Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community has caused anxiety and self-doubt in many people throughout history. Even though certain countries began to accept differences in sexuality and gender, there are always those who carry prejudices.
As public figures, countless singers have been hesitant to open up about their sexuality to an unforgiving world. Those who have done so have faced criticism, but they have stood their ground and fought for acceptance.
In this post, we’re going to look at the lives and careers of 15 of the most famous LGBTQ+ singers. Let’s get started.
1. Freddie Mercury
As a child, Freddie Mercury moved from Tanzania to Bombay to London. In Bombay, he joined a band called ‘The Hectics.’
Much later, Mercury became the lead singer of Queen, which played its first gig in 1971. One of Queen’s biggest hits was “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which Mercury wrote and performed.
In this one song, he showed off his full 4-octave vocal range. “Bohemian Rhapsody” topped charts in England and became a Top 10 Hit in the US.
Although they sang a variety of music, Queen was best known for its rock music. In 2001, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
2. Elton John
Elton John loved his mother’s Elvis Presley and Bill Haley & His Comets records from the beginning. However, his father urged him to choose a more stable profession.
Despite this, John became a very successful musician. His first hit as a singer was “Your Song,” which claimed number 7 on the UK Singles Chart and number 8 in the US.
Later, he co-wrote songs for the Lion King soundtrack, which sold 15 million copies and earned diamond status.
In 1976, John publicly came out as bisexual and later gay. He urges youth struggling with their sexuality to be proud of themselves.
3. Janis Joplin
Growing up, Janis Joplin felt she never belonged. She was voted the ‘ugliest man on campus‘ by a fraternity at her college. Luckily, she found solace in music.
Joplin joined the psychedelic-rock band Big Brothers as the lead singer in 1966. She achieved overnight success with their cover of “Piece of My Heart.”
Unfortunately, Joplin never saw the release of her most popular album, Pearl, that went quadruple-platinum and ranked number 122 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
Although she identified as bisexual, most of Joplin’s long-term relationships were with women.
4. George Michael
George Michael and his family moved from London to Radlett during his early teens. He met Andrew Ridgeley there in 1981, and the two formed their band, Wham!.
Their Make It Big album was number 1 on the UK albums chart and the US Billboard 200. They also dedicated the royalties from “Last Christmas” to famine relief in Ethiopia.
In terms of his solo career, Michael wrote, produced, and arranged “Faith,” which sold over 10 million copies in the US alone.
After coming out as gay in 1998, Michaels talked openly about the difficulty of accepting one’s sexuality.
5. Tracy Chapman
Though born in Ohio, Tracy Chapman’s ethnicity is African-American, and she was often assaulted as a child because of this. She turned to music early on, playing the ukulele and writing her own music.
One of her most famous songs, “Fast Car,” gained popularity after she performed it at Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Tribute Concert.
It was the number 6 pop hit on Billboard Top 100 in 1988 and was ranked 167th on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Chapman never explicitly stated her sexuality to the press, but she was in a relationship with the author, Alice Walker.
6. Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato was raised by their mother in Dallas, Texas. Lovato openly spoke of their father’s abusive nature, but they recognized that he wanted to be a good person and had a big heart.
Lovato’s first TV appearance was on Barney & Friends in 2002. In 2008, Camp Rock premiered, which increased Lovato’s fan base very quickly.
Don’t Forget, Lovato’s debut album was number 2 on the Billboard 200. Years later, “Sorry Not Sorry” was the highest-charting single in the US. To date, Lovato has sold over 24 million records in the US alone.
In 2021, they came out as pansexual, sexually fluid, and non-binary. They are a vocal advocate of LGBTQ rights and wrote a letter for Billboard magazine’s Pride Month coverage.
7. Barry Manilow
While growing up in Brooklyn, NY, Barry Manilow met his wife, Susan Deixier. He attended the New York College of Music and the Julliard performing arts schools.
Through working for CBS, Manilow met Bro Herrod, who asked him to write music for the off-Broadway musical, The Drunkard.
“Mandy” attracted attention, and Manilow released several hit singles and albums through the early 1980s. “I Write Songs” was number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1976.
Manilow sold out several shows at large venues, including the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, the Royal Albert Hall in London, and the Carolina Coliseum in South Carolina.
After news of his marriage to Garry Kief spread, Manilow officially came out in 2017.
8. Ma Rainey
While growing up in Georgia, Ma Rainey worked at the Springer Opera House. There, she got her start singing and dancing for the talent show, A Bunch of Blackberries.
