In light of U.S. President Donald Trump’s reinstated ban on transgender soldiers today, the music-streaming service Spotify has featured an “I’m With the Banned” playlist featuring music from trans and genderqueer musicians as well as minute-long, animated explainers of the battles over transgender bathroom use.
In the first explainer, cisgender musician Halsey says, “Mariah Carey once demanded 20 white kittens and 100 doves backstage…. On recent tours to North Carolina, both The Lumineers and Selena Gomez had one very specific demand: all-gender bathrooms. It might not sound as unusual … but believe it or not, it’s much more controversial.”
Any regular reader of our site knows about the ongoing battles over transgender public accommodations, but many non-LGBTQ Americans don’t. Considering that Spotify has over 50 million paying subscribers, their playlist (which was originally released during Pride month 2017) could potentially educate millions about the issues while highlighting other trans and genderqueer musicians worth listening to.
What’s in Spotify’s transgender and genderqueer playlist?
The explainers are each separated by three song sets. The first set features Shamir, a black electro-pop-disco artist who once said, “I have no gender, no sexuality, and no fucks to give” (video below); Grimes, the house/synth pop star who said, “I vibe in a gender neutral space,” and Mykki Blanco, the HIV-positive, genderqueer rap-poet and activist who recently read the poem “I Want a Dyke for President” during the U.S. election season.
In the second explainer, Halsey explains, “In 2011, Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ became the first number one hit to use the word ‘transgender,’ just one example of progress in this society.” She goes on to say that as the trans community has become more visible, more students have started coming out as transgender, leading to the first so-called “bathroom case” in 2013 granting a transgender first grader her right to use her school’s girls’ restroom and culminating in former U.S. President Barack Obama’s May 2016 guidance that trans students have the right to use the bathroom and locker room that fits their identity (now rescinded, thanks to Trump).
The second musical set features two songs by Anohni, the second openly-transgender Academy Award nominee, and the song “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” (video below) by Against Me!, a punk band whose frontwoman, Laura Jane Grace, came out as transgender in 2012.
The third musical set features the song “Body Was Made” by Jewish genderqueer artist Ezra Furman, “Cruel” by gender-fluid and sexually fluid multi-instrumentalist St. Vincent and “Battle Cry” by pansexual, agender rapper Angel Haze (featuring Sia) whose lyrics say:
“And you never let ’em kill you, you take everything they give you
And throw it right fuckin’ at ’em and tell ’em it doesn’t build you
And no it don’t ever break you, and no it can’t overtake you
Life’s like a bed of roses, you take the thorns and you make do
Sometimes you have to hurt for the cause to be reached
But one day you’ll be stronger than all that you beat”
Though today brought horrible news for transgender and genderqueer Americans, we will outlast Trump and beat back bigotry. These songs will provide a soundtrack and historical proof of when the battle unfolded.