genres, linking to the focus on the fluidity of gender in her music. Like Kiyoko, SOPHIE has been directing her own music videos, as well as starring in them, perhaps unsurprising as she has always been in control of her own image and deciding what to reveal to the public. Her most recent video, ‘Faceshopping’ addresses the implications of our image, considering what it means to have an image, and the importance of it, as well as the role of social media.

As one of very few transgender artists currently on the music scene, SOPHIE’s music is important as it challenges ideas around gender and opens up discussions around gender identity. Her music is praised for being forward-thinking in the way it crosses genre boundaries and questions the idea of authenticity, breaking down binary oppositions.

 

Another favourite of mine is dodie, an artist primarily known due to her YouTube channel doddleoddle. In 2014 she uploaded original song ‘She’ to her channel, a song about being attracted to a girl who doesn’t feel the same way in return. In 2016, she posted a video called “I’m bisexual WOO” where she spoke candidly about her sexuality to her audience, and since then she has been very open about her sexuality and has made more videos on the topic.

dodie’s fanbase is primarily young women, and many of them, too, identify as bisexual, and have thanked dodie for helping to improve bisexual visibility. Two of dodie’s EPs (‘Intertwined’ and ‘You’) are available on Apple Music and iTunes, with many more original songs and covers posted to her YouTube channel. During her live gigs, dodie has been known to use the bisexual flag colours (pink, purple and blue) in her lighting, and to wear pride flags while performing.

As an artist only just beginning to break into the mainstream, dodie is showing young people that there is not one prescribed route to follow to break into the music industry, and, just as importantly, has shown that there is no one way to come out. Her choice to post ‘She’ two years before officially coming out on her channel as bisexual showed that there is no right or wrong way to come out – you should do what you feel comfortable with, and be proud of who you are, even if only a select few people know about certain aspects of your identity.

 

LGBT music is having a massive impact on young people today, whether it’s helping them to accept their identity as a member of the LGBT community, or whether it’s normalising LGBT identities and relationships. These four women, and many others, are working hard to normalise marginalised identities and their work should be praised as the important part of a cultural movement that it is.

Shorter version originally published in Exeposé Issue 683

Title suggestion courtesy of Aaron Loose, inspired by Janelle Monaé

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