18 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Lesbian Singers Of All Time

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Written by Laura Macmillan
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You don’t have to wait for Pride Month to exercise some musical appreciation for LGBTQIA+ artists. Queer and lesbian singers have been making waves in the music industry for decades.

From hardcore rock-and-rollers to hip-hop superstars, our ears have been blessed with some truly amazing singers. These singers break boundaries and make music more inclusive for everyone, all while creating original and awesome songs. 

So whether you’re looking for music that reflects your identity and experience or simply want to broaden your tastes, in this post, we’re going to take a look at 18 of the most famous lesbian singers of all time. Let’s get started.

Related: Check out our post on the greatest LGTBQ singers here.

1. Melissa Etheridge

Up first, we have Melissa Etheridge who has been an important member of the lesbian community for years. In fact, before her big break, she would regularly perform at lesbian bars. 

Etheridge grabbed the headlines in 1993 when she came out as a lesbian at the Triangle Ball, during the celebration of Bill Clinton’s inauguration. Since then, she has been a prominent gay rights activist. 

Shortly after publicly coming out, Etheridge produced two mainstream hits on her fourth album, Yes I Am: “Come To My Window” and “I’m The Only One.” Her strong rock-and-roll vocals and deep passion have made these songs stick around as popular favorites. 

2. Janelle Monáe

An incredibly talented artist, Janelle Monáe attracted broader attention when she appeared on Fun.’s “We Are Young.” Monáe has since produced several critically acclaimed albums and has even dabbled in acting. 

Monáe’s musical style is unique, bridging genres such as pop, hip-hop, R&B, funk, and progressive soul. One of her biggest hits was the pop song “You Make Me Feel” from the album Dirty Computer. Monáe credits Prince as a major influence on the song, as well as on the album in general.

Monáe has publicly described herself as pansexual and bisexual and has also shared that she is nonbinary. Her androgynous style and fearless musical innovations make her an inspiration to many of her queer fans. 

3. k.d. lang

Born Kathryn Dawn Lang, k.d. lang is an essential musician to include on any list of lesbian singers, as she is a staunch advocate for gay rights. In a cover story for The Advocate magazine in 1992, Lang came out as lesbian.

Lang grew up in Alberta, Canada, where she first gained her musical reputation as a member of The Reclines, a Patsy Cline tribute band. She later gained international attention when she performed at the 1988 Winter Olympics. 

Lang’s style was often described as cowboy punk, or “cowpunk,” and her music is a satisfying blend of pop and country. Although Lang generally has a country influence, her most popular hit, “Constant Craving” from the 1992 album Ingénue, had much more of a mainstream pop feel.

4. Dusty Springfield

English singer Dusty Springfield’s career is an important reminder that queer women existed in the music industry long before it was safe for them to come out. Springfield is an iconic star known for her beautiful soprano voice and beloved pop ballads.

Although Springfield worked for five decades, some of her most famous songs were released in the 1960s, including “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” (1966) and “Son of a Preacher Man” (1968).

Sadly, Springfield struggled with mental illness and drug addiction throughout her career, and many of her issues are believed to relate to her anxiety over being outed as a lesbian

Related: More famous female singers of the 1960s.

5. Queen Latifah

When it comes to powerful lesbian singers, it doesn’t get much better than the Queen of Rap herself, Queen Latifah

Latifah started as a hip-hop artist, including as a beatboxer for Ladies Fresh and a member of Flavor Unit. In 1989, she released her first single “Wrath Of My Madness,” which was then sampled by multiple other hip-hop artists during the era.

One of her most popular songs is “U.N.I.T.Y.,” which was released in 1993 and featured lyrics criticizing misogyny in hip-hop culture. Since the early 2000s, Latifah’s musical style has transitioned to soul and jazz.

While Latifah is private about her personal life, she does have a long-term female partner whom she has a son with. She also subtly came out during her acceptance speech at the 2021 BET Awards, ending speculations about her sexual orientation.

6. Tracy Chapman

Known for her incredibly moving songs, Tracy Chapman is a multi-awarded folk and soul singer. Chapman first got her big break in the 1980s as a student at Tufts University, when she signed with Elektra Records and released her album, Tracy Chapman

In 1988, “Fast Car” was already rapidly gaining popularity. Tracy Chapman also featured the well-known song “Baby Can I Hold You.” Chapman’s later albums also delivered big hits, including “Give Me One Reason” in 1995. 

