This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots which triggered the modern LGBTQ+ liberation movement in the US and beyond. On the 28th June 1969, the bar’s patrons clashed with police officers in a raid that was not uncommon during that era. However, this time they’d had enough, this time the patrons fought back. Two people in particular made a significant impact that night but the history books often forget – two transgender women of colour named: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.
This night lit a match underneath the modern LGBTQ+ movement we see living on worldwide in Pride celebrations, protests and marches today. So much has happened in the last 50 years both in favour and against the LGBTQ+ communities; in my lifetime alone I’ve seen the World Health Organisation declassify same-sex attraction as a mental illness, I’ve seen Section 28 being repealed, and equal marriage being passed into law but I’ve also seen a significant increase in the levels of isolation and loneliness within the LGBTQ+ communities, and the number of homophobic, and especially transphobic, hate crimes more than doubling in the last 5 years.
50 years on from the Stonewall Riots we have seen progress, but we are not at the finish line yet! As trans activist Charlie Craggs said “trans women of colour need you to fight for them the way they fought for you 50 years ago, there is still more to be done, the battle is not over.”
Which is why at Pride this year as I march in the parade, I will be marching to celebrate everything we have achieved and I will be protesting for everything that is to come because our mantra is: we’re here, we’re queer and yes sometimes we’re afraid, but we are never ashamed because we are proud of who we are! – Tash Walker (Co-Founder of GIHE & Co-Chair for Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline)
To mark this momentous anniversary, Tash, Mari and Kate have put together some tunes to celebrate LGBTQ+ liberation, as we continue to push for progress. Read about our chosen tracks and have a listen below!
Hercules & Love Affair – ‘Blind’
Taken from their self-titled album released in 2008, the same year I attended London Pride for the first time, this is without a doubt the theme tune to me fully embracing my sexuality, feeling proud of who I was and strong enough to come out happily in all aspects of my life. (Tash Walker)
Le Tigre – ‘Keep On Livin’
Pioneers of queer culture, Le Tigre’s ‘Keep On Livin’ remains a motivational anthem to anyone going through a hard time. Inspired by the feelings surrounding both ‘coming out’ as a survivor of sexual abuse, and coming out as gay, lesbian, bi or trans, it’s a pure cathartic release of emotion.
Robyn – ‘Dancing On My Own’
Robyn is an outspoken ally for LGBTQ+ rights. I think it is important to recognise the role that allies play within LGBTQ+ history and the movement’s continued fight for equality.
Lady Gaga – ‘Born This Way’
A dance-floor filling anthem that celebrates self-acceptance.
RuPaul – ‘Sissy That Walk’
Pioneering drag queen RuPaul’s message of self love and motivation is encapsulated in this uplifting anthem, as she sings one of her classic mottos: “Unless they paying your bills, pay them bitches no mind.”
Planningtorock – ‘Non Binary Femme’
This track summed up 2018 for me, a year that gave with free abundance in good music, in particular Planningtorock’s album Powerhouse. Any album that uses the language Non-Binary Femme in the title of the song is unarguably paving the way for not only a greater/better understanding of what these words and this sort of language means, but also for it to become a fully accepted part of everyday conversation.
Princess Nokia – ‘Tom Boy’
Openly queer rapper and all round inspiration, Princess Nokia writes powerful, feminist anthems promoting self love and body positivity, refusing to fit into stereotypical gender norms.
Mykki Blanco (feat. Princess Nokia) – ‘Wish You Would’
This is a song from an artist who I feel needs no introduction, a queer pioneer who is doing amazing things for LGBTQ+ rights as well as being open about their positive HIV status. Mykki Blanco is an incredible artist and I love his music.
Syd – ‘All About Me’
One of my favourite tracks from Syd who is openly LGBTQ+ and you may know from the excellent collective The Internet.
Shura – ‘2shy’
I just love this track from London artist Shura, who has been consistently challenging stereotypes since she came out as a lesbian a couple of years ago and helping to “queer the mainstream”. Bring on the blurring of gender and sexuality in pop!
Jackie Shane – ‘Any Other Way’
A pioneer for transgender rights in the late 60s, Jackie Shane lived her life as a woman in the spotlight, during a time when compassion and acceptance were not always reciprocated towards those who identified as trans.
Cyndi Lauper – ‘True Colours’
An uplifting anthem often associated with the LGBTQ+ community, ‘True Colours’ openly asserts for us to love ourselves for who we are. Lauper has often dedicated the song to a friend of hers who died from HIV/AIDs, and has since co-founded the ‘True Colours’ fund – a non-profit that educates people on LGBTQ issues and helps to end homelessness for LGBTQ youth.
King Princess – ‘1950’
Something that I am really proud of here in the UK is the latest generation of LGBTQ+ people, who continually amaze me with their openness and their acceptance of how others identify in their sexuality and gender identity, so different from when I was growing up. ‘1950’ by King Princess is an excellent example of the progression we have made throughout the last 60 years.
Anna Calvi – ‘Don’t Beat The Girl Out Of My Boy’
Anna Calvi describes this track as being “beyond definition”, because queerness is beyond definition. Her whole Hunter album celebrates what it is to be queer in a wonderfully honest, binary-destroying way. Summing it up, she explains: “I want to go beyond gender. I don’t want to have to chose between the male and female in me.”
Bang Bang Romeo – ‘Shame On You’
Fronted by loud and proud lesbian Stars, Bang Bang Romeo completely blew us away with their immense soulful power and compelling charisma when playing Cro Cro Land earlier this year.
Dream Nails – ‘Deep Heat’
A hex on Donald Trump and the patriarchy in general, our fave DIY punks Dream Nails know how to boost up their community in times of need.
The Menstrual Cramps – ‘The Smash’
Combining activism with musical prowess, and fully embracing queerness, The Menstrual Cramps provide a captivating, empowering force that we all need now more than ever.
T-Bitch – ‘Dressing Up’
Southend riot grrrl punks T-Bitch celebrate all things trans, queer & glam!
Queen Zee – ‘Boy’
One of the most relevant (and joyful) bands around at the moment. I’d put them on every playlist if it was up to me!
Ezra Furman – ‘Suck The Blood From My Wound’
Openly bisexual and androgynous artist Ezra Furman’s latest album Transangelic Exodus really knocked my for six in its spine-tingling beauty and raw emotion. This track is particularly stirring, its concept serving as a metaphor for queer liberation and the defiance of the underdog.
Grace Petrie – ‘Black Tie’
Addressing the damaging effects of enforced gender norms, this is an empowering and uplifting offering, addressing a younger self with reassuring lyrics such as “I swear there’ll come a day when you won’t worry what they say, on the labels, on the doors, you will figure out what’s yours.”
Janelle Monae – ‘Pynk’
A brash celebration of creation. Self love. Sexuality. And p-ssy power! Need I say more.
Frank Ocean – ‘Chanel’
Such a great song. As you may or may not know, Frank Ocean came out back in 2012 to mixed but mainly positive responses.
Queen – ‘Love Of My Life’
Just a heartbreaking love song written by the legendary Freddie Mercury. Once, when asked about his sexuality, Mercury replied with “I’m gay as a daffodil, my dear!”. A brave statement to make back in 1974.
Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy’
This track was released in 1984 at the height of the AIDS crisis by openly gay Bronski Beat, ‘Smalltown Boy’ is a heartbreaking story given an empowering beat.
Anthony & The Johnsons – ‘For Today I Am A Boy’
A stirring and powerful ode to the journey of transitioning, a simply exquisite creation.
Have a listen to, and follow, our 50 Years Of Pride playlist, here: