/Tuesday Ten /559 /I Want to Break Free – Pride Month

On 28 June 1969, the Stonewall Riots began, a gay liberation protest after the police raided the titular inn. They began the ball rolling for LGBTQIA+ people to become more visible, and to fight for their rights – and the following year, the first Pride marches in the US began.

/Tuesday Ten /559 /Pride Month

/Subject /LGBTQIA+, Pride Month
/Playlists /Spotify / /YouTube
/Related /Tuesday Ten/Index
/Assistance /Suggestions/183 /Used Prior/16 /Unique Songs/161 /People Suggesting/72
/Details /Tracks this week/20 /Tracks on Spotify Playlist/17 /Duration/61:00

To mark that anniversary this week, and Pride Month generally, here’s twenty songs by LGBTQIA+ artists, about LGBTQIA+ issues. I am not LGBTQIA+ – but I consider myself an ally to the great many of my friends that are, and all of the songs here were suggested by my friends who contributed, with a number of bands/artists that were new to me.

Thanks to everyone that contributed, as ever.

A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.

Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound me. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).

/Pink Suits
/Are You Gay Yet?
/Dystopian Hellscape

Pink Suits are a “Queer Feminist Punk Rock & Rage duo” from Margate, that have been steadily making waves beyond their East Kent homeland (and indeed played their Queer Cuntry alter-ego show at Chaka Khan’s Meltdown at the weekend), and amid their angry punk rock, make a number of smart, empathetic statements about the state of the world – and particularly those in a variety of minorities. One of the most striking tracks from their recent second album is Are You Gay Yet?, where the duo examine attitudes to queer people through the lens of their own experience, from old friends sneering, or in denial, or older relatives complaining about how they look. From my many, many friends who are LGBTQIA+, sadly these are far from uncommon experiences.

/Bloc Party
/I Still Remember
/A Weekend In The City

One thing I was absolutely clear about when writing this week’s /Tuesday Ten (which is actually twenty songs) was that a) I was only going to feature songs by artists that are LGBTQIA+ themselves, and b) that I would not feature any songs where there was any doubt about a) above (i.e. I would not, and will not, out anyone inadvertently).

I never listened to Bloc Party all that closely – I had other musical interests at the time, it’s fair to say – so I didn’t know that Kele Okereke had long since come out. This song, though, is about an earlier time, where sexuality is still being worked out and understood as a teenager: and the song clearly and unambigiously details an incident of two young men teetering on the brink of an encounter, but maybe it’s one-sided from Okereke’s view, and the other wasn’t willing to make that jump.

Teenage years at school can be brutal as you discover your sexuality and get an interest in the opposite or same sex. I was a gawky teenager that was always awkward with girls (unlike most of my friends, I’m resolutely straight and never had any interest in boys), and that was bad enough to deal with: but for those of my friends who came out later (and I still keep in touch with a few of them), I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it would have been to hide what they really were.

/Lady Gaga
/Born This Way
/Born This Way

It’s amazing to think that Lady Gaga first burst into the public eye sixteen years ago. All that time she has been a gay icon and LGBTQIA+ activist, putting her money where her mouth is when needed, and getting involved in political activism where needed. The lead track from her second album felt like it was consciously written as a LGBTQIA+ anthem, and that’s what it became quickly: a mighty, hook-heavy disco-rock track that raises a middle finger to conservative America and shouts loud that Gaga is out and proud, as many of her fans are, and that they are here to stay.

