Halsey, Miley Cyrus, & 18 More LGBTQIA+ Musicians Who Are Changing the Game

·16-min read

Some of the biggest names in music are making strides in the LGBTQIA+ community, whether they’re using their platforms to raise awareness or writing powerful songs that speak to their experiences. For instance, Lady Gaga, Elton John and Adam Lambert have championed for gay rights and called out discrimination—but they’re just a few of many.

So, with Pride month on the horizon, we’re highlighting 20 beloved LGBTQIA+ musicians who are using their talents to change the game.

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1. Janelle Monáe

The 37-year-old singer, rapper and actress got her big break in 2005 when she was discovered by Big Boi from the hip-hop duo OutKast. After collaborating with Outkast, she joined Diddy's Bad Boy Records label and skyrocketed to fame with the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, in 2010. Since then, the artist has released two more albums and was nominated for eight Grammy Awards. Monáe even ventured into acting, appearing in titles like Harriet, Antebellum and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.

Although she initially came out as bisexual, the singer confirmed in 2018 that she identifies as pansexual. While speaking with Rolling Stone, she said, “Being a queer Black woman in America, someone who has been in relationships with both men and women—I consider myself to be free. I read about pansexuality and was like, ‘Oh, these are things that I identify with too.’ I’m open to learning more about who I am.”

2. Troye Sivan

Since joining YouTube in 2007, the 27-year-old singer has gained 7 million subscribers and garnered over a billion views. Now, Sivan has two albums and quite a few acting credits under his belt, including Spud, Boy Erased and Three Months.

Although the Australian-born pop star has been an inspiration to many queer fans, he told Billboard that he doesn’t want to be a "gay icon." He said, “With people like Hayley Kiyoko and Brockhampton, we’re starting to get, finally, a diverse group of different LGBTQ perspectives. That’s why I politely don’t want to take on that ‘gay icon’ thing. I’m one voice of so many that are missing, and so I’m just trying to tell my story.”

He continued, “I come from a middle-class white family in Australia, and all of my dreams have come true by 22. I had the easiest coming out in the world…I don’t ever want to take that on really, because there are plenty of other people who need to be heard first.”

3. Sam Smith

Sam Smith’s debut studio album, In the Lonely Hour, was a huge success, including top singles like "Stay with Me" and "I'm Not the Only One." And the singer’s career has only soared since then. As of now, Smith has five Grammys, three Brit Awards and three Billboard Music Awards.

Smith previously opened up to the Gay Times about gender nonconforming, saying, “I’ve always had a little bit of a war going within my body and my mind. I do think like a woman sometimes, in my head. Sometimes I’ve questioned, ‘Do I want a sex change?’ And it’s something I still think about, like: ‘Do I want to?' But I don’t think it is. When I saw the words’ non-binary’ and ‘genderqueer’ and I read into it, and I heard this person speaking, I was like ‘That’s me.'”

4. Demi Lovato

She developed a massive following during her Disney Channel days, but now, Demi Lovato is all grown up and taking the music industry by storm. After dropping her debut album, Don't Forget, in 2008, she released seven additional albums, including her Grammy-nominated album, Confident.

Aside from her music career, Lovato has raised awareness about mental health and has worked as an LGBTQIA+ rights activist. While speaking with Glamour in 2021, she said, “When I started getting older, I started realizing how queer I really am. This past year I was engaged to a man, and when it didn’t work, I was like, ‘This is a huge sign.’ I thought I was going to spend my life with someone. Now that I wasn’t going to, I felt this sense of relief that I could live my truth.”

5. Frank Ocean

The two-time Grammy Award winner got his start as a ghostwriter before he released his first mixtape, called Nostalgia, Ultra, in 2010. He's best known for popular singles like "Thinkin' Bout You" and "Pyramids.” He wrote a heartfelt coming-out letter in 2012 that wound up having an impact on his fans—especially the Black LGBTQIA+ community.

While discussing the details of his past relationships, he said, “Four summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide.”

He continued, “By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love, it changed my life.”

6. Halsey

The New Jersey native has come a long way since she released her debut studio album, Badlands, in 2015. Halsey (AKA Ashley Frangipane) has since released three more albums and gained three Grammy Award nominations. The singer also boasts over six billion streams in the United States alone—but she has also made quite a few headlines for her LGBTQIA+ advocacy.

In 2017, she released her song, "Strangers," and described it as a love song for the LGBTQIA+ community. And earlier this year, the singer announced that she’s teaming up with Hard Rock Live to do a series of intimate concerts that will benefit LGBTQIA+ + organizations.

At the 2018 GLAAD Media Awards, she said, "I spent the past year and the year before that working really hard to be a better representative of the LGBT community. I’m a young, bisexual woman, and I’ve spent a large part of my life trying to validate myself—to my friends, to my family, to myself—trying to prove that who I love and how I feel is not a phase; it’s not part of some confusion that’s going to change or could be manipulated. So, I tried really hard to find the courage this year to write female pronouns into my music.”

7. Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert has been capturing hearts from the moment he first appeared on American Idol. After finishing as the runner-up in 2009, he released his debut album, For Your Entertainment, then dropped four more albums, including his most recent release, High Drama.

Lambert has also been a longtime pioneer for gay rights, whether he’s speaking at a Pride march or performing gay anthems. In 2019, he founded the Feel Something Foundation, an charity that aims to “support LGBTQ+ organizations that are moving the needle for communities of all ages and backgrounds,” per the official mission statement. Another goal is to "abolish 'coming out' as a term used to define someone simply being themselves."

8. Cyndi Lauper

The pop icon made history as the first female artist to achieve four top-five hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and "Time After Time." Plus, she has two Grammys and multiple cameo appearances under her belt, like The Goonies, Gossip Girl and 30 Rock.

In 2008, the singer launched her non-profit organization, True Colors United, which is named after her hit song and gay anthem, “True Colors.” According to the official website, the goal was to “implement innovative solutions to youth homelessness that focus on the unique experiences of LGBTQ young people.” Lauper said in a statement, “We each have a personal responsibility to make sure LGBTQ youth are treated with dignity and respect.”

9. Elton John

The British icon is among the most successful artists of all time, selling 300 million records worldwide and winning several awards, including two Oscars and five Grammys. The talented musician has released more than two dozen studio albums and composed music for projects like The Lion King, Aida, and Billy Elliot the Musical. But John is also known for his activism in the LGBTQIA+ community.

While chatting with Variety in 2019, he offered a bit of advice to the younger generation of LGBTQIA+ people who struggle with gender identity. He said, “Just be yourself. It’s wonderful to be gay. I love being gay. I really do. I think I wouldn’t have had the life I’ve had if I hadn’t been gay. And I’m very proud of that.”

10. Ricky Martin

The King of Latin Pop has been making music since 1991—among his biggest hits are "She Bangs," "Livin' la Vida Loca" and "Nobody Wants to Be Lonely." He boasts a whopping 228 awards, including two Grammys and three Billboard Music Awards. He also gained fame in the acting world, thanks to his role in General Hospital and his unforgettable portrayal of Antonio D'Amico in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.

The star has been a strong advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights since he came out as gay in 2010. On his website, he wrote, “Every word that I write in this letter is born out of love, acceptance, detachment and real contentment. Writing this is a solid step towards my inner peace and vital part of my evolution. I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man."

11. Kim Petras

Kim Petras was already making headlines before she jumpstarted her music career. At just 14 years old, the German-born artist made appearances on a talk show and in a documentary about early gender-affirming surgery. As a result, her transition was covered by international media. And since then, Petras has established a successful music career. She released three albums, won a Grammy and made history as the first openly transgender artist to reach number-one on the Billboard Hot 100.

While discussing the trans community, she told the Washington Post, “I want to be a role model for young trans kids. My whole teen life was dedicated to saying, ‘Look, I’m transgender, I’m a normal person.’ I always want to keep fighting for the LGBTQIA+ community because that’s been my home.”

12. Kehlani

Kehlani gained popularity as a contestant on season six of America’s Got Talent and competed as part of the pop group, Poplyfe. After finishing in fourth place, the singer went solo and released a mixtape, called Cloud 19. Now, Kehlani has two Grammy nominations and a Billboard Women in Music award.

The 28-year-old singer quickly became a role model for many in the LGBTQIA+ community after she came out. In 2018, Kehlani shared a series of tweets that read, “I'm queer. Not bi, not straight. I'm attracted to women, men, REALLY attracted to queer men, non-binary people, intersex people, trans people. Lil poly pansexual.”

13. Miley Cyrus

To say that Miley Cyrus took the world by storm during her Hannah Montana days would be an understatement. Her Disney Channel series blossomed into a massive franchise, spawning a line of toys, books and video games. But that's just the beginning. In 2010, she released her album Can't Be Tamed, which marked a shift in her career. Since then, Cyrus has released five additional albums, with her most recent release, Endless Summer Vacation, charting in multiple countries.

Aside from her musical success, Cyrus has gone above and beyond to fight for LGBTQIA+ people and gender-nonconforming youth. In 2014, the singer launched the Happy Hippie Foundation to “rally young people to fight injustice facing homeless youth, LGBTQ youth and other vulnerable populations.” The singer has also released quite a few LGBTQIA+-friendly songs, like “Bang Me Box” and “Rainbowland.”

While speaking to TIME magazine, she confirmed that she’s gender fluid, saying, “People try to make everyone something. You can just be whatever you want to be…I’m just equal. I’m just even. It has nothing to do with any parts of me or how I dress or how I look. It’s literally just how I feel.”

