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  1. Janis Ian Fourteen-year-old folk prodigy Janis Ian knew she’d send America into a tailspin when she wrote and recorded her first hit single, “Society’s Child (Baby I’ve Been Thinking),” in 1965. Written in the tradition of folk hero Joan Baez, Ian bravely addressed the complexity of interracial dating in a very divided country – and marked the beginning of her lifelong foray into matters of forbidden love. In 1967, the song peaked at Number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100, and Ian began receiving death threats – in her autobiography, she writes that a radio station in Atlanta was set on fire
  2. Limp Wrist The hardcore world has its own brand of fist-throwing ultra-machismo, the kind which only legendary aggro queers such as Limp Wrist have been able to transcend. Formed from the ashes of a handful of disparate bands in 1998, Limp Wrist’s name flaunts a cheeky retort to the hypermasculinity of the punk underground – a space that frontman Martin Sorrondeguy would claim for the queers while donning a leather cap and harness. Sonically, Limp Wrist is hard to distinguish from droves of so-called powerviolence bands – but fan-favorite songs like “I Love Hardcore Boys, I Love Hardcore
  3. Tom Robinson British punk rocker Tom Robinson achieved chart success with hit songs “2-4-6-8 Motorway”, “Up Against the Wall” and “Don’t Take No for an Answer,” but he’ll always be immortalized for his singalong protest anthem, “Glad to be Gay.” Originally written for a 1976 London gay pride march, the song was nearly banned by the BBC in 1978 – although DJ John Peel defied the stricture. After his band broke up, Robinson co-wrote several songs for Elton John, including the controversial “Elton’s Song,” about a young boy at a boarding school longing for on an older student. He eventually
  4. Mina Caputo Life of Agony vocalist Mina Caputo made history in 2011 when she came out as a transgender woman via Twitter, making her the heavy-music community’s first, and by far most famous, member of the heavy-music community to identify as such. Caputo channeled her struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts into pugilistic hardcore throughout the alternative-metal band’s heyday in the Nineties and Aughts – most notably on 1993’s acclaimed debut, River Runs Red – which cracked the mainstream rock charts and prompted tours alongside Korn, Deftones and others) – before departing the
  5. Me’shell Ndegeocello Genius musician Me’shell Ndegeocello is a veteran at relaying dynamic stories through song. Her work spans classical to cosmic reggae with vocal deliveries ranging from fiery emcee to tender acoustic songstress. Ndegeocello’s lyrics easily fall into a lineage of black poetry: love, pleasure, commercialism, heartbreak, revolution, time travel, space, religion, politics, sorrow, and joy. “Leviticus: Faggot,” from her early album, Peace Beyond Passion. contextualizes the harsh realities queer youth [of color] experience daily predisposing them to health outcomes such as
  6. Amanda Lepore The cover of I…Amanda Lepore has the titular heroine posing mostly naked in a hall of mirrors – her sleek gynoid body replicated infinitely into the future. The world wasn’t ready for Amanda when her transgressive, debut album dropped in 2011, but her status as an icon in the fashion and art world has since been firmly established. Although she served as a muse to David LaChapelle long before popping up in the form of loving homages on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Lepore’s post-electroclash musical output still manages to shock more demure audiences. Bragging unapologetically about h
  7. Klaus Nomi Like a being from another planet flung tragically towards this Earth, this bizarre performance art and music legend still serves as a guardian angel to the true weirdos of the art world. Nomi’s legacy will always (for better or worse) be associated with that of David Bowie, who he sang backup for throughout the late 1970s and was featured on the infamous December 15th, 1979 Saturday Night Live performance. But Nomi’s contributions to the history of queer culture – both his strange, quivering takes on pop standards and his lavishly sung operatic overtures – are certainly indel
