Music or media showing normal life as a queer person
June 12, 2019 10:47 AM   Subscribe

This thread got me started on a journey of discovery of kd lang’s discography. It has been like therapy. Help me find more of queer people living all the aspects of normal lives and expressing normal emotions?

Previously I had only known Constant Craving, and never knew the significance of even that song. Since coming out as a lesbian a few years ago, I’ve been slowly coming up to speed on queer pop culture that was previously hidden in plain sight.

The most appealing part about kd lang’s music is that it’s not about coming out or being out or specifically being queer. She sings of living life, being in love or out of love or lonely or sad or whatever, with no defensiveness and no sly winks or implicit pleas for recognition of legitimacy.

Also the music hits differently when I know that she’s singing to a woman, even though the gender isn’t emphasized and other people could remap it how queer people normally have to do with everything.

I’ve actually been shocked at how explicit some of her music sounds to lesbian ears (and just look at the cover of Drag — her fingers could be miming an entirely different thing than holding a cigarette). I went looking for old reviews of her albums. The straight reviewers seem to have missed what she was actually doing entirely, and I had trouble finding contemporary reviews by queer publications.

When she does covers of songs originally sung by men, she isn’t cute or ironic about it. She sings them from her experience, fully embodying them. She owns tough songs like “My Old Addiction” and turns cheesy ones into sizzling numbers like “The Joker”.

So much other music by queer people seems to be either squarely about coming out, first encounters, experiments. Or intensely sexualized. Or otherwise squarely about BEING queer. We are more than that. We continue. We mature. We integrate other facets of our lives. Help me find more queer voices that are confident, unapologetic, and show the whole gamut of life as a queer person. What happens years after coming out, and what can that normal life potentially look like? What about growing older as a queer person, falling out of love, dealing with life problems not directly related to queer identity?
posted by flannel to Human Relations (21 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I get a huge sense of queer community from the Indigo Girls. Get Out the Map is a good example of this. Reunion says a lot too. Those are just off the top of my head. They are now in their mid-50's - I'm about 10 years younger than they are, but I get more out of the non-love songs now, whereas when I was younger, the love songs were all I wanted.
posted by wellred at 10:54 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]

There is a LOT to unpack here about coding, “normal” and the long shadow of the closet, modes of expression necessitated by oppressive times, and so forth but meanwhile perhaps you’d enjoy Rufus Wainwright. I don’t, really, other than a little of his earlier stuff, but I think there’s a lot about the range of queer life in there. Try “Montauk” which is about raising his daughter with his husband. That seems fairly normal (he said with only a hint of a shudder.)
posted by Smearcase at 11:00 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]

Not going to touch on the many things to unpack in the phrasing of the ask, but for non-music media, I was stoked to see a married lesbian couple featured in the season 1 finale of Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. The emphasis, as with the other episodes, was on "how do we manage the physical possessions aspect of our shared lives together?" but it was really refreshing seeing a featured wlw couple of color multiple years into their marriage, learning tips about organization for their everyday lives, and affectionately teasing each other as they work on applying Marie Kondo's suggestions for reorganizing their living space together. It's a slice-of-LGBT-life I haven't seen much equivalent of in other media, so that sprang to mind pretty much immediately.
posted by rather be jorting at 11:23 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]

Are you in the Gentleman Jack carriage yet? Swoon!
posted by aw jeez at 12:04 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

First I wanted to address “normal”. Perhaps it was poorly phrased. Please excuse my ungraceful prose. It assuredly does not come from a conflicted place. I can’t edit the original post, but I think if I could, I’d replace “normal” with “the full range of”.

I think what I meant was that I’m looking for things where the fact of being queer is not the central emphasis of the work. Rather, a queer person is shown living their life in a way that is normal to them, without their identity being the central theme. They are working or not, raising kids or not, in relationships or not, in or out of love, going grocery shopping, paying bills, having friends, experiencing major crises or minor life annoyances, whatever. I’m interested in what life looks like long after a person comes out. I’m looking for things that show visibility in the long term.

Thanks for the suggestions thus far. I just started watching Gentleman Jack this week. It does have a great deal of the self-consciousness that I’m not looking for in this ask, though.
posted by flannel at 12:22 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]

Queer as Folk, the American version, showed a lot of this. To be clear, there was plenty of over-the-top drama like many dramatic shows, but there is also plenty of the more domestic type of activity. People have jobs (some actually go to those jobs!), kids, community groups and families that accept them (not all, of course). Couples break up and stay friends, people have dinner parties, one guy shops for cars with his best friend.
posted by soelo at 12:34 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]

I love and identify with the spirit of this question (as clarified) one billion percent. There's something deeply reassuring about just seeing queer folks doing their thing.