/Frankie Goes to Hollywood
/Welcome To The Pleasuredome

It was hardly the first song explicitly celebrating gay sex, but it was perhaps – at least in the UK – the song that broke down the walls. As, by pure chance, Pitchfork explained in a wonderfully timed Sunday Review this week, this song was a slow burner. Early versions broke cover in 1983, and once Trevor Horn got involved and added his usual “more is more is more” production techniques, it entered the charts in November of that year, was number two by mid-January, and then spent five weeks at number one (and reputedly selling over two million copies. Of course, it probably wouldn’t have been quite as much of a hit had Radio One DJ made such a – frankly appallingly homophobic – kerfuffle about the track earlier in January, and the old rule that if something is “banned”, it’s only going to encourage more to buy it to find out what the fuss is about…

Yes, this song is not subtle in the slightest. It only takes the first chorus for it to become blatantly obvious that it’s about sex, and the video just helped that bit more (leather, chains, etc). Both vocalists Holly Johnson and Paul Rutherford were openly gay – and in terms of pop music of the time, this was unusual to say the least – the rest of the band were straight. But musically, this song is probably the finest moments Trevor Horn was ever involved with: even by his standards, everything is turned up to eleven and beyond. That dirty bassline, digital horns, and pounding, overwhelming rhythm, and that frankly – and apparently deliberate – orgasmic climax.

/Judas Priest
/Hell Bent for Leather
/Killing Machine

The point where the Metal Gods adopted their iconic leather and studs image and became the metal icons that they remain (forty-six years later!), there’s some debate about whether this song really is about Leather culture or not, but I think that it’s undeniable that there was at least a subtext. Rob Halford eventually came out as gay in 1998, rather wonderfully to a general shrug from the metal scene rather than any homophobia (perhaps it wasn’t really a surprise at all to most that loved their music – I mean, just watch this live intro to the song… – but the impressive acceptance from the metal scene of Halford’s sexuality has doubtless given other metal artists the confidence to come out too), and as Halford has noted since, there were other songs before Hell Bent for Leather that also made it abundantly clear.

/Plack Blague
/Leather Life
/Night Trax

A more modern take on Leather Culture comes from the dirty, grimy club-bound EBM of Plack Blague (who incidentally play Infest Festival at the end of August). I think it’s fair to say that I could have chosen any number of their songs to feature, but I’m sticking with my friend Alex from I Die: You Die‘s suggestion of Leather Life – a pulsating, sweaty track that celebrates living the life that you want to live without fear of judgement.

Incidentally, the first time we were in Chicago, we went some way north in the city to visit the Leather Archives & Museum, a fascinating glimpse into a subculture neither of us knew much about. That said, we did get some funny looks by the people running the place (as an apparently heterosexual couple coming to visit…).

/Slumber Party

This gloriously smutty, unfiltered track was the first I heard of Ashnikko (thanks to my wife, who’s having lots of fun listening to a whole lot of “queer, feminist pop” in recent times – and there’s a lot of it out there). A sparse, Timbaland-inspired rhythm peppers the track, as Ashnikko details a sexual encounter within another woman (whom, in comments online, Ashnikko later admitted “broke her heart”), and perhaps in a modern sign of the times, the fact that Ashnikko happens to be involved with a woman (at least in this song – she is openly Pansexual) is just something that happened.

/Billie Eilish

That said, women liking women isn’t always seen as “normal”, even in these supposedly more modern times. Consider Billie Eilish, who made comments about her sexuality in Variety late last year, admitting that she liked women too, and it caused something of a furore (that Guardian article I linked to above noted that she apparently lost 100k Instagram followers overnight – their loss, not Eilish’s). It should also be remembered that Billie Eilish has spent all of her teens in the public eye, and even now she’s only 21. Quite why the public feel it should be their business…

Anyway, her clapback came with the first single off the new album, a summery pop song called LUNCH, that makes clear just how much she likes women, and I don’t think any of her songs have ever sounded quite so contented and happy. All power to her.

/Janelle Monáe
/Dirty Computer

Janelle Monáe is a rare R&B singer to be entirely open with her pansexuality and being non-binary – celebrating love in all forms, and in recent times, they have moved from the ArchAndroid sci-fi to a more human look at love, sexuality and living life to the fullest (recent album The Age of Pleasure is a summery joy that adds in polyamory too). Back on Dirty Computer – her greatest album, no doubt – she announced it with the taut, bi-coded electro-funk of Make Me Feel, and then celebrated female sexuality and a woman’s body on the joyous Pynk, complete with instantly-iconic pink vagina trousers in the video. She hasn’t got any more subtle recently: Lipstick Lover is another joyful celebration of love with other women (and the video is an absolute hoot).