“Mother of Blues” Ma Rainey began performing blues music even before the craze of the 1920s. She was able to express the essence of what it was like to be a black person living in the rural south in the 1920s.
Rainey was the first performer to record “See See Rider,” which would be sung by 100 more artists down the line.
Though highly controversial at the time, Ma Rainey was openly bisexual.
Sia’s parents loved the arts; her father was a musician, and her mother an art lecturer. She considers her early influences to be Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Sting. She got her start as a lead singer in the band Crisp.
After moving from Australia to London, she bounced between producers. Her album, We Are Born, was very successful in Australia, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.
Afterward, she planned to focus solely on songwriting, but she ultimately re-entered the business. In 2014, “Chandelier” ranked number 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Sia identifies as queer and has dated both men and women. She has performed for and donated to fundraisers for LGBT centers and charities.
10. Lil Nas X
When Lil Nas X was 6 years old, he lived in Atlanta housing projects with his mother. After 3 years, he moved to Georgia with his father. He has said that this was a crucial decision that allowed him to escape the ‘wrong crowds’ in Atlanta.
He gained popularity as an Internet personality, especially through Twitter. His first mixtape, Nasarati, was released on SoundCloud in 2018 but received little attention.
The country rap song “Old Town Road” was released later that year and became a huge sensation. The song went viral once it was picked up by TikTok users.
“Old Town Road” reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and debuted on both the Hot Country Songs chart and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
Lil Nas X came out publicly as gay in 2019. By coming out in rap and country communities that do not readily accept this sexuality, he became a beacon of hope for those struggling with their identity.
11. Hayley Kiyoko
Hayley Kiyoko was always musically-inclined. At age 6, she wrote and sold drum charts, and she wrote her first song when she was 8 old. In high school, she created and led a step club.
Kiyoko entered the music business when she was recruited for The Stunners by the former pop star Vitamin C.
Her first stadium performance was at Gillette Stadium, where Taylor Swift invited her. Moreover, during the 2018 MTV Music Video Awards, she won Push Artist of the Year.
“Girls Like Girls” was Kiyoko’s first public announcement about her sexuality. A lesbian herself, she aims to normalize lesbian relationships and eliminate prejudices.
12. Tegan and Sara
Tegan and Sara are identical Canadian twins who began writing songs and playing guitar together at age 15.
The world was first exposed to this duo in 1998 when they opened for Hayden. Sainthood, released in 2009, sold 24,000 copies during its first week on the market and appeared at number 21 on the Billboard 200 chart. In 2014, they won 3 Juno awards, designed for Canadian musicians.
Both girls identify as gay, and they are often found donating their profits to causes like minority rights and Equality North Carolina, which is a political lobbying and advocacy group for LGBT).
13. Ricky Martin
Ricky Martin began singing at 6 years old and was in the Puerto Rican boy band, Menudo, by age 12.
To date, he has sold over 70 million records around the world. He is also the most awarded male Latin artist. His fourth album, Vuelve, was awarded a Grammy for Best Latin Pop Album.
Because of the prejudice he faced as a Latino in Hollywood, as well as his Catholic upbringing, Martin was hesitant to open up about his sexuality.
In 2010, he publicly came out as gay. Before gay marriage was legalized in Puerto Rico, Martin advocated for it.
At birth, Anohni was named Anthony Hegarty. As a child, she moved from England to Amsterdam to California. At New York University, she attended the Experimental Theatre Wing.
In 1992, Anohni founded Blacklips, a drag theatre troupe. Her first recorded album was a self-titled album for her ensemble, Anthony and the Johnsons, and it was released in 2000.
Later, I Am A Bird Now, won the UK’s Mercury Prize, and Mojo magazine called it the album of the year. Years later, she released Hopelessness as a solo album, which was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and a Brit Award.
When she was nominated for an Academy Award in 2016, Anohni became the second openly transgender person ever nominated for such an award.
15. Akihiro Miwa
Akihiro Miwa was born in Japan and began his singing career in Tokyo. He was a cabaret singer in nightclubs and mainly performed French songs.
Miwa is most famous for “Me Que Me Que,” which was released in 1957. It included many profanities, which were highly uncommon in the media.
We don’t often hear of Asian performers who are members of the LGBTQ+ community because their rights are limited.
However, Miwa is openly queer in sexuality and gender. He was also known to perform as a drag queen.
Summing Up Our List Of LGTBQ+ Singers
As public figures, these LGBTQ+ singers, along with many others, have given hope to those struggling with their identity.
By speaking out and risking their careers, these performers have provided much-needed support to people around the world.