By Kat Hamilton
Before I dive into my list, I want to start a conversation about something a little less lighthearted. When I was doing my research, I was shocked by how few queer men I could find in today’s rock music compared to when I was doing my research for my piece on queer women in rock music. It is hard to believe that an art form that literally means “sex music” can be so hetero-normative. I actually think the scenes inclusiveness issue has gotten worse over the past decade. Punk rock especially has never been a welcoming environment for gay men. Lyrics from some of my favorite punk albums throw around homophobic slurs haphazardly. There is a small niche market for queer punk bands known as Queercore, but the Queercore movement, has died down quite a bit.
In the past, I have used Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Elton John, and Mick Jagger as the main examples of LGBTQ men in rock, but these are musicians that, while still relevant now, made their mark thirty years ago. Where are those voices now? How come a musical art form founded on sexual expression is so limited sexually? When I made this list about women, it wasn’t hard for me to find examples because:
A. I am one
B. The Riot Grrrl movement opened a lot of doors for queer women in rock
C. Female sexual fluidity is more accepted than male sexual fluidity.
There are parts of myself that think I shouldn’t be making this list because I am not a man. But then I ask myself why shouldn’t I? If no one is trying to draw attention to the queer men in music, then as a queer writer with a voice, can‘t I be the one to talk about this? If you know the answer, by all means clue me in.
I think that rock/punk/hardcore/metal/pop punk/emo/etc... musicians are all expressing the same basic human urges in their music. Discovering one’s identity is a basic human urge, so why the hell are no men talking about it?
If there are any suggestions to this list, comment below:
The New Icons
Adam Lambert has been fronting Queen on their most recent reunion tour. While Lambert’s rock n’ roll is very commercial, his persona is very much punk rock. For a band like Queen to place Adam Lambert in such iconic shoes is a comment on his credibility as a vocalist and performer.
The openly queer pop-punk frontman, Gerard Way, recently debuted his solo effort at New York’s CMJ Music Marathon. Regardless of whether or not you enjoy My Chemical Romance, Way has become a role model for androgyny in modern rock.
Kele Okereke of Bloc Party
Bloc Party, and specifically Kele Okereke (lead vocalist), has been flying under the radar since A Weekend in The City, but they have a new album and it’s worth a listen. I like Bloc Party because it seems like they stick to a sound they love, despite the musical climate changing around them.
Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day
Green Day has always found a way to make great records and remain relevant. We love Green Day in my band because they have so much material to dig into. Billie Joe Armstrong (lead vocalist) is openly bisexual, but in the end, the attention is to the music.
The men of The Shondes
I love the Shondes. It’s queer and trans friendly, and is an interesting blend of punk and progressive/art rock. They opened for Against Me! ‘NUFF SAID.
Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees
I joke about Neon Trees being the world’s worst band name. Creative faux pas-aside, you can’t escape their earworms. Tyler Glenn’s voice reminds me of Adam Lambert mixed with Billy Corgan. Neon Trees is definitely radio friendly rock, but Tyler’s voice has a lot more grit than say, Vampire Weekend or Adam Lambert.
Giuliano D'Orazio of Hot Letter
If you haven’t heard Hot Letter, you really should look them up. Giuliano D'Orazio helped produce the vocals on our record. What I love most about him as a performer, singer, and person is that his sexuality is such a part of the music, but so is his masculinity. One does not negate the other.
Ben Hopkins of PWR BTTM
PWR BTTM's music is DIY in the best way. It’s addictively lo-fi and his voice is so conversational.
Joe (Zee) is a good friend of mine and a fantastic vocalist. His music is definitely more dance than rock, but it encompasses the spirit of rock. Also, he kills it onstage.
Jesse Sternberg of Out of System Transfer
Jesse Sternberg wrote a piece for us on our Artist Corner on how the label of "bisexual" suites him just fine. His band, Out of System Transfer has a gig coming up with legendary folk punk artist Brook Pridemore and they manage to make music that makes you think about political issues without making you feel judged
That’s it for now. I think the music industry has a long way to go when it comes to LGBTQ visibility. I want to see queer bands on Warped Tour!