14. Lil Nas X

In 2019, millions of people around the country fell in love with his breakthrough single "Old Town Road," which became diamond certified and won two Grammys. Following the song's success, he released his debut EP, 7, then dropped his debut studio album, Montero—both of which were nominated for Album of the Year.

In the same year that he released "Old Town Road," Lil Nas X came out as gay during Pride Month. On Twitter, he wrote, "Some of y'all already know, some of y'all don't care, some of y'all not gone fwm no more. but before this month ends, I want y'all to listen closely to c7osure." Then, in January 2023, he tweeted that he might be “a little bisexual.” He added, “That was my last time coming out the closet I promise.”

15. Ezra Furman

Ezra Furman got her start as part of the rock band, Ezra Furman and the Harpoons, before she went solo in 2012 and debuted her first album, The Year of No Returning. To date, she has released a total of six solo albums in addition to other music-related projects—like the soundtrack for Netflix’s progressive series, Sex Education.

In 2021, she came out as transgender on Facebook and wrote, “I wanted to share with everyone that I am a trans woman, and also that I am a mom and have been for a while now (2+ years). About being a trans woman: for my own reasons I have been hesitant to use these words, especially the “woman” word. I have often described myself as non-binary, which maybe is still true (I’m just gonna sit with that question for the moment.) But I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am a woman, and yes for it’s complex to be any sort of woman.”

16. Madonna

Madonna, AKA the Queen of Pop, has long advocated for same-sex marriage and is widely recognized as a gay icon. In fact, the singer, who came out as gay in 2022, has paid homage to gay culture through songs like "Justify My Love", "Erotica" and "Vogue." The singer even told Ellen DeGeneres, “The gay community has been incredibly supportive of me. I wouldn’t have a career if it weren’t for the gay community.”

Madonna rose to super-stardom in 1983 with her debut self-titled album. She went on to release a string of fan favorites, including Like a Virgin, Ray of Light and The Immaculate Collection. And now, with over 300 million record sales, she is one of the best-selling female artists of all time. Oh, and did we mention that she has more than 400 awards, including four Grammys?

17. Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga became a household name with chart-toppers like "Just Dance" and "Poker Face"—and she hasn't looked back since. To date, Gaga has sold approximately 170 million records, and her accolades include a whopping 13 Grammy Awards. Plus, she showed off her acting chops in titles like A Star Is Born and House of Gucci.

Throughout her career, she has been an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community. For her cover interview with Out magazine in 2009, the star said, "When I started in the mainstream it was the gays that lifted me up. I committed myself to them, and they committed themselves to me, and because of the gay community I'm where I am today."

She added, “'I very much want to inject gay culture into the mainstream. It's not an underground tool for me. It's my whole life. So, I always sort of joke the real motivation is to just turn the world gay.”

18. Hayley Kiyoko

The triple-threat entertainer is best known for appearing in projects like Insidious: Chapter 3, Lemonade Mouth and the Scooby-Doo! film series. But aside from her acting career, Kiyoko is also leaving her mark on the music industry. After singing with the Stunners, a group that lasted from 2007 to 2011, she moved on to pursue a solo career, releasing four EPs and two studio albums.

The singer officially came out as lesbian with the release of her 2015 song, “Girls Like Girls,” and it quickly went viral. She told Them magazine, “I was so nervous because so many outlets didn't want to premiere it because it felt too…‘explicit’ was a word that they used, even though it's just queer love. I was like, is anyone going to watch this video? Is anyone gonna relate to it?”

She continued, “I think once you come out yourself as an artist, you're really allowing yourself to be your true authentic self because I was lying to myself for a long time as I was writing music. And I was so, so surprised to find my community once I released ‘Girls like Girls.’”

19. Laura Jane Grace

Known for founding the punk rock band, Against Me!, in 1997, Grace is also the leader of the band Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers. Loyal fans already know that the artist has been incorporating transgender themes into her music since 2005, although she didn’t officially come out until 2012.

The singer admitted that she lived with gender dysphoria for several years before she finally came out as trans. She told Rolling Stone, “The cliché is that you’re a woman trapped in a man’s body, but it’s not that simple. It’s a feeling of detachment from your body and from yourself." During her transition, the artist confirmed that she chose to go by "Laura" because it was the name her mother would have chosen for her, had she been a female at birth.

20. Christine and the Queens

The 34-year-old French singer rose to fame with the release of his 2014 debut studio album, Chaleur Humaine, which peaked at number two on the French and U.K. charts. He has released two more studio albums and has another, Paranoïa, Angels, True Love, debuting on June 9.

In 2022, while speaking with The New York Times, the artist got candid about his gender identity and said, “My journey with gender has always been tumultuous. It’s raging right now, as I’m just exploring what is beyond this. A way to express it could be switching between they and she. I kind of want to tear down that system that made us label genders in such a strict way.”

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