1. Melissa Etheridge
Melissa Etheridge began her incredible music career with a self-titled debut album that peaked at number 22 on the Billboard 200 and earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female.
She’s best known for her pop-influenced folk-rock style and raspy vocals. She has been an outspoken gay and lesbian activist since she publicly came out in 1993.
2. K.d. Lang
Kathryn Dawn Lang, better known as k.d. lang, is a Canadian singer and songwriter who won several JUNO and Grammy Awards in her music career. Her two biggest hits were Constant Craving and Miss Chatelaine. After performing at the closing ceremony of the 1988 Winter Olympics, she would be named Woman of the Year by the Canadian women’s magazine Chatelaine.
3. Tracy Chapman
Tracy Chapman has always maintained a very strong separation between her personal and professional life, so labeling her in this way may be a bit unfair. Her debut self-titled album would go on to be certified six times platinum and earn three Grammy nominations with three Grammy Award wins.
It gave her her first big hit in Fast Car, and then her other major hit single was Give Me A Reason, released on her fourth album in 1995.
4. Girl in red
Marie Ulven Ringheim is the voice behind the pop project girl in red. She started out recording in her own bedroom, focusing on songs discussing mental health, romance, and the experience of being an LGBTQ person. Paper magazine has labeled her a queer icon and The New York Times listed her as one of the most exciting singer-songwriters in the world of guitar music.
Her debut studio album in 2021, If I Could Make It Go Quiet, would earn her three Norwegian Grammy Awards, and she has so far produced two gold singles, I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend and We Fell In Love In October.
5. Brandy Clark
The country music scene isn’t the first place you’d expect to find lesbian representation, but then Brandy Clark debuted in 2013. Before she released her solo work, she worked as a songwriter and wrote tracks for Kacey Musgraves and Sheryl Crow.
For her entire career, she has been out as a lesbian. The thing that surprised her the most about the country music community was the level of support she received as a gay individual in the scene.
6. Hayley Kiyoko
Hayley Kiyoko was a famous child actress before she started a music career. You’ll probably recognize her from flicks like Lemonade Mouth, Insidious: Chapter Three, and XOXO.
After founding The Stunners and supporting Justin Beiber on a world tour, she would go on to release three solo extended plays and give us hits like Girls Like Girls, Feelings, and Curious.
7. King Princess
King Princess is a gay, genderqueer singer and songwriter who debuted their first single, 1950, in 2018 and saw it immediately go platinum. Their music career would take off, landing gigs at both Lollapalooza and Coachella, while signing on to open for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kacey Musgraves, and Shawn Mendes.
8. Dusty Springfield
Dusty Springfield was one of the most prolific English singers during her peak in the 60s and was an icon of the Swinging Sixties. Her solo career began in 1963 with the release of I Only Want To Be With You, which made it to number four on the UK charts. She was noted for having an incredible sense of humor, even starting a few food fights in her time.
9. Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe would release her debut solo work as early as 2003, but she first gained notoriety for her appearance on Outkast’s album, Idlewild. Her own music career would see her produce several solo albums that charted as high as number six on the Billboard 200 charts and earned her several Grammy nominations. She’s also acted in several films and television shows, including Rio 2, 2019’s Lady And The Tramp, and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.
10. Young M.A
Young M.A blew onto the music scene with the release of the quadruple-platinum hit single OOOUUU, which earned over 300 million YouTube views and made it into the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100.
She would go on to be nominated for both the BET and MTV Artist of the Year and Female Hip-Hop Artist of the Year Awards. While open about her sexuality, she decided to do away with labels in a 2019 interview, though she credits coming out with freeing her up creatively to let the music really flow.
Kehlani initially rose to fame as part of the group PopLyfe that finished fourth on the sixth season of America’s Got Talent. In 2014, she released her first commercial mixtape, Cloud 19, which was named one of the best albums of the year. Her second album would make it to the number-five spot on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts, and in 2017, she dropped the single Honey, a song about being in a relationship with another woman.
A former member of the alt-hip hop group Odd Future and the only openly gay member of the group, Syd would branch out into a solo career in 2017 with her debut single All About Me. She’s also a member of the band The Internet, which blends hip hop with funk, jazz, electronic dance music, and R&B.
