Summer equals Pride for so many people, and this year it might be particularly difficult to find light in the long shadow of the Pulse Nightclub massacre. The Orlando hate crime and act of domestic terrorism claimed 49 lives and shattered the already precarious safety in many queer communities.
If you identify as LGBTQ or some aspect of the genderqueer spectrum, here’s to a safe, visible, inclusive world. If you’re an ally who can choose to rise up and stand up in the wake of this tragedy, now’s the time: Pride Toronto culminates in its annual Pride Parade this Canada Day long weekend on July 3, and the festivities roll on throughout the summer across the country, including Halifax on July 23 and Vancouver on July 31 during the B.C. Day long weekend.
We want to observe, honour and celebrate some of our favourite LGBTQ musicians, so what follows is a Pride playlist of modern and emerging artists, representing a vast array of genres from Canada, the U.S. and the world.
Love is love is love. Happy Pride, everybody!
"I'm happy, I'm happy
Oh, don't hate our love."
Coeur de pirate, ‘Carry On’
“That is why I’m coming out as queer today; because I can no longer be scared of what people might think about me. I can’t be scared that someone will stop listening to my music, or that parents might not want their kids listening to me because of the fact that I want to love whoever I want to love. I’m coming out for my daughter who needs to learn that love knows no race, religion, gender or orientation. Even though the family that she knew in the very beginning won’t be the same, she deserves all of the love that she needs or wants. I’m coming out for the victims that lost their lives because they wanted to celebrate who they truly were.”
“Having the opportunity to be openly queer women and being able to travel the world is really powerful to me. I'm proud that we can go to places like Australia. There are still a lot of places that are unsafe for us, but I'm proud of the folks that are open-minded enough to be like, ‘Yeah, these are black queer women that are rapping and singing and doing stuff I've never heard of.’ They're proud to have us and we're proud to be there, proud to be an option.”
Jef E. Barbara, ‘Sex machin / sex machine’
“I know this will come off as the most non-news news this year but I am transgender … I figured it would make sense to set the record straight with you Barbaraphiles and Barbaraphyte. Please note that the correct pronoun to refer to me is ‘they/them/their’ and that I still answer to Jef on a first-name basis.”
Tegan and Sara, ‘Boyfriend’
"You treat me like your boyfriend
And trust me like a, like a very best friend
You kiss me like your boyfriend
You call me up like you would your best friend
You turn me on like you would your boyfriend
But I don't want to be your secret anymore."
Owen Pallett, 'Lewis Takes Off His Shirt'
While Pallett was recording the album, gay college student Tyler Clementi committed suicide after his roommate set up a secret webcam in their dorm and released footage of him kissing another man. “When that first happened I felt this incredible feeling of sympatico with the guy,” says Pallett. “He was a violinist, too – there were a lot of similarities.” The tragic events fed into what the musician calls the “dark and emotional feeling” of the record. It’s “the terror of the infinite”, as he sings on “Song for Five & Six”.
Austra, 'Lose It'
“I’d like to say being a ‘gay band’ means being gay and being in a band, but most of my band mates are gay and we’ve never really had that classification. I’m not sure if it’s based on the type of music we make or the community we come from, but I’ve always wondered why we seem to be exempt from the label. It probably has to do with the fact there are a lot of stereotypes of what a gay band — particularly lesbian-identified band — should sound like, and we don’t really fit in with those stereotypes, which is confusing.”
Peaches, 'I Mean Something'
"Choosing a man or a woman isn't the point, it's just that these strict rules are stupid. Every woman I know has kissed a woman, but not every guy I know has kissed a guy, and I think they need to. It just helps you find out who you are.”
Against Me!, 'True Trans Soul Rebel'
“I didn’t even think twice about performing in North Carolina two weeks ago, on Sunday, May 15, in Durham. I'm not a resident of North Carolina, but I do work in the state — my band has played there at least once or twice a year for almost the past 20 years, and I pay taxes in the state. If you're a trans person living in North Carolina, it’s not like you have the option to be like, You know what? I’m gonna boycott my state — I’m not going to work today. I’m not gonna shop at the store. So my solution was never gonna be, I’m just not gonna play in North Carolina. That’s ridiculous. I love North Carolina. It’s a beautiful state.
“Things did feel different before the show, though. There was a charge in the air. I definitely may have been having panic attacks every half-hour. At times, my mind was even jumping to the fear of What if a crazy comes to the show and tries to kill me? What if someone jumps up onstage and does something? What if someone targets the show? What if you’re endangering people? Those thoughts were real to me, and really, really terrifying. I was just hoping that everyone would be safe and nothing would happen because of the show.”