/Scene Queen
/Pink Panther

Another artist who’s had quite the buzz around them lately is Scene Queen, an openly bisexual artist who is having lots of fun finding ways to annoy and offend US conservatives (try the country line-dancing meets brutal metalcore of MILF, for example) and calling out abuse of minors in the alternative scene (the quite fantastic earworm of 18+, which is apparently about at least one specific band). One of her earlier singles, though, was the hip-hop meets metalcore of Pink Panther, which celebrates same-sex funtimes in no uncertain terms, and apparently helped the artist have the confidence to come out as bisexual…

/Mina Caputo
/Got Monsters
/Perfect Little Monsters

While I loved early Life of Agony, particularly the still-amazing, searing intensity of River Runs Red, they were never a band I followed too closely, but it was rather obvious that Mina Caputo was wrestling with an awful lot of demons. In 2011, Caputo came out as transgender and transitioned to female, and made this song all the more remarkable. Got Monsters was released in 2003, and with the benefit of hindsight, she is screaming out loud her gender dysphoria. However, she wasn’t ready to tell us yet.

(I am, incidentally, rather surprised that Spotify – or more to the point Caputo’s label or distributor, presumably – have not removed the deadname from this album, especially when it has been updated elsewhere)

/Against Me!
/True Trans Soul Rebel
/Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Another punk/hardcore artist to come out and announce their transition was Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, who came out in 2012, and the band’s album that followed a year or two later was entirely about Grace and dealing with their gender dysphoria and transition, and the album is as raw as the subject matter. The directness of True Trans Soul Rebel is bracing, as Grace tries to walk with pride in what they want to be, but the doubts are stark as they wonder about who might want them, and what they could have been if they’d accepted it sooner.

/Give Violence A Chance

4,732 hate crimes against transgender people were recorded in the UK in the year ending March 2023 – a rise of 11%. Is it any wonder that they might want to fight back? I can’t imagine it’s any better in the USA, where G.L.O.S.S. (GIRLS LIVING OUTSIDE SOCIETY’S SHIT) are from, and the rampaging Give Violence A Chance is a fantastic, 100mph punk song that advocates fighting back to get justice for transgender people and other minorities too.

/Problem Patterns
/TERFs Out
/Blouse Club

That justice would also be assisted by TERFs shutting the fuck up. Problem Patterns, a Belfast punk band, have a quite brilliant song dealing with this issue, as they take down their “arguments” and the people behind it one by one. Reminding, among other things, that transgender people were instrumental in the Stonewall Riots, and that TERFs are not real feminists, because, and I quote:

“And real feminism would never leave her out
Because feminism is for everybody
Every single body
And not just the bodies that you are comfortable with”

Too fucking right.

/Lambrini Girls
/TERF Wars
/You’re Welcome

Brighton’s Lambrini Girls take a rather more direct take on this, as their punk rock take on TERFs is sweary and fun, punching up at “stupid fucking TERF[s]” and their upper class backgrounds as they mouth off in the press about issues they have never had first-hand experience of, and don’t understand. This song is also fucking hilarious for it’s lyrics in amongst the righteous anger (particularly the closing lines, which I won’t spoil for you), and hits the bullseye every time.

I have a good many friends who are transgender, some of which have transitioned, and I fully support all of them. That is their choice to make, and we should give them the space and the rights to do so. That too many politicians seek to deny this – and actively legislate against it – is one of the civil rights battles of our time.

