I've always believed that songwriters and musicians are some of our very best storytellers. Storytelling lends itself to visibility and representation, which fosters a sense of community. Community is anything that drives home the idea that you are not alone. Therefore, community does not need to come from a group of people that you know personally. In my closeted journey through high school and part of college, this was true for me. My community became the artists whose records I bought, whose shows I saw, whose words resonated with me.
The music of Courtney Barnett, Julien Baker, Sleater-Kinney, Prince, Christine and the Queens, St. Vincent (the list goes on) became the catalyst to me finally coming to terms with who I am. Listening to artists like this was the first time my story and the emotions I was having made sense. I had related to music before I found these artists, but it wasn’t validating. I was stuck in the top 40’s matrix in high school, which, at the time, was dominated by straight men and women. I always found myself so fixated on who these artists were singing about. Something that, when I brought it up to my friends, seemed strange seeing as no one else seemed to care about what pronouns the songs were using. Furthermore, I found I was only relating to songs about women and not in the sense that I wanted a man to feel that way about me, but in the sense that I resonated with how the songwriter felt about women. As far as I was concerned, that feeling didn’t make any sense because all I heard were straight men singing these songs, which made me confused and angry.
When I think of my musical turning point, I think of a TA I had during a pre-college program I attended at Boston University before my senior year of high school. She was a bassist in a garage punk band called Potty Mouth (I later learned that they named themselves after Bratmobile’s debut album). She showed me their Bandcamp page and I dove in. Potty Mouth totally rocked my world. I had never heard anything like them before. They were loud, they were smart, they were angry. I looped them almost my entire senior year of high school, but I didn’t know where to go from there.
It wasn’t until streaming music became more popular and more accessible in college that I was able to expand my musical palette and discover bands like Potty Mouths’ influencers from the Riot Grrrl movement. This lead me down a wonderful path of empowering, queer, feminists demanding space and telling their stories in all different genres. I found queer women telling their stories through punk music, folk music, electronic music, hip hop and R&B. Who knew queers were such a diverse bunch? I didn’t! In Sleater-Kinney’s One More Hour, I related to heartbreak in a way I never had. In Janelle Monae’s Mushroom & Roses I related to infatuation and having a crush like never before. Young M.A. reclaimed lesbian sex which is so often fetishized in hip hop music. I wasn’t just relating to songs anymore, I was being validated by them.
My coming-out story is defined by music. It was music that forced me to recognize my confusion and it was music that guided me in the direction of understanding who I am.
Storytellers are the fuel for visibility and acceptance. When people tell their authentic and honest story, the world becomes a little less small and little less lonely. I can’t think of anything other than stories that have been more important in my life as a member of the LGBT community. It is songwriters like Corin Tucker, Janelle Monae, Courtney Barnett, Annie Clark and Abby Weems whose courage to tell their story gave me the community I so desperately needed. It is for these reasons that I am so proud to work with the incredible team at Songtrust, a group of people that celebrate the power of stories and support those who tell them.
Songtrust is proud to support love and equality for all of our 150,000+ songwriters and 20,000+ publishers throughout their careers. Check out our Pride-inspired playlist, full of Songtrust clients, here.
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