Playlist: A Queer History Lesson for Your Tiny, Gay Ears

A couple of my favorite hobbies include 1) learning about LGBT history and 2) making weirdly specific Spotify playlists. A few weeks ago, I decided to combine the two. After a full Saturday of research (when I really should have been studying for finals), I ended up with this beauty: “Queers Invented Art: A Very Gay Anthology” 

The anthology includes gay, bisexual, and transgender artists all the way from Tchaikovsky (1875) to Halsey (2017). I did my best to represent a wide range of gender identities, racial identities, religious backgrounds, and musical genres. More than 100 musicians are included, making a playlist that runs for almost seven hours.

I never claimed to be cool, you guys.

ANYWAY, putting the work into making this playlist was such a fun way to brush up on some of my queer history. Surprisingly, there are songs dating all the way back to the 1920’s that are explicitly affirming of same-sex relationships and sexual liberation. Unsurprisingly, many of these were written and performed by women of color, who are almost always the ones at the forefront of social progress (shout out to Ma Rainey and Sister Rosetta Tharpe). As the playlist goes on, you’ll hear the transition into the queer punk scene of the 1970’s, the lesbian folk phase of the 90’s, and the openly gay pop singers who are currently topping the charts. There are even a few contemporary Christian artists who have come out fairly recently, such as Vicky Beeching and Trey Pearson.

Music is only one facet of gay culture, but it’s such a vital one. These songs provide fascinating insights into the ways things have changed over the past 130 years for sexual minorities. Personally speaking, this project was an important reminder that the entire spectrum of emotions has its place in social justice work. In the age of Don*ld Tr*mp, sometimes it’s easy for us to get stuck on anger. Of course, anger is valid. This playlist is full of bitter and angry songs. We have a lot to be angry about. But there are also songs of hope, happiness, silliness, sadness, love, and heartbreak. It’s personal and it’s political, and it’s so very human.

I hope this playlist can provide you with some new jams as you celebrate the last week of Pride month! Be sure to let me know of any important artists I forgot about, and have fun being That Person who says “Did you know they’re gay??” whenever one of these songs comes on the radio. Happy listening, my friends.