Jules Bourbeau ’25
In the 1960s, a trans woman named Wendy Carlos completely revolutionized electronic music with her album featuring several pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach using a synthesizer. Since then, trans musicians have continued to create some of the most innovative and groundbreaking music around. In honor of LGBT History Month, here are ten underrated transgender and/or non-binary musicians you should add to your listening repertoire.
If you like punk… Tune in to The Muslims. I almost feel like I’m reading theory when I listen to The Muslims because of the impressive social critique they manage to weave into songs that are usually no longer than two minutes. Unlike most academics, however, they also manage to be outrageously funny. They aim to offend, not in the way pissed off internet morons do, but in a way that disrupts existing systems of power. You will enjoy LE COLLECTIF HIRS. As its name suggests, it is not exactly a group, but a collective. In other words, they have a seamless membership that employees can drop in and out of as they wish. I own their record, Friends. Lovers. Favorites. on vinyl, and few things thrill me more than pulling the pastel pink LP out of its flower-covered sleeve and blasting myself with crazy hardcore drumming and screaming as soon as the needle hits the first groove.
If you like pop… Watch Ezra Furman. I first heard Furman’s music several years ago, and one day last fall I wondered, “What have they been up to lately?” It turns out she had made the transition and moved to Massachusetts to attend rabbinical school. Good for her! She knows how to write a good upbeat pop number, but some of her songs can wreck you emotionally if you’re not careful. Not only is she a talented musician, but she also has a knack for songwriting. I suggest reading his comment on Trans Visibility Day. Try listening to 4th Curtis. This self-proclaimed “all-trans band and all-SJW dance troupe” might arguably be more indie rock than pop; even so, their messy, light sound always seemed more pop to me. Fans of bands like Soccer Mommy and Snail Mail will love them.
If you like folk… The Reverent Marigold is for you. They belong to the classic anti-folk school shared by bands like AJJ and The Mountain Goats, but they have occasionally dabbled in more traditional (pro-folk?) songs. I suggest starting with “JUDAS,” which portrays Jesus Christ and Judas as transgender lovers and turns into hysterical cries of “Hosannah!” They always seem to have interesting recording setups, whether in a trailer or on a tape recorder. Somehow the vibrations seep into the music. Also be sure to support their brand new album, Sick, Trans, Glorious Moondream, out October 6th. You will love Anjimile. They are relatively new on the scene with only one album, Giver Taker. What an album it is anyway! The disc takes us through the process of healing and self-discovery. He sometimes touches on sadder topics but never gives up on the promise of growth. Listening to Giver Taker feels like Anjimile has granted us a deep privilege, like being allowed to enter a sun-dappled birch forest they’ve carefully cultivated for years.
If you like rap and R&B… Listen to Shamir. His most recent album, Heterosexuality, is also my favorite, but also happens to be the most pop-ish. “Cisgender” is my top pick, addressing her non-binary identity. He has an incredibly impressive vocal range due to his deeper base voice accompanied by frequent use of his higher head voice. Even beyond her vocals, the instrumental tracks in her work sound sweet and smooth. He vacillates heavily into alternative rock lately, but deepens his releases for sounds that border on club bangers. Discover Backxwash. She absolutely blew my mind with her first full-length album, God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It, when it was released in 2020. Everything about it is hard-hitting, from the beats to her brutally real verses about religious trauma inspired by his upbringing in Zambia. His second album, I LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS AND DRESSES is just as powerful, but leans even more on vocals close to metal. She’s mastered the art of sampling, and if you’re a fan of the rather niche genre of horrorcore, you’ll definitely appreciate her work.
If you like electronic music… Listen to Dorian Electra. He’s a free-flowing hyperpop artist who’s been making music for a decade, often in the form of educational music videos, but didn’t release his debut album until 2019. Flamboyant defined his awfully campy style across 11 tracks on masculinity and the queer experience. . They followed up with My Agenda, a concept album that satirizes incel culture. The title track is a fantastic introduction to Dorian Electra, in part because of the sheer fun of a concept to make frogs gay in the form of hyperpop starring The Village People. Try black dresses. This duo consists of Ada Rook and Devi McCallion, who both identify as trans women. Their music is mainly noise pop with notable influences from metal and industrial sounds. If, like me, you enjoy the occasional song that feels like you’re taking a cheese grater to your brain, you’ll love black dresses. As it is sadly common to be a trans person on the internet, they received their fair share of unwanted harassment which caused the group to disband in 2020; however, less than a year later, Black Dresses were back and releasing new music, albeit leaning into the still-breaking stuff: a zombie band, if you will. While their early work is absolutely worth listening to, they’ve only gotten better since becoming “living dead.”