Similar to other musicians on this list, Chapman tends to be quite private about her personal life. However, prior girlfriends have publicly shared that they were in a relationship with her, and many members of the lesbian community look up to Chapman as a role model. 

7. Hayley Kiyoko

Pop singer Hayley Kiyoko is a fantastic representative for Millennial and Gen Z queer music fans. Before Kiyoko was a major lesbian icon, she got her start as a young actor and musical performer, appearing on Disney’s Lemonade Mouth and Wizards of Waverly Place.

Kiyoko’s hit single “Girls Like Girls” quickly became a popular lesbian anthem when it was released in 2015. Since then, Kiyoko’s electro-pop style has continued to be a favorite for young LGBT fans. 

This lesbian singer has never shied away from her identity: Kiyoko has shared that she knew she was gay when she was as young as six years old

8. Ma Rainey

Born in 1886, Ma Rainey, often referred to as the Mother of the Blues, played a crucial role in popularizing the blues genre and making it widely recognized With her deep, powerful voice and a commanding stage presence, she captivated audiences during the early 20th century.

Throughout her life and career, Ma Rainey was known to be lesbian, and her lyrics sometimes alluded to same-sex experiences and desires. One of her notable songs, “Prove It on Me Blues,” contains lyrics that suggest her preference for women.

Ma Rainey’s openness about her sexuality and her willingness to address LGBTQ+ themes in her music were quite significant, especially considering the time period in which she lived. Her unapologetic expression of her identity contributed to her status as an important figure in both the blues and LGBTQ+ history.

9. Young M.A.

Born Katorah Kasanova Marrero, Young M.A. first gained notoriety in 2014 when a Facebook post criticizing her music went viral. Ironically, this negative post only helped her to become more popular in a positive way.

In 2016, Young M.A.’s debut single “Ooouuu” was extremely successful and was even remixed by other prominent hip-hop artists such as Nicki Minaj and French Montana.

Aside from her musical talent, Young M.A. proves that she isn’t shy from the limelight. She made her acting debut in an episode of Mr. Robot and has appeared on several other TV game shows such as Wild ‘n Out and Hip Hop Squares.

While Young M.A. doesn’t like to put labels on her sexuality, she has been open about her attraction to women. In 2018, she also directed a lesbian adult film, The Gift

10. Tegan And Sara

The pop duo Tegan and Sara is the epitome of 2010 indie lesbian music. The band is comprised of Tegan and Sara Quin, identical twins who are both lesbians. 

The Canadian sibling duo gained critical acclaim for their sixth album, Sainthood, elevating them from teen alternative music to mainstream success. In 2013, Tegan and Sara released one of their biggest hits, “Closer,” a nostalgic love song that reminisces about simpler times.

Tegan and Sara are involved with LGBTQIA+ activism and started the Tegan and Sara Foundation to support queer women and girls. They have also been awarded Outstanding Music Artist by GLAAD Media Awards. 

11. Kehlani

Mononymously known as Kehlani, the R&B, pop, and hip-hop musician first came into the spotlight at age 14 as a member of the band PopLyfe. The band appeared on America’s Got Talent, but after the band’s stint at the show, Kehlani left the band.

After leaving PopLyfe, Kehlani went through a period of extreme poverty and homelessness. However, they got another big break in 2013 when Nick Cannon offered them housing and studio time. 

Since then, Kehlani has released several mixtapes and full-length albums. Her discography includes several Platinum singles such as “Gangsta” and “Distraction.”

In 2021, Kehlani announced that they prefer being referred to using the she/they pronouns. They have been quite open about their sexuality since 2018 and identifies as a lesbian.

12. Brandi Carlile

Multi-Grammy-awarded singer Brandi Carlile is another LGBTQIA+ icon that deserves a spot on this list. She has a distinct, powerful singing voice, with an interesting blend of folk-rock style with country and Western influences.

Carlile gained considerable attention with her second album, The Story, which featured the hit song “The Story.” The early seasons of the popular TV show Grey’s Anatomy frequently used her music, further cementing her place in pop culture.

As with coming out, she never did it formally to the public, but she firmly believes in living authentically, and she identifies as lesbian. Carlile has been married to English actress Catherine Shepherd since 2012.

