Being LGBT+ & The Music Industry
My name is MIRI and I am an East London based musician and songwriter. For the past 8 years I have co-promoted and hosted a monthly live music night for LBTQ women and allies called Blue Monday, which led to collaborative events with award winning music venue Green Note called Girls To The Front. We bring female musicians to the forefront and work towards equality on the live music gig circuit. The pronouns I use are she and her.
As part of the LGBT+ community something that is very close to my heart are the difficulties faced by artists in the music industry based on their sexuality and gender identity.
As an activist I have set up Diversity Platform, music industry panel events for young LGBT+ artists and entrepreneurs, to offer support, guidance and a sense of community and security in order to navigate safely within the music industry and public eye.
In 2017 Stonewall reported that nearly half of LGBT+ pupils (45%) including 64% of trans pupils are bullied at school for being LGBT+. The more research I did for these events the more stunned I was to discover the statistics.
Half of LGBT+ Londoners have been a victim of a hate crime
42% of LGBT+ Youth experience cyberbullying
Last year Stonewall reported that LGBT+ hate crime had risen 78% in Britain since 2013.
This year Stonewall reported that two in five trans people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months.
I'd like to know if the music industry can help bring these percentages down. Can we eradicate them altogether? What can we do individually to work towards creating a society that does not discriminate against the LGBT+ community?
For me music is a world where we can feel free to express our truth, inspire others and create a movement of empowerment and change. I use my voice in lyrics and sound as a creative outlet to express my experiences in the hope of connecting with others. I have the freedom and privilege to write and sing a love song about a woman and not go to jail for it. I’ve had fans and supporters contact me over the years to say that me being "out" has helped them "come out" to their loved ones and feel more comfortable in their skin.
So what would my ideal world look like? For a start I would like to make sure that LGBT+ people are not losing their lives or being put into jail because of their sexuality and gender identity. 73 countries criminalise same sex relationships. I’d like to see this go down to zero. I'd also like to see music artists feel comfortable to be "out" in the public eye (if they wish to be) and not feel that it will ruin their careers and alienate fans. I remember hearing from one singer-songwriter at Blue Monday that the reason it took them so long to pursue their music career was because they were scared about coming out and being out publicly.
So what as a music industry could we be doing differently. 21 year old singer-songwriter Chloe Hawes who recently supported Beans On Toast in Hamburg says, "I think the industry could help by adding more LGBTQ+ people to line ups in general. LGBTQ+ events are great and give us a platform and (safe) space to perform and be, which we don't always have. However, there should be more opportunities to play elsewhere as well. If you're good enough to be on a line up, you should be put on it, and be able to perform as yourself with no fear of judgement.”
When I asked artist and producer DIDI aka Lauren Deakin-Davies to share some of her experiences within the music industry she said, "Men will treat me differently, maybe give me preferential treatment, then later when they find out I am gay they get annoyed at me, like I was keeping something from them or it was a waste of time talking to or helping me, or they think they can fix me, or make me straight... “. Unfortunately these experiences are all too common for gay, queer and bisexual women. We can surely work towards changing this by making more people aware of what goes on and calling it out when it happens.
What else can we do?
Understand pronouns and why it’s important to use them. Neil McDonald MBE says, "We use pronouns to identify or refer to someone. Simply it shows respect to refer to someone by the pronouns they have asked you to use, even when we may be unused to them. Trans and gender non-conforming people do not have preferred pronouns as our identities are not up for debate. Misgendering us is showing a lack of respect for another human being and just being incorrect.”
It’s so important for us to keep this dialogue going, keep talking about being LGBT+ in the music industry, keep sharing our stories, keep asking questions, disagree but let’s not stay silent. We can get involved with charities like Stonewall, or organisations like Diversity Role Models that work on a grassroots level to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobia in schools. I would like to see more LGBT+ artists encouraged to be themselves, not just for publicity and marketing gain. I know an artist who was once told by a manager not to come out because it would damage their career. They parted ways. This artist has gone on to become musically established and successful and didn’t have to hide their sexuality to achieve it.
The late politician and activist Harvey Milk famously said, “Every gay person must come out. Once they realise that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all. And once you do, you will feel so much better”.