By Elizabeth Sargeant
Trans Awareness Month is in full swing and what better way to celebrate than through the magic of music. Since the ‘70s, trans and non-binary artists have taken the pop and electronic music scene by storm, shaping genres and challenging gender norms within the industry, all while creating kick-ass music.
The Eye created the ultimate playlist of hyperpop and swoon-worthy love songs by trans, two-spirit and non-binary artists to brighten your cloudy November and celebrate some sheer queer talent.
Ezra Furman – Love You So Bad (2018)
Ezra Furman is a singer-songwriter and advocate for trans rights who popped onto the music scene in 2008. Reaching peak popularization in 2019 through the hit Netflix original, Sex Education. Furman was definitely the best choice of composer for a show that follows the highs and lows of high school and her music encapsulates the experience of reckless and painful young love. With lyrics like, “Sober nights in your car were transcendent/I loved you baby so bad,” Furman’s sweet voice combined with a bit of somber guitar and some catchy chords has the ability to take you back to your chaotic high school relationship after just a few notes. Hopeless romantics beware.
Kim Petras – Party Till I Die (2020)
“What’s up, I’m Kim Petras and I fucked your boyfriend, whoooop-aaaa.” Miss Petras makes music for the best of nights with your baddest of friends. Petras became a face for trans rights at the age of 14 when she was featured on a talk show and went viral, advocating to get sexual reassignment surgery at age 16, two years before the minimum age in her home country of Germany. Her music is textbook escapism pop mixed with a bit of EDM and electro. Party Till I Die is a track off her Halloween-themed mixtape, Turn Off the Light, released in 2020. Filled with a punching percussion and angelic vocals, this bop is best enjoyed while very drunk and in the dark.
SOPHIE – Ponyboy (2018)
I first discovered Sophie’s music on a playlist titled “Songs that would kill Prince Phillip on the spot.” And rightfully so. This trans artist and producer, who tragically passed away earlier this year, set a new standard of pop music through their very brash, very bubbly and very jarring style. Sophie’s music has not only been an inspiration to many artists today—such as Diplo, Kim Petras and Charli XCX—but she has also been featured on their tracks. The song Ponyboy makes listeners equal parts scared and excited, as the deconstructed song blends sounds in a chaotic and unexpected way. The song is kinky, the kick drums are dirty and the all-around-nasty track is delightful for any post-pandemic dance party.
Nomi Ruiz – Dance 4 Love ‘99 (2019)
Nomi Ruiz’s music is delicious and the Puerto Rican artist has been performing her sultry songs across the world since 2005. Known as the first trans Puerto Rican artist to perform on prestigious stages, Ruiz’s music is a mix of Kali Uchis’ sexiness mixed with a bit of ‘90s R&B. Her song Dance 4 Love ‘99 has a fun tempo, a powerful bass drum and her soft voice makes this song an essential bop for grooving under the sun with a perfect stranger.
Tunde Olaniran – Jean Grey (2019)
Tunde Olaniran is a Michigan-based gender non-conforming artist. Olaniran’s music is sexy and reminiscent of Daniel Caesar. Not only is his music current, but his brand is used as a platform to speak about Flint’s Water crisis. The song, Jean Grey, encapsulates all the sexiness and power Olaniran exudes, using the character Jean Grey from X-Men as a Trojan horse for moving on from past wounds and evolving as a human. The “psionic bitch” from the X-Men comic books had a troubled upbringing, repressed by her position in a world dominated by men, but eventually evolved into the Phoenix and achieved her true power. In Olaniran’s line, let them take the “floor out from under me”—he’s representing his own character evolution. Jean Grey is an anthem for becoming your truest self in a world filled with people set against you.
Frances Forever – Certified Fool (2021)
Certified Fool, released in 2021, sums up the scary feelings of stepping into adulthood. In 2020, Frances Forever’s song Space Girl went viral for its charming lyrics about the pains of being young and in love with a Cancer. The following month, it blew up and they came out as non-binary. Their new bop Certified Fool brings the same dreaminess as Space Girl, but this time mixed with a bit of rock-and-roll guitar and some melancholic lyrics. The song emphasizes the expectation for young people to do something extraordinary after graduating post-secondary. But in the song, Frances reflects on all-too-well-known feelings of being unprepared and overwhelmed. However, the fun melody of the song makes up for the sad and universal experience of feeling a bit stuck in your 20s.
Angel Haze – Moonrise Kingdom (2015)
Angel Haze is a two-spirit, Black and Indigenous singer whose music addresses racism, rape culture and working to confront a society that harms queer youth. In her song Moonrise Kingdom, Haze relays the experience of trying to find love in a world where her desires are forbidden. The song has an angry and passionate take on the world with the lyrics: “They don’t know nothin’/Nothin’ about us/They’ll catch us and stop us from growing.” But behind the anger and rage, there is a vulnerability and a naivety behind the love. Haze, like many queer artists, seeks a sanctuary and safe space for her and her lover to be themselves; a Moonrise Kingdom.