Are you familiar with the mini-supergroup boygenius and its members Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, and Phoebe Bridgers? All queer women singing about life, love, loss, all kinds of things. I really enjoy all of their various Tiny Desk recordings (in particular, Lucy Dacus and the boygenius session.)
posted by elephantsvanish at 12:35 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]

This may be somewhat niche, but seems relevant: knowing that Bob Mould was gay as he sang things like this sweet song about complicated love made my early 90s self feel like I could maybe be a human being one day too. (Nearly 3 decades ago? Oh me, oh my...)
posted by robself at 1:37 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]

Oh, I have so many thoughts on this, but I will limit my commentary. If I'm understanding correctly, you are looking for media that's about queer people going about their daily lives whose sexuality is treated as unremarkable by the other characters/the creators of the work and where queer issues are not central to the work. I don't have much to say about queer music, but you mention other media. I don't know if this will hit the spot for you, but to me, the movie Booksmart epitomizes the I-am-gay-and-go-about-my-daily-life,-no-big-deal ethos. The fact that one of the main characters is gay is treated as unremarkable. She came out only two years ago (and her coming out is mentioned as an aside), but really no one cares. I also think it happens to be a really fun and funny movie, YMMV. I haven't seen more than one episode (and it's not for me), but The Fosters also comes to mind. Hope you're enjoying Gentleman Jack!
posted by reren at 2:16 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]

Brandi Carlisle’s newest album By the Way, I Forgive You is like this and made me weep fat, queer tears more than once.
posted by coppermoss at 2:34 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]

Steven Universe!!

Autostraddle has a lot of content along these lines.
posted by divabat at 3:49 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

You can listen to my stuff on Spotify. Dame Kraft
posted by nikaspark at 4:59 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Also, this is a bit of a self-link as I'm a cast member, but the Australian audio drama The Love and Luck Podcast is a queer slice of life story about a gay couple who run a dry bar/cafe and the people that pass through it. There are some plotlines where queerness is a central factor (dealing with abusive parents or homophobic harassment) but the vast majority of it is sweet romance and friendship and family, with the occasional shenangians like a cake gone wrong. It's written, produced, and performed by an all queer cast and there's one straight voiced character in the whole thing (one of the lead's sister).
posted by divabat at 6:32 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

These are all great suggestions and I can’t wait to check them out! I hope more content like I’m looking for gets made as creators and those who fund them get more used to us existing and especially as more queer creators are able to make their work. I’m glad there are lots of music and books and a few movies about coming out or exploring or sexual experiences. Those are super important. I hope we will soon have more represents about the other parts of our lives. It’s sad that we seem to have lost ground in this area since the 90s - 2000s, and I hope we gain it back. You’d have thought that marriage equality in the US would have opened the flood gates, except for what came next.
posted by flannel at 7:06 PM on June 12

I wonder if Meshell Ndegeocello would scratch the same itch for you as kd lang. She's been openly queer since sometime in the 90s. Some of her music is very much About being queer, but a lot of it isn't — or doesn't have queerness as an overt theme, but is richer when you take it into account.

(On her second album, from the mid-90s, she does an amazing cover of Who Is He and What Is He to You, originally sung by a man. She did it with none of the pronouns changed — which means that you can't tell the gender of the person the song is addressed to, but you know without it being said overtly that they must be bisexual: a person of whatever gender who is interested both in the female singer and in the "he" of the title. I remember finding that jaw-dropping in the 90s, that a song could be that inexorably bi without making a big oh-look-at-me-breaking-a-taboo I'm-such-an-androgynous-space-alien Thing about it.)

She's a bit of a long shot. Very different musical style, more political (on race and related issues more often than on gender and sexuality), and with way less of a classic torch song attitude. But she blew my babyqueer mind, not just with that one song but with everything she did in the 90s and early 00s, and she might be worth a try for you.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:12 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Recently I started watching "Schitt's Creek" on the recommendation of a close friend. I wouldn't have tried it otherwise, but they swore that it had remarkable queer queer content. And they were right. It gets more focused on David, the pansexual son in the family that the story's about, in Season 3, but there's content earlier than that. (The actor, who also co-produces and co-writes the show along with his dad, is queer too.)
posted by wintersweet at 7:34 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]

Tegan and Sara are like this - they just write songs. But the two of them are lesbian.

Seconding Brandi Carlisle.

I just saw “Can You Ever Forgive Me” and it’s just a movie (a good movie) that happens to have queer characters. I had no idea it had any gay themes going into it, and was pleasantly surprised. And it’s just like you said - the characters going about their lives.
posted by christiehawk at 11:48 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Thanks, really enjoying some of these suggestions. I also realized that there is no reason for me to experience music as default straight. It occurred to me that it’s a choice I can decide for myself. I’ve been having fun with this with some classic country music like Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, etc.
posted by flannel at 6:33 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]

If it helps with the sense of connection, by experiencing Patsy Cline as somehow incredibly gay, you are participating in a loooongstanding tradition among queers of all genders.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:56 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]

Erin McKeown scratches that itch for me. See her live if you ever get the chance.
posted by carrioncomfort at 5:23 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]

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