Rae Spoon, 'Written Across the Sky'
“I identified as male for ten years after I came out as trans. The journey to identifying as non-binary was a lot slower than initially coming out as trans. Incidents involving how invested some folks are in the binary came up every day. Eventually, I started to question why I would invest any part of my own identity in a system that failed to accept me as male because I was trans. I met people who went by the pronoun “they” and it felt like it fit. It’s been nice to feel like I’m not trying to hit any of the sexist markers of a gender role. I don’t believe anyone should have to do that to have their identity respected.”
Frank Ocean, ‘Thinkin Bout You’
“Four summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too... By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiation with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love, it changed my life.”
Partner, ‘The Ellen Page’
“There is still so much work to be done, but the fact that we are able to sing this song is a triumph. It is a privilege to have our voices heard, and that privilege is predicated on the long and harrowing history of queer folks of all identities, and especially those with intersectional identities who have faced (and continue to face) realities more complex and dangerous than we can fully understand. We are profoundly grateful to those before us, and ever-mindful of the struggles of those who do not share in our privilege who are working and making art alongside us.”
The Internet, ‘Girl’ feat. Kaytranada
“I'm not going to sing about men because it's not real, but I think that sometimes the way I look and the fact that I'm a female singing about females can work against us because [society is] still transitioning and there's a lot of people that aren't comfortable with homosexuality in general and with female homosexuality. My image and me being a female who wears men's clothing and has a short haircut, it's something that a lot of people don't see often. I believe the term is 'stud.' I don't really refer to myself as one because I don't relate to that many of them but I get called that. And let's be real most studs are seen in a certain light where they aren't seen the same way as everyone else. There are no famous studs that I can think of. Yeah, there are androgynous women everywhere like Ellen DeGeneres but most people wouldn't call her a stud. And it also kind of makes you question labels because what is a stud? A black female who dresses like that? Or a female who dresses kind of thuggish? I don't know and that's part of the reason I don't try to relate to that term because well, what is it?”
Kaytranada, ‘Lite Spots’
Finally, in early winter, he told his brother and mother definitively that he was gay. Though his mother, a Catholic, did bring up Bible verses that condemn homosexuality, Kay says both were supportive and told him that they’d always love him no matter what. “I feel better than I ever have, you know?” he says. “I’ve been sad my whole life, but f--k that. I know I have good things ahead. I don’t know honestly if I’m fully, 100 percent happy, but I’m starting to get there.”
Perfume Genius, ‘Queen’
STEREOGUM: I get annoyed with myself that I still feel self-conscious. When I go back to Oklahoma I revert back my 14-year-old mentality, which sucks. You find yourself in a grocery store and suddenly wonder if the cashier is looking at you funny and mentally calling you a faggot.
HADREAS: I think it’s impossible not to, and that’s what’s so inspiring when you see people letting that go, especially when they’re gay and you know they have some amount of weird self-awareness from when they were little as you probably did, from recognizing they were different really early on. It can make you crazy, that awareness. It makes you very aware of how you’re sitting, how you’re carrying yourself, really early. For me, I become more and more obsessed with it, to the point where it was almost like an Inception-level of awkward, constantly thinking of how I come across. To see people who have probably dealt with that saying, “F--k it” … it’s good. That’s what I want for myself. And I do it way more now than I used to.
John Grant, ‘GMF’
“He’s physically beautiful, but that beauty is outdone by how he is as a human. Which is saying something, because he’s very beautiful. But I am more in love with how he is as a human.”
The Cliks, ‘Savanna’
“So many people want gender and sexuality to be this very simple thing. You’re a man or you’re a woman! You’re gay or you’re straight! And if you’re bisexual, then you’re confused. And it’s like, ‘No, it’s not like that at all.’”
Shamir, ‘Call It Off’
“I never felt like a boy or a girl, never felt I should wear this or dress like that. I think that’s where that confidence comes from, because I never felt I had to play a part in my life. I just always come as Shamir.”
Iceis Rain, ‘Warrior’
"I think two spirited for me is that you have two spirits in you. I think everyone else does as well. Being accepting of your two spirits means that you are accepting both sides of yourself, your femininity and your masculinity. So, for me, I think that I am two spirited and that I was blessed by the creator and by my ancestors to have the gifts that I'm able to accept my two spirits."
Ria Mae, ‘Clothes Off’
"Some people don't want to be a statement, and I'm one of those people. But sometimes just being yourself is a statement."
Hang out with me on Twitter: @_AndreaWarner