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Have You Heard These 8 Queer Artists Of The Big Bad Music Industry?

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By Shambhavi Saxena:

Classic rock legend Freddy Mercury’s bisexuality was brought to my attention fairly late in the last decade (through non-conventional means no less) and with it, the phenomenon of queer erasure and invisibility. One begins to wonder how many musicians suffer the fate of veiled sexuality in order to make it in the big bad music industry. One wonders what this means for the (often self-policed) individual’s personal development. It wasn’t until many years later, slightly better equipped with preliminary readings on gender and sexuality, that I took up that old and favourite project of uncovering a tradition of queer music in my personal capacity. This is the resulting compilation.

1) Elly Jackson of the British electropop duo La Roux has stated she “[doesn’t] feel like [she’s] female or male”. And she isn’t the only one – several other public figures, like former My Chemical Romance Frontman Gerard Way and comedian Eddie Izzard have expressed discomfort with the gender binary. Androgyny in the music world was popular even as far back as the 1960s, but seeing non-binary individuals like Jackson in the ubersexualized visual media of today is a breath of fresh air. Satisfy your nostalgia for that distinct 80s pop sound with the track “Bulletproof”, which should ideally be everybody’s personal anthem against haters.

2) “Snow Bunnies” from openly gay rapper Cakes Da Killa (born Rashard Bradshaw of Englewood, New Jersey) is explicit, striking and boasts of a flow that is both staccato and smooth. Cakes, who “came out in third grade” expresses his concern over the genre: “you have people glorifying negativity like killing people and not taking care of your kids – and that should be scandalous!” As far as his identity goes, being gay is simply incidental for him, and while embraced, it isn’t a cardinal point of his expression.

3) Sam Smith’s win at the 2015 Grammy’s (and his bonus dissing of his ex) have certainly drawn many new initiates to the easy and soulful style of the openly gay singer. The music in “I’m Not The Only One” is light and feather soft, the lyrics heavy, and the meaning relatable, whether you’re straight or not.

4) Dai Burger, a lesbian rapper from Queens, produces a lot of what she calls “hip-pop”, a synthesis of her favourite features of both genres, and her music, peppered with “winky food metaphors“, makes no bones about her sexual orientation. Check out her unique sound in “Soufflé” featuring Junglepussy.

(Also check out her collaborative track with Cakes, called “Rapid Fire” that samples a song off our very own Aamir Khan starrer, Lagaan!)

5) “Fierce!” Manila Luzon sings it, and IS it in the track “Hot Couture”. The music video features the trans artist’s takeover of American streets in colourful attire, and the parallel incident (or recollected memory?) of a little boy happily messing around with makeup and the gender binary. An older woman catches him in the act, as Luzon’s upbeat club style song plays on, and responds beautifully.

6) Turning the clock back by over four decades, I found William “Little Ax” Broadnax’s album “So Many Years” with its lovely swinging sixties music that is sure to charm. The easy lyrics and gospel-y vocals intertwine with twinkling key notes in a way that makes you want to snap your fingers and hum along. Following his death in 1994, it was discovered that Little Ax was assigned female at birth.

7) Mary Lambert’s “She Keeps Me Warm” is a touching ballad and continuation of “Same Love“, the song she wrote for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. “I’ve never seen a relationship like mine portrayed in a music video,” she says, bringing up the issue of lesbian representation. Among Lambert’s other wonderful feats is her book “500 Tips for Fat Girls” that deals with rape, incest, bipolarity and homosexuality, coming from her personal struggles – the last two of which have mention in her song “Secrets” featuring B.O.B.

8) Notorious for her brazen (and sometimes deeply problematic) online statements, bisexual rapper Azealia Banks has riled up people on issues ranging from religion to feminism to race politics (which, while worth talking about, is another article entirely). Besides being a self-proclaimed witch, she “makes hits m*****f*****” and has clearly said so on both “1991” and “Liquorice”.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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