Many young queer girls grew up hearing Katy Perry’s song “I Kissed a Girl” as one of few sources of representation in music. However, the song was filled with stereotypes and fetishization.
Queer boys had Freddie Mercury, Elton John, David Bowie and many more to look up to. Meanwhile, openly queer women in music seemed hard to find. Being openly queer was once a risk to an artist’s career, but in the past decade, more and more musicians have been coming out.
This has not been a seamless transition into perfect representation and acceptance. As recently as December 2019, former One Direction member Liam Payne released “Both Ways,” which simultaneously fetishizes bisexual women and, of course, mentions group sex. There is nothing wrong with consensual group sex, but this song works to reinforce existing stereotype about bisexuality.
As real queer women are now able to choose how to represent themselves in their own music, young girls can now see an accurate and normalized depiction of what it is to be queer, as opposed to the fetishized version dictated by others. Here are five artists doing just that.
girl in red
Marie Ulven from Oslo, Norway has been creating music as girl in red since 2017. Ulven jokingly described her music as a gay girl writing sad upbeat songs about love and adventures.
Her single “Girls” is a perfect listen for when you finally come to terms with who you are. This can be quite a process for many queer people, especially if they have to remain closeted while they do it. Songs like this are a reminder of the light at the end of the tunnel.
With lyrics like, “They’re so pretty, it hurts / I’m not talking ‘bout boys, I’m talking about girls,” “Girls” is the perfect coming-out anthem, or just the perfect song to jam out to whenever you’re particularly overwhelmed by how pretty girls are.
If you like that song, I would also recommend “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend,” “We Fell In Love In October” and “Forget Her.” Ulven provides the perfect songs for every stage of discovering or accepting your sexuality, as well as for every stage of a relationship.
Dorothy Miranda Clark, who goes by the stage name dodie, is an openly bisexual singer and YouTuber. dodie’s song “She” deals with the struggle of coming to terms with being attracted to women. It is off her Human EP, which she describes as “Strings. Shame. And acceptance.”
The track opens with dodie asking, “Am I allowed / To look at her like that? / Could it be wrong / When she’s just so nice to look at,” which perfectly encapsulates the feeling of struggle that many queer women feel when coming to terms with their attraction to women.
Since then, Clark has become more open and comfortable with her sexuality. Her track “In the Middle” is a song about a threesome in which dodie openly discusses her attraction to women without shame.
The evolution of dodie’s expression of her sexuality is important for young girls to see. It shows hope for something that can at times seem impossible — accepting yourself.
King Princess is a relatively new addition to the queer canon. King Princess, or Mikaela Straus, dropped a debut EP in 2018 and has since become a queer sensation. In Straus’ opinion, “Art is just gay as fuck,” and honestly, I have to agree.
Straus writes sweet, queer love songs that also deal with the difficulties of being a woman who loves women. In “1950” — my personal favourite King Princess track — Strauss sings, “So tell me why my gods look like you / And tell me why it’s wrong.”
Of course, it was both difficult and dangerous to be queer in the 1950s. Queer couples had to be careful and discrete as they were considered perverts and security risks. Queer people still face similar fears and discriminations today, even in places where laws have changed, and Straus speaks to that.
Even while sounding like a sweet, uncomplicated love song, this track still manages to hit at the deeper issues of existing as a queer person in public. If you love girl in red, you will love King Princess.
Straus identifies as genderqueer and blurs conventional lines of gender, combining traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine imagery for a visually fascinating and liberating aesthetic.
No list of queer women artists would be complete without the “queen of lesbians,” as she is known by her fans. You might recognize Hayley Kiyoko from Disney’s Lemonade Mouth, but she is more well-known now as an icon of lesbian pop.
Kiyoko wants to ensure that her young fans do not feel alone and that is why she is so open about her sexuality in her music. In songs like “Girls Like Girls,” Kiyoko opens up about her queer identity. Kiyoko embraces the universality of queerness, singing “girls like girls like boys do, nothing new.” She enforces the reality that queerness is not a new trend, but completely natural.
Kiyoko is not just a singer, but also an activist. In 2018, she called out Rita Ora and Charli XCX for fueling the male gaze and further marginalizing bisexual women in their song “Girls.” While the lesbian community can be a hot-bed for biphobia, Kiyoko remains outspoken when it comes to her beliefs.
Though it seems trendy to hate Halsey as of late, she is a talented, openly queer woman artist in mainstream media. Her hit single “Bad at Love” received major radio play and refers to both men and women she has loved.
Though bisexual people make up around 52 per cent of the LGBT+ community in the United States, they still face biphobia both inside and out of the queer community.
Many people still believe that bisexuality is just a pit-stop or an experiment on your way to making a decision about your sexuality. Others think it makes you more likely to cheat.
To hear an explicitly bisexual song on the radio means something inexpressible. It is validating, even valorizing, and that is an important thing for queer youth to feel.
In the words of girl in red, “Be gay and loud!”
Photo: Supplied by flickr // Maggie Brauer