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13 Awesome Artists Who Don't Conform to Gender & Sexuality Norms

From Miley and Gaga to Gerard Way and Big Freedia, here's our LGBTQ Pride Month celebration of artists who refuse to abide by antiquated notions of gender and sexuality

1 / 13

Big Freedia

Big Freedia is not only responsible for bringing bounce music to a mainstream audience (almost on her lonesome, we'll give her that—she's definitely the biggest name in the genre) but has also become one of the most recognizable names and faces in the trans community. In an interview with OUT Magazine, the Fuse star spilled all for those confused about gender pronouns,

"This is how I look at it: When it comes to the pronouns he/she, I'm comfortable with who I am, and I'm more than sure Ru [Paul] is comfortable with who he is, and all of the people on Drag Race. Sometimes the fans get... it's whatever they feel comfortable with. I have fans who say 'he' all the time; I have fans who say 'she' all the time. I'm confident in who I am, and I know what I stand for. When they say either/or, I'm not affected by either/or because, like I said, I know who I am.

Whatever makes my fans comfortable—to be able to call me 'he' or 'she,'—I'll allow. I let them have the freedom to choose either one. I'm more than sure that's the same way they feel on Drag Race. A lot of people just can't accept the fact of calling a man 'she.' I totally understand that, and it's never offensive to me, because I was born a man, my preferred pronoun is she—but it's not a big thing to me."

2 / 13

Le1f

Le1f has been on our radar for a few years now, and how could he not be? Name another ballet-dancing rapper. Seriously. In an exclusive Fuse interview from 2014, Le1f explained what it's like to be queer in the hip hop universe

"It would be trite to pretend to be gangsta and gay unless you actually were. If someone is that, that’s awesome. Just like being gay is just one identity out of whatever shitty 1,000 things make up a person. It’s different for everyone. And so as long as you're feeling good while making music, that’s what’s really relevant." 

3 / 13

Lady Gaga

In 2011, Lady Gaga went to the VMAs as Jo Calderone, a male character. She performed and spent the night in the audience as this persona, never breaking form. Gaga has always pushed limits (and buttons) with her art, but acting in drag for the entirety of a massive music awards show felt especially groundbreaking.

4 / 13

Mykki Blanco

Let's start with a quote from the artists, shall we? "One day I will have put out so much music and done so many different things and played with so many different nuances, that term 'queer rap' will be irrelevant," Mykki Blanco once famously told MTV UK. It's this mentality that made us fall in love.

5 / 13

Tyler Glenn

In a fantastically brave interview with Rolling Stone in March 2014, Neon Trees frontman Tyler Glenn came out. It's especially noteworthy when considering the band's longstanding openness about their Mormon faith. He told RS, "I've always felt like I'm an open book, and yet obviously I haven't been completely," adding, "We were always taught, and I hate this word, 'tolerance.' The only time that I felt different was when the Prop 8 thing came up," referring to the year his church spent nearly $22 million fighting same-sex marriage legislation.

He's been very open about his sexual orientation since, releasing a beautiful video for the latest Neon Trees single, "Songs I Can't Listen To.

6 / 13

Laura Jane Grace

Where to begin with Laura Jane Grace? The Against Me! frontwoman is largely known as the first major rock personality to come out as transgender, and has done so with incredible panache. From the beginning of her transition to releasing the mind-blowing Transgender Dysphoria Blues to the ways she's become active in the trans community, Grace is a true hero.

7 / 13

Buddy Nielsen of Senses Fail

This one might feel a bit surprising to vintage Senses Fail fans. Frontman Buddy Nielsen has recently come out as "queer," writing a heart-wrenching and heartwarming note for fans of the band:

"I believe that a lot of what drove me to some of these addictions and behaviors was a mistrust and fear of my sexual orientation. I do not identity as straight or gay or bi and that left me feeling very isolated and shameful. In many ways I felt that my sexuality was wrong, disruptive and needed to be secluded. I feel that if I had been more comfortable with who I was inside and more accepting of my sexuality I could have avoided a lot of suffering. A lot of my sexual addiction was fueled by want and need to experiment sexually but doing so in a container of shame and guilt left me stuck in dangerous self destructive behavior. Acting out sexually and then shaming myself for it, led to deeper stronger levels of self hatred.