/Pete Shelley

Something of a world away from Buzzcocks – a four-piece of young Manchester men who wrote and released rather more lovelorn punk rock than most of their contemporaries – but the one thing that Homosapien did do was perhaps give better context to Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve), in an era where gay or bisexual men especially were hardly given a fair hearing in the press. So this defiant song – where Shelley makes no apologies for this sexual orientation, and indeed celebrates the fact that he likes men and as well women. The other amazing thing? This track and the album it comes from was the release producer Martin Rushent worked on before moving onto Dare by the Human League, and the closer you listen, you can see the links between them…

/George Michael
/Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael

George Michael was a pop star by the time he was twenty, having topped the charts in 1983 as the frontperson of Wham! with Andrew Ridgley – and while playing the hunky pop star for the cameras, alongside a great many beautiful women in his videos, he had long come out to a small cohort of colleagues and friends as bisexual. He was – sadly, as too many people in the public eye are – outed against his wishes in 1998, when he was arrested in a sting operation in Beverley Hills, for “engaging in a lewd act” in a public restroom with an undercover cop.

Michael’s response, just a few moments late, was the funk-pop hit of Outside – which directly dealt with his sexuality – complete with a video that reminded that everyone has sex, whatever their orientation, and stuff all the haters (the bathrooms that turn into a glitterball-lit disco while George Michael is dressed as an LAPD cop!).

He died on Christmas Day 2016, and while some of his philanthropy was known, the sheer extent of it began to be revealed after his death, as it became known that he’d donated enormous sums to a host of mostly, but not entirely, LGBTQIA+ causes, and the benefits of that largesse will be felt for years to come.

/Joe Jackson
/Real Men
/Night and Day

A remarkable song for it’s time is Real Men. A piano-based ballad that appears on the same album as his much bigger and enduring hit Steppin’ Out, Jackson here is questioning stereotypes of “real men” in 1982. Which wouldn’t sound so groundbreaking if you didn’t know that Jackson later opened up about having been bisexual for as long as he could remember, at which point this becomes a truly remarkable song. The video shows two young men flirting, and a distinct feeling of the protagonist being forced into a heterosexual, traditional role against their will, and the song lyrics are as clear as day: Joe Jackson wrestling with who he wants to be, what society wants him to be, and how he deals with that.


The remarkable thing about Chumbawamba is how an anarchist, agit-prop punk/alternative band – far to the left of general political and public discourse – ended up with a giant, enduring hit about their drunk neighbour getting fucked up again, fifteen years into their career. But away from that freak hit, they had a long history of standing up for and supporting a variety of causes, and especially LGBTQIA+ ones. Now, I should say that I have no idea whether any of the members are LGBTQIA+ – and there is nothing I can find to say one way or the other – but their working with Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (who definitely were an LGBTQIA+ group – on Homophobia means that this counts regardless.

I’ve got this feeling, actually, that Homophobia was the first Chumbawamba song I ever heard, back in 1994. An upbeat, horn-led electronic pop song, the darker underbelly of the song is immediately revealed as the band sing about a young gay man who was kicked to death outside a public toilets (revealed in the album liner notes to be in Bradford). The chorus here closes with “You can’t love who you want to love in times like these“, and sadly, thirty years on, that it still rings true is a fucking outrage.


/Tainted Love
/Tainted Love/Panic

Released in 1985, with proceeds going to the Terrence Higgins Trust, it is understood to be the very first AIDS benefit release. A world away from the smash-hit Soft Cell version a few years before (which Peter Christopherson directed the iconic video for), here Jhonn Balance stretches out the lyrics with a despair in his voice, the synth backing slowed to a funereal crawl.

HIV/AIDS was first reported in May 1981, the first clinical reports the following month, and research later suggested that there were cases back to the 1960s at least. Initially effectively written off as a disease that affected gay men and drug users, it quickly became apparent that this was not the case at all, but for many years, there was little chance of surviving it long-term. That has changed in more recent years, with treatments that mean that it can be lived with (and that it becomes untransmittable), while clinical trials have so far have successfully cleared four people of HIV.

The obvious question remains: would treatments have been developed faster had their not been the original – and still lasting, in some arenas – stigma? Sadly, probably so.

Pride isn’t just about recognition. It’s fighting for a fair treatment for LGBTQIA+ people: in law, in health, in life, in love. It’s a fight that we all should be fighting.

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