More and more LGBTQ+ Black artists are leaving their mark on the music industry. While many face pushback and sometimes hostility for their queer identity, it hasn't stopped them from pioneering their own roads to success, breaking barriers, and overcoming stigmas associated with their identity.
While the world has a long way to go when it comes to LGBTQ+ acceptance, todays LGBTQ+ Black artists are bringing that goal closer every day.
Here are some Black LGBTQ+ artists who are championing change in the music industry.
In 2012, Frank Ocean announced that his first love was a man via a Tumblr blog. "I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost," he wrote. "It was my first love, it changed my life."
Ocean's bravery in sharing his story, opened the doors for many LGBTQ+ music artists to express themselves, especially Black musicians. So much so, that many artists have attributed their expression and self-acceptance to the "Blonde" singer.
ILoveMakonnen made headlines when he came out as gay on January 20, 2017. The "Tuesday" rapper, born Makonnen Sheeran, called out the hip-hop industry and media in 2021 for not crediting him for his influence on the genre due to his sexual orientation. He also claims he didn't get much attention while he was signed to Drake's OVO Sound at the time.
"For people to think I came out as gay for promo is beyond me. Like there was no album. No nothing," he wrote in a series of tweets. "U think im tryna get support in a homophobic environment for promo. Lol the game so f***ed up. It was quite the opposite. I knew it would piss people off. But it was needed."
Sheeran has since started his own record label and released some albums in the last few years, including My Parade and Everything is Trash.
"Yeah, it was trending for a while. I even had people calling me like, ‘What is a pansexual? Okay, I think I might be pansexual,'” they said on the LGBTQ&A podcast. "The conversations that we were having, even people thinking that I literally slept with pans and pots in my kitchen. I was like, what kind of… oh my goodness. But it was great that people were learning."
While the non-binary actor said they have "no interest in releasing who I’m dating or not dating, that’s not important," Monáe explained that they did feel it was "important" to speak about her identity because of "representation."
It was really more so for me, it was like, I need to say this out loud," they shared.
"They misunderstand what I represent, just being a woman that loves women. That’s probably the number one thing, not understanding it. Certain things I say in my music, they question it, like, 'How the hell she going to beat the p***y?'" the "OOOUUU" rapper told the mag. "It’s not really their business. That’s why I don’t care to really speak on it when it does happen, because at the end of the day, as long as my woman is satisfied, then I’m good. I don’t need nobody else’s opinion."
Young M.A has since released two studio albums since her debut: Herstory in the Making (2019) and Off the Yak (2021).
Shea Diamond is a transwoman known for her iconic song "I AM HER," an anthem for the transgender community.
The songstress discovered her talent for singing and songwriting during her 10-year prison sentence. Since her release, she has been an ardent voice for transgender rights and the mass incarceration of Black people.
She told Revry, an LGBTQ+-focused TV channel, that people "don’t understand how hard Trans people work to be the people they know they are or desire to be."
The R&B and soul singer has lent her voice to multiple projects, media and LGBTQ+ events.
Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X's influence cannot be understated. The "Old Town Road" singer has transformed into an icon not only for the LGBTQ+ community but the world.
The artist came out on the last day of Pride Month in 2019, pointing to the lyrics of his EP "C7losure" and its accompanying artwork as his coming-out message.
“True say, I want and I need to let go, use my time to be free," the song begins. Later lyrics say: “Ain’t no more actin’, man that forecast say I should just let me grow/No more red light for me baby, only green, I gotta go/Pack my past up in the back, oh, let my future take ahold/This is what I gotta do, can’t be regrettin’ when I’m old.”
Since Lil Nas X came out, he has been vocal about the homophobia and double standards he's experienced within the music industry, and specifically within hip-hop. The "Montero" rapper has endured public and derogatory remarks from both inside and outside the industry.
"I honestly felt like it was kind of my duty. Especially if I wanted to move forward. And what I was doing, because authenticity is very real, and I feel like people can see right through that. And that’s a part of me."
Despite criticism, Lil Nas X continues to be a force for change and doesn't seem to have any plans of stopping anytime soon.