We here at QHG like to post articles relevant to the health of LGBTQIA+ folks. It's part of our mission to use our expertise to give back to our spectacular community. Since I'm a medical doctor, I usually write about medicine. Well, music is medicine. And though I've never prescribed a song for a patient, I do have extensive experience using music to manage the angst, anguish, drama, tumult, pride, joy, and confusion that I've felt while understanding my identity, coming out (twice), falling in and out of love, and generally living while "other".
Here, in no particular order, is a list of my top ten songs by and for queer people. Listen, feel, and then comment below with your top songs for queerspiration.
Queerspirational Song #1: Everyone's Waiting - Missy Higgins
We're starting off with a song that will straight-up dropkick you right in the feels.
This song beautifully captures the tension that you feel when you know that the person everyone wants you to be is not who you truly are. You want to listen to yourself, but the noise of the crowd drowns you out. You just need some time to figure it all out, but you can't, because Everyone's Waiting.
Oh, Missy, you've done it again.
As I put my costume on, eyelashes one by one Been doing this so long I can tie the knot behind my back And everyone’s waiting But it’s getting harder to hear what my heart is saying 'Cause everyone’s waiting
Queerspirational Song #2: True Colors - Cyndi Lauper
Originally written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, True Colors appeared as the title track on Cyndi Lauper's second album, released in 1986. Though written about Steinberg's mother, Lauper's interpretation was inspired by the death of her friend, Gregory Natal, from HIV/AIDS. In part due to this connection, in part due to the song's message about diversity and rainbow imagery, the song remains a staple in the LGBTQIA+ community.
For me, this song is like a warm hug. It's comforting, reassuring, and makes you feel like someone out there cares. Lauper's voice and the dreamy arrangement give the song an earnest quality, when a more popified version might have been written off as trite.
The song's meaning is only deepened by Cyndi Lauper's recent charitable work with the True Colors Fund, an organization devoted to combating LGBT homelessness.
This world makes you crazy And you've taken all you can bear Just call me up 'Cause I will always be there
Queerspirational Song #3: Changes - David Bowie
Is it *technically* illegal to leave David Bowie off of a list of queer music icons? Probably not, but I'd rather not risk it.
Aside from being a queer, genderfluid icon, David Bowie was also a damn good musician. But you don't need me to tell you that. I love this song because it manages to make the painfully awkward moments in transition feel fun, because they're all just ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.
And these children that you spit on As they try to change their worlds Are immune to your consultations They're quite aware of what they're goin' through
Queerspirational Song #4: Fast Car - Tracy Chapman
I remember the first time I ever heard Tracy Chapman. I was a little kid in the back seat of my family's station wagon, and I was transfixed by her voice. I couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman, and I loved that I also didn't care. There was a powerful universality to her sound; she was singing about something very specific, but in a way everyone could understand. She wasn't trying to be anything or anyone other than herself.
As I grew up, the song remained on my mix tapes, cds, ipods, and digital playlists. The theme of getting into a car with a partner and driving away from a small town towards the freedom of a big city was just too right to resist. Sort of like Springsteen for lesbians.
City lights lay out before us And your arms felt nice wrapped around my shoulders And I had a feeling that I belonged I had a feeling I could be someone
Queerspirational Song #5: The Mother - Brandi Carlile
I'm going to be honest. My entire queerspirational song list could be comprised of Brandi Carlile songs. I'm a fan. But I had to choose. And I chose wisely.
"The Mother" is everything I love about Brandi Carlile. It's emotional, funny, honest, wise, catchy, and unabashedly queer.
I've had the privilege of seeing Carlile perform this live twice. Both times, she offered some words first to set the stage. This song is her ode to motherhood. She wrote it to provide an honest, good-with-the-bad view of parenthood. In writing it, she shows that queer families are just like everyone else, but are also special in that they are built out of pure, radical love.
You are not an accident where no one thought it through The world has stood against us, made us mean to fight for you And when we chose your name we knew that you'd fight the power too
Queerspirational Song #6: None of Your Business - Salt-N-Pepa
I know that None of Your Business doesn't frequently show-up on LGBT-themed Playlists. But maybe it should.
As Salt-N-Pepa say, opinions are like assholes, and everybody's got one on the LGBTQIA+ community, and who/what we do. Should gay people be allowed to get married? Should we let trans people into the military? Should we allow gay men to be parents? Should we operate on intersex babies? Aren't bisexual people just promiscuous?
Guess what - no one asked you!
I try to be patient, especially when a person is making a good-faith effort to learn. But sometimes I just have to blast None of Your Business and get a little frustration out. You might want to try it sometime, it's good for the soul.
So don't try to change my mind I'll tell you one more time It's none of your business
Queerspirational Song #7: Moving Parts - Trixie Mattel
Because what's better than a drag queen playing an autoharp?
I would enjoy this song no matter who wrote it. But the fact that it's a Trixie Mattel song just makes it that much better.
I have had to do a lot of work to accept myself for who I am. A large part of that work has been accepting that I am not just one thing. Rather, I'm a strange combination of many different, even contradictory, things. Trixie Mattel has not only come to accept her multiple moving parts, she's made them look good. I love that she's an over-the-top comedy queen who performs serious folk/country music in full drag. She is who she is, nothing more, nothing less. How cool is that?
No one gave a warning to the breaking of your heart Pick up all the pieces and go back to the start Never losing, always using, all your moving parts
Queerspirational Song #8: Closer - Tegan and Sara
You knew Tegan and Sara were going to show up on here somewhere, right?
Tegan and Sara are total queeroes for a lot of reasons. Rad haircuts, catchy songs, constant twinning, Canadian charm, impeccable style, and a charitable foundation, to name a few. Tegan and Sara are also out and proud role models who have inspired an entire generation of lesbians and queer folk, myself very much included.
With Closer, we get a dance-ready pop song explicitly and unapologetically about lesbian sexuality. What's not to like?
Here comes the breath before we get A little bit closer Here comes the rush before we touch Come a little closer
Queerspirational Song #9: I Don't Know What it is - Rufus Wainwright
Rufus Wainwright is a lot of things. Boring is not one of them. This song is proof. It is sweeping and grand and chaotic and could seemingly go anywhere. It is also beautiful.
I personally love this song because it is about feeling lost and wanting desperately to find your way. I remember times in my life where I felt out of place but didn't know why. I knew that there was something I was supposed to be doing, or saying, or enjoying, but I didn't know what it was. Everyone around me seemed to know exactly how to behave, and I just didn't have the script. As it turns out, all those folks were straight and cisgender. Eventually I found my people, and once I did, I knew exactly what to do.
I don't know what it is But you got to do it I don't know where to go But you got to be there
Queerspirational Song #10: Everything is New - Jaimie Wilson
This song just recently came into my life, but it has already had a big impact. This track is a duet, featuring both pre-transition Jaimie and modern-day Jaimie. As Jaimie wrote in his Facebook post introducing the recording, "[t]his song is the most real thing I’ve ever done. This project was so emotional, I felt my eyes get glossy when I was in the recording booth singing with myself. It made me want to go back in time and hold my own self and tell me that everything is going to be ok."
Everything is new and old and new again. If testosterone wasn't making it hard for me to cry, I'd be reaching for the tissues.
When the day decides to come the sun will rise and I'll open my eyes
Now you've heard my top 10 list - what's on yours?