13. Brandi Carlile
Brandi Carlile has had an incredible music career, experimenting with various genres and producing banger hits like Right On Time, That Wasn’t Me, and Hold Out Your Hand. Her breakout song was The Story, but her music has been featured several times on the hit TV show Grey’s Anatomy. In total, her music career has earned her six Grammy Awards and an additional 12 nominations with more pending for the 2023 award show.
14. Annie Clark
Better known by her stage name, St. Vincent, Anne Erin or Annie Clark has written and performed incredible tracks like New York, Cruel, and Digital Witness. She has a unique and sort of wacky style to her music and has even written and directed portions of movies like XX and The Nowhere Inn.
15. Lesley Gore
Lesley Sue Goldstein, better known as Lesley Gore, was an American singer, songwriter, actress, and activist. She’s the name behind the ever-famous song It’s My Party, which became number one in the US in 1963 and is still played today.
She followed it up with 10 more Top 40 hits, with Judy’s Turn To Cry and You Don’t Own Me being recorded before she even turned 18. She was set to marry her partner of 33 years in 2015, but she sadly passed from lung cancer before being able to officially tie the knot.
16. Joan Jett
Joan Jett is one of the true Queens of Rock and Roll, evident by her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Joan Jett And The Blackhearts in 2015.
She’s almost always been an influential voice in the music world, from the riot grrrl movements of the 90s to her illustrious solo career and time with the band. She has always been a noted animal rights activist and feminist and has been a consistent supporter of the US Armed Forces by touring and performing for deployed personnel.
17. Sinéad O’Connor
Sinéad O’Connor is one of the greatest singers to ever come out of Ireland. Her first album charted internationally and her second produced the hit song Nothing Compares 2 U, which was named the number-one world single in 1990 by the Billboard Music Awards.
She has always been outspoken when it came to her spiritual journey, mental health struggles, and activism, especially fighting against abuses within the church. She hasn’t been open about her sexuality throughout her career, preferring to keep it private as she sees discussing it could be misconstrued as a publicity stunt.
18. Chely Wright
Chely Wright is another lesbian country music artist who initially found success with singles like Single White Female, which made it to the number-one spot on the country charts. She hid her sexuality for a long time, suffering immense emotional pain until she came out with a 2010 memoir of her life.
After that decision, she would go on to become a very active LGBTQ advocate, establishing the charity Like Me, which provides assistance to LGBTQ youths, and taking on roles as a spokesperson for programs like GLSEN.
Laura Pergolizii broke onto the music scene when her song Muddy Waters was featured on the show Orange Is The New Black. While that might have brought her into the mainstream, she had been making music for quite a while. With six albums and three EPs to her name, she’s had a relatively successful solo career. She is also known as an amazing songwriter, penning tracks for Cher, Rhianna, Celine Dion, and The Backstreet Boys.
Zolita is a well-known lesbian singer and songwriter who directs the music videos for her work herself. The first one of these to go viral was Explosion, which quickly ramped up her exposure to the mainstream music world. Her release of Somebody I F*cked Once in 2021 racked up over 50 million views within a year of being posted to YouTube.
Fletcher broke into the mainstream music world with her 2019 single Undrunk, which charted on the Billboard Hot 100 and was Spotify’s number-one song on the Viral Chart in the US. A vocalist from an early age, adding her music to Spotify kick-started her career, and she would eventually go on to sign for Capitol Records.
22. Victoria Monét
Before Victoria Monét’s solo career took off, she wrote songs for the likes of Janelle Monáe, Ariana Grande, and Selena Gomez. She came out as bi in 2018, stating she was proud to be a part of the new wave of queer female musicians. In 2019, her solo career really got going with the releases of Monopoly and Ass Like That.
23. Lynn Gunn
Lead vocalist for the American rock band PVRIS, Lynn Gunn helped found the lesbian-fronted band in 2013. They play several styles of music, experimenting with alternative rock, post-hardcore, psychedelic, EDM, and electropop. Her biggest goal in the music industry is to be someone for younger kids to look up to because she never felt like she had that in her own life.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.