May 19, 2024
A&E

Unapologetic female queer musicians inspire confidence and self-acceptance

A new wave of lesbian musicians has come into the spotlight, creating music that is inspiring a new generation of queer women to embrace their identities.

Reneé Rapp, a 24-year-old actress and singer, has created a name for herself within the LGBTQ+ community. During her time playing Leighton, a lesbian college student working toward self-acceptance on HBO’s “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” Rapp connected with fans who resonated with her character’s storyline. 

In an episode of Alex Cooper’s “Call Her Daddy” podcast, Rapp described her experience coming to terms with her own sexuality while playing Leighton. 

Rapp said, “I was in a panic constantly, and I wasn’t [straight] but I was so freaked out by the idea of my sexuality not being finite or people laughing at me, or me laughing at myself, that I hated the first year of filming.”

Since the show’s initial release in 2021, Rapp had identified as bisexual until realizing she is a lesbian, which she confirmed this March in an X post: “if I say I’m a lesbian I am a lesbian and if someone says they’re bi they are bi I’ve had enough of you witches.” 

This statement follows a series of interviews and appearances where she identifies herself as a lesbian, clearing up the online discussion and speculation of her sexuality.

Rapp’s 2023 album “Snow Angel” features songs describing her personal life experiences, many of which about her queerness. The use of feminine pronouns in her lyrics and the female relationships depicted in her music videos like “Talk Too Much” and “Pretty Girls” have garnered a largely queer female fanbase.

Whether through Rapp’s queer music, lesbian character and her own openness about her sexuality, many fans see themselves in Rapp in one way or another. 

Chappell Roan, another queer pop star, has grown her following exponentially within the past few months, especially following the release of her new song, “Good Luck, Babe,” about internalized homophobia, catching the attention of women who have experienced compulsory heterosexuality.

Roan’s monthly listeners on Spotify have grown 114.5% in the past 27 days, which can be attributed to her rise in popularity on TikTok and her latest gig opening for Olivia Rodrigo on the “GUTS” tour. 

The 25-year-old star writes about her experiences within the LGBTQ+ community. Her most popular song, “Red Wine Supernova,” is one Roan describes as a “campy gay girl song that captured the magic of having feelings for another girl…” 

Roan’s debut album, “The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess,” is full of anthems the LGBTQ+ community can find solace in. 

Her song “Pink Pony Clubdescribes her first experience in a gay club in Los Angeles after growing up in a conservative town in Missouri. Other songs, like “Naked in Manhattan” and “Femininomenon” are also songs queer women can relate to.

Bisexual R&B singer Victoria Monét was one of multiple queer women to win an award at the 2024 Grammys, for Best New Artist and Best R&B Album with her 2023 release “Jaguar II.”

Monét has been candid about her sexuality since coming out in an X post in 2018. She has since created songs like “Touch Me” about her experiences with women.

These openly queer female pop stars are building their majorly-LGBTQ+ fanbases through their unapologetic confidence and their pure talent. 

Stars like Rapp and Roan are following in the footsteps of early 2010s artists who have made a name for themselves within the LGBTQ+ community. 

Hayley Kiyoko’s iconic 2015 song “Girls Like Girls” and its accompanying music video was a defining moment in Kiyoko’s career as a lesbian musician. 

The video has amassed 154 million views since its release and has become a crucial part of exploration and understanding for many queer women. One YouTube commenter, @toeknee7146 wrote, “This song was such a huge part of me realizing and accepting my sexuality.”

As her career has grown, Kiyoko has adopted the fan-given name “Lesbian Jesus” and has continued to create music with lesbian themes, like “for the girls” and “Curious.”

Another icon within the LGBTQ+ community is Lady Gaga, who created the unofficial gay pride anthem “Born This Way” in 2011. Gaga has since founded the Born This Way Foundation, a group that “empowers and inspires young people to build a kinder, braver world that supports their mental wellness.”

“I was probably in college, grad school maybe, when the cultural moment of Lady Gaga was like ‘What’s going on?’” Dr. Nate Whelan-Jackson, professor of philosophy, said. “That called into question and sort of undermined gendered expectations and what it means to be a woman pop star.”

Gaga’s contributions to the LGBTQ+ community have earned her respect from the community, as well as awards from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). 

Artists since Gaga who have contributed to the queer female music scene are Girl in Red, Fletcher, Tegan and Sara, Kehlani and many more. 

Many other artists that have paved the way for current female queer musicians are not part of the LGBTQ+ community, but instead are feminist icons.

“Considering how representations of feminism and femininity changed under stars like Cher and even the likes of Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera, it’s not surprising to see queer pop stars climbing the same scaffolding to become popular in the mainstream,” Dr. Clint Jones, philosophy and religion professor, said. 

Because of the women who came before them, modern queer women in the music space are able to experiment with their fashion choices, risky lyrics and big personalities without fear of cutting their careers short.

“You think of artists like Madonna, Cher, Dolly Parton, you know, who have had really long careers with lots of twists and turns and they provide a nice case study of the evolution of what it is to be shaped by patriarchal expectations and sort of resist that expectation,” said Whelan-Jackson. 

Performers who are publicly proud of their identities and don’t feel the need to conform to society’s expectations for what women or queer people should act/look like become role models for their fans, who in turn learn to feel more comfortable in themselves. 

“I think female queer musicians and other artists are helping to usher in an understanding of this fluidity marking out a serious path forward for breaking down barriers to understanding and acceptance,” Jones said.

By artists like Rapp unashamedly identifying with the term “lesbian,” proudly waving the lesbian pride flag at concerts and being a “loud” woman, it reminds people who might not be fully comfortable with their identities that being a lesbian and/or a woman is something to celebrate and take pride in.

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