13. Indigo Girls

The folk-rock band Indigo Girls, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, are an iconic duo from the late ’80s. Ray and Saliers both identify as lesbian and have been friends since their grade school days.

Their first major album, Indigo Girls, came out in 1988 and featured their big hit “Closer To Fine.” The band has continued to stay active and has released music independently on their label since 2007.

As activists, both Ray and Saliers have passionately used their platform and music to support a range of environmental and social causes, including gay rights. This further cemented their legacy as more than just musicians, but also as advocates for positive change.

14. Brandy Clark

Country music has not always been an inclusive space for LGBTQIA+ people. However, Brandy Clark broke some significant barriers by being an out lesbian country artist with a Grammy-nominated album.

Before becoming famous, Clark wrote songs for many of today’s prominent female country singers, including Kacey Musgraves and Sheryl Crow. In 2012, Clark released three singles, including “Stripes,” which received critical acclaim and raised interest in her solo work.

Clark revealed that she only realized she is lesbian in her early 20s. Her late start in her music career was also attributed to her fear of being shunned in the industry for her sexuality.

However, in overcoming her fears and embracing her true self, Clark not only found personal fulfillment but also became an inspirational figure for others facing similar struggles in the music industry.

15. Syd

Sydney Bennett, also known as Syd Tha Kyd or simply Syd, is the hip-hop artist behind “Body,” “All About Me,” and “Birthday” (with Disclosure and Kehlani).

Syd was a member of Odd Future, an alternative hip-hop music collective. She was also part of the band The Internet, where she came out publicly in 2011 through the music video for the song “Cocaine.” In the video, Syd portrays a love story with another woman, confirming speculations about her sexuality.

As for labels, Syd has expressed her dislike for the term “lesbian” and prefers being referred to as gay. Similar to the other artists on this list, Syd keeps her personal life private. She recently married her long-time girlfriend, Ariana Simone, in 2022.

16. St. Vincent

Annie Clark, popularly known as St. Vincent, has had a notable influence on the pop-rock genre over the past decade. She has co-written popular songs such as “Cruel Summer” (Taylor Swift) and released her own successful solo albums and singles, including “Cheerleader” and “Cruel.”

Over the years, St. Vincent has won several music awards, including a Grammy Award for Best Rock Song for “Masseduction” and a Webby Award for Best Music Video and Best Art Direction for “Los Ageless.”

The musician has also gained fame for dating a few female celebrities, including supermodel Cara Delevingne. St. Vincent has said she believes in gender and sexual fluidity and has mentioned that she doesn’t identify with any gender. 

17. Lesley Gore

A well-known singer in the 1960s and 1970s, Lesley Gore recorded her hit song “It’s My Party” when she was still in high school. The song rocketed to the #1 spot on the Billboard charts, solidifying her place as a prominent figure in the music industry at a remarkably young age.

Gore is also the singer behind the feminist anthem “You Don’t Own Me” as well as the ‘60s hit “Judy’s Turn To Cry.” She also earned an Academy Award nomination for her work in the 1980 film Fame.

Gore never went out of her way to hide her sexuality and hosted the PBS program In The Life, a show that focused on LGBTQIA+ issues. 

18. Arlo Parks

Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho, better known as Arlo Parks, is an English R&B and indie-pop musician. She is a talented singer and poet, and her music stands out with creative and distinctive lyrics.

Parks’ debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams, was released in 2021 and received high praise from critics. The album has since won multiple awards. Parks has also been the opening act for artists such as Harry Styles and Billie Eilish.

Parks, who identifies as bisexual, has embraced her sexuality as a key part of her identity, and she authentically reflects this in her music. Her songs “Eugene” and “Green Eyes” particularly explore themes of love, self-discovery, and acceptance.

Summing Up Our List Of Famous Singers Who Are Lesbians

As this list demonstrates, there are far more famous lesbian singers than just Melissa Etheridge or k.d. Lang.

The singers included in this article had to break a lot of glass ceilings to make it big as queer women in the music industry. Their passion, intelligence, and creativity are apparent when you listen to their work.

Whether it’s a politically provocative rap verse or an enthralling love ballad, these musicians showcase the power of queer art. 

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Laura has over 12 years experience teaching both classical and jazz saxophone and clarinet. She now resides in California where she works as a session and live performer.