  8. Big Freedia Hailing from New Orleans, Big Freedia is often credited with popularizing bounce music – the Mardi Gras-influenced energetic sound, where twerking also originated – alongside other LGBT hip-hop artists like Nicky da B. After releasing her debut album in 2003 – while not transgender, the rapper’s preferred pronoun is “she” – Freedia started building momentum and popularity outside of the Deep South, thanks to subsequent releases (Big Freedia Hitz Vol. 1 featuring the insanely addictive “Azz Everywhere”), tours with Matt & Kim and The Postal Service, musical collaborations wi
  9. Jobriath While Britain had David Bowie, Marc Bolan and Bryan Ferry all performing glamorous, cosmic rock songs, the United States was searching for its own. Enter impresario Jerry Brandt (who founded New York’s Electric Circus nightclub and managed Carly Simon’s early career), who discovered an unknown named Jobriath Boone. Born in 1946 as Bruce Wayne Campbell, the self-made American sang “Sodomy” in the original late-Sixties L.A. production of Hair before reinventing himself. Jobriath was quickly signed to a record contract in 1972 with Elektra (rumored to be worth $500,000) and an ambiti
  10. Rob Halford Less a rock singer than a majestic, motorcycle-riding lord of the mosh pit, Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford carried the British band to unprecedented levels of international superstardom from 1969 onward. His theatrical scream-singing, macho stage presence, and all-around badassery (best showcased on iconic records like 1980’s British Steel and 1982’s Screaming for Vengeance) prompted many fans to call him “Metal God:” a traditionally masculine trope Halford boldly upended in February 1998, when he came out as gay in an MTV News interview. As the earliest show of queer solida
  11. Manuel Solano B. 1987, Mexico City, Mexico. Lives and works in Mexico City. Many of the narratives behind your work are very personal. Would you say that making work that is closely tied to your experiences is empowering? My interest in art has always been the exploration and expression of my own personal identity. I am only interested in art inasmuch as it puts me in the world or puts another person closer to me. Art that doesn’t contain an identity is worthless to me. I look back at my life and the expression of my self has been the only real endeavor for me and I haven’t r
  12. Wu Tsang B. 1982, Worcester, Massachusetts. Lives and works in New York City and Berlin. Can you tell us about your film One emerging from a point of view (2019)? One Emerging is a hybrid fictional documentary. It’s a collaborative portrait of two women whose paths crossed in Lesvos a couple years ago. One is a photojournalist who was documenting the refugee crisis on the island and the other is a young transgender refugee from Morocco who was in a camp there. Together we created parallel fantasy worlds that overlap through the narrative and projected image. You were p
  13. Louis Fratino B. 1993, Annapolis, Maryland. Lives and works in New York City. Can you tell us about your exhibition, “Come Softly to Me,” at Sikkema Jenkins in New York? “Come Softly to Me” is a narratively structured exhibition in which I tell myself my own story. I introduce myself through self portraiture and the setting of my story through paintings of New York. It is a series of works depicting the most recent year of my life, and the cast of characters and particular feelings I’ve encountered along the way. My next exhibition will be in Paris at Antoine Levi gallery and
  14. Sable Elyse Smith B. 1986, Los Angeles, California. Lives and works in New York City and Richmond, Virginia. Do you believe your work responds to, or critiques, ideas of desensitization to violence and trauma? No, I don’t think it’s about desensitization at all, or rather, that’s not the focus for me. Violence is sport for some people. Violence is built into the fabric of how certain structures that we are entrenched in operate. The violence that I focus on is also not the gratuitous images that flood the mind upon hearing that word. Yes, those are ima
  15. Martine Gutierrez B. 1989, Berkeley, California. Lives and works in New York City. Your work often references music videos, magazine spreads, and advertisements. When and why did you begin working this way? As early as middle school. My father got me a video camera and I started making videos with friends––with cameos from babysitters, teachers, pets. By the time I was in high school, I was editing commercially, running programming for a public television station. It was far from glamorous, but it was like reaching into the world. Do you believe your work responds to—o
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