I want to come out so that other people know, there are people like them. I know there are people out there right now struggling with their sexual orientation, sexual identity or gender, wether they know in their heart of hearts they fall into a label or not, it doesn’t matter, what matters is that we cultivate a world where people can feel safe to be themselves. Our human sexuality is not limited to the extremes of two poles, two genders or a even a middle ground, the range of our emotions and need to connect are much larger than that and the box we are trying to create for people is much to small and limiting. There are so many of us that do not fall into the box and trying to fit into it, creates an unbearable amount of pain and many times suicide."

In a world as unforgiving as the punk one, it feels especially noble. Read Nielsen's full note here.

8 / 13

Miley Cyrus

We've known Miley to be something of a progressive person, both in her art and the way she carries herself as a post–Hannah Montana adult. In a recent interview with OUT Magazine, the "Wrecking Ball" star explained exactly how and why she refuses to conform to gender norms:

"I didn’t want to be a boy. I kind of wanted to be nothing. I don’t relate to what people would say defines a girl or a boy, and I think that’s what I had to understand: Being a girl isn’t what I hate, it’s the box that I get put into.”

Watch Miley and Laura Jane Grace perform together in one of Cyrus' recent Backyard Sessions:

9 / 13

Angel Haze

Angel Haze has been pretty open about her pansexuality, famously rapping on her remix of Macklemore's "Same Love": "No, I'm not gay / No I'm not straight / And I sure as hell am not bisexual / Damn it, I am whoever the hell I am when I am it." Oh, and then there's the whole event where she helped a close-minded mom accept her bisexual daughter on TV.

10 / 13

Grimes

You might think of Grimes when listing innovative pop acts of the future, but her sociopolitical views are just as progressive. In a series of tweets the Canadian musician explained her views on gender: 

"I vibe in a gender neutral space [in my opinion], so I’m kind of impartial to pronouns for myself. I wish I didn’t have to be categorized. Everything I ever hear about Grimes is super gendered and it has always really made me feel uncomfortable." 

Peep more of that here.

11 / 13

Gerard Way

Last October My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way participated in a tell-all Reddit AMA. The entire conversation was fascinating, but we found his words on gender identity especially inspiring. Reddit user mutiescum wrote, 

"I’ve always been really inspired by your style and how you incorporate a lil bit of glam, a lil bit of femme into your aesthetic. In fact, the way you present on stage and in music videos helped me figure out my own gender identity as a teenager. Who are your style icons? What was your inspiration for messing with masculinity in the ways that you do?"

To which Gerard fabulously responded:

"Wow! I'm so glad that helped in figuring out your gender identity. I have always been extremely sensitive to those that have gender identity issues as I feel like I have gone through it as well, if even on a smaller scale. I have always identified a fair amount with the female gender, and began at a certain point in MCR to express this through my look and performance style. So it's no surprise that all of my inspirations and style influences were pushing gender boundaries: Freddie MercuryBowieIggy [Pop], early glam, T-Rex. Masculinity to me has always made me feel like it wasn't right for me."

12 / 13

Shamir

If up-and-comer Shamir isn't on your radar yet, that's about to change. Let his tweets speak: He has "no gender, no sexuality, and no fucks to give." It goes deeper, of course—the young star on the rise has been dubbed the next "post-gender" icon. Take his interview from the Advocate, where he said the media's fascination with gender/sexuality is "okay":

"But it’s definitely more thought about on their side than mine. I think they kind of think this is like a spiel or a gimmick. But it’s not something I try for. I wear menswear all the time. I don’t do anything to make myself look more feminine. I naturally look and am more feminine.”

13 / 13

Le Tigre

With any band fronted by the incredible Riot Grrrl godmother Kathleen Hanna, you know there's going to be a focus on gender politics and sexuality. Hanna, partnered with Johanna Fateman and JD Samson make up the stuff queer dance dreams are all about.

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