Monday Roundtable: Hey DJ Play That (Gay) Song

Before we had Hayley Kiyoko serenading pretty girls in a rotating wardrobe of cage bras and oversized shirts or Kehlani and Demi Lovato climbing on top of each other on stage, God bless them, the landscape of gay music looked a little different. The first musician or song that you felt in your heart and brain was gay was a big moment for many of us — here are the gay songs we first knew and loved.

Heather Hogan, Senior Editor

My favorite gay song is the Indigo Girls’ cover of Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet” from their iconic 1992 Rites of Passage album. Obviously the Dire Straits version is amazing; the song’s been covered a zillion times. But there is something breathtaking about Amy Ray singing it to another woman with a heart full of rage and heartache. And I dreamed your dream for you and now your dream is real — so tell me, honey: how can you look at me as if I was JUST ANOTHER ONE OF YOUR DEALS? I knew it was gay because I knew the Indigo Girls were gay. I was too scared to buy their music, of course, but my sister loooved them so I would borrow her CDs sometimes and drive around listening to them because, like Amy Ray here, I was in love with a lot of straight girls who gave me all their time and attention until Romeo came a-callin’ and they were reminded they used to have a scene with him. I listened to this song just now, 39 years old in my New York City home I share with my partner of eight years, and it was as much of a soul-stabber as it was when I was 16, Georgia backroads, windows down, scream-singing about my best friend.

Rachel Kincaid, Managing Editor

I grew up with a lot of gay women’s folk music being played, a lot of Lilith Fair vibes — my mom was a recently divorced white woman in the early 2000s, there was a lot of Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge, Annie Lennox and Sarah McLachlan. The crown, I think, has to go to Tracy Chapman, who is maybe the only one of that era of artists I return to now and still get something as powerful (or maybe even more so) as I did when I first heard it, rather than just nostalgia and the reminiscence of what they first meant to me (doesn’t mean I won’t still crank out a solid cry to Rites of Passage!). I don’t know that I knew in a literal sense that Chapman was gay, but I definitely stored her in that special locker in my brain for things that were intriguing in a way I couldn’t describe and would later realize was queerness. One of my first gay friends (before we knew what that meant) was an effeminate boy I had grown up with and as part of a kind of effort to normalize himself, he was on a mission to find male musical artists he liked rather than just female vocalists. At first he assumed Chapman was male based on, I guess, her voice, and when we later realized she wasn’t she held an alluring kind of gender deviance for me as a little tomboy.

Anyways the point is, “Fast Car” can and does still absolutely devastate me every time. I think I heard it first in my mother’s car — a lot of my first music memories are from the radio in my mom’s car — and I remember connecting the dots between the literal narrative of the song (I have to get out of this city, you have a car, we could make this work) to the implied one — (I’ve never had any options and this is my one shot at happiness, when I was with you was the only time I felt like I could be someone, please say yes). The vulnerability in the repression, the aching fixation on the small gesture — your arm felt nice wrapped ’round my shoulder — feels so specifically gay! She has an entire (sad! flawed!) life planned out based on your arm felt nice wrapped around my shoulder! That’s fucking gay (and like, attachment issues, which, also gay)! And something about the structure of the song makes the conclusion so tragically foregone — don’t you know as soon as you hear her ask in the first verse that it’s futile? Have any of us ever said “you gotta make a decision” to someone without knowing already, with a sinking feeling in our hearts, what their decision would be?

[Runner up is “Give Me One Reason”; honorable mention also for “Baby Can I Hold You.” Actually everything — “The Promise” is fucking me UP if we’re being honest.]

Carrie Wade, Staff Writer

“You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore, which combines two of my central interests: the Brill Building sound and telling men to step off. I had no idea Lesley Gore was a lesbian when I first heard this song, but that fact only makes it better as far as I’m concerned. She literally tells the guy not to parade her around when they’re out together — a feeling very familiar to closeted teenage me, who sat through many uncomfortable dates I didn’t actually want to be on. “It’s My Party” is fine and everything, but without “You Don’t Own Me,” you’re missing the essentials.

Erin Sullivan, Staff Writer

I don’t remember the first time I heard “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls, but my guess is when I was a freshman in college back in 2004 (yikes) as that is the year where I found myself surrounded by the kind of older lesbians who have fire pits on their decks. That means this song and its band were played non-ironically at parties and in cars, which was great, because everyone knows this song bangs. If you watch the video for this song, you can see Amy and Emily absolutely wailing on their guitars from the moment you press play until the moment you press replay. I mean, they are really going to town on the strumming, to a point where I don’t even think they know what song they’re supposed to be playing. Rock on, girls!

Creatrix Tiara, Staff Writer

It’s hard to narrow down anything from Savage Garden but if I had to pick one I’d say To The Moon & Back. I didn’t know Darren Hayes was gay when I first heard it (especially since he didn’t come out till like 2006) but looking back IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW. I’ve loved this band since I was 12 and every damn song fits so well into the soundtrack of my life. To The Moon & Back in particular fit well with my lonely, not-really-connecting-to-family heart, the one that just needed somebody to really love her for who she was (especially after an extremely torturous primary school experience).

Alexis Smithers, Staff Writer

It very well could be common knowledge that Lesley Gore was a lesbian but I didn’t know for sure til I checked for this roundtable and IN MY SPIRIT I KNEW !!! I KNEW SHE HAD TO BE GAY!!!! NO ONE CAN SING A SONG LIKE THIS AND NOT BE GAY. I can’t remember when first I heard it but it reminds me of one of my favorite Rizzles fics set in the 1950s that I’m 99% sure is unfinished and that hurts but I’m holding out for a hero to come back within thirty years and wrap things up and this song constantly plays in my head when I read it. Not to mention It’s My Party? I Don’t Wanna Be A Loser? Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows?? My girl is giving all kinds of lesbian heartbreaking hits!

Sarah Sarwar, Design Director

I would play the song “Slide” by Ani DiFranco on a loop my senior year of high school and think about my straight best friend and feel SO MANY GAY FEELINGS! It’s all about those long, drawn out unrequited crushes that linger and take up space in your mind — crushes that are ultimately fucked up but you’re like “Let’s do this some more!”

She laid down in her party dress and never got up
Needless to say she missed the party
She just got sad
Then she got stuck
She was wincing like something brittle
Trying hard to bend
She was numb with the terror
Of losing her best friend

Aside from the lyrical bangers and the perfect pacing, “Slide” was just SO relatable! I really was scared of being honest about my feelings and losing my best friend! The entire song is how riding a bicycle in the rain will make you slide out of control. That’s how my unrequited crush felt. Wet… and out of control. lol. I remember I used to meaningfully belt out the lyric “And my pussy is a tractor / And this is a tractor pull” while developing photos in the darkroom! It’s how I felt!
“Slide” named my lust in a way that I could bellow in the darkness.

Alaina Monts, Staff Writer

Every time I hear “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman I flash forward to a utopic future where I and my hard-working partner have four foster kids and are hanging out on our back porch watching them play with the dogs. My only real memory attached to the song is hearing it around 12:25 and 3:25 during the lunch shifts at this restaurant where I hosted.

Valerie Anne, Staff Writer

This is extremely rude because I have a whole Songs of Sappho playlist for songs just like this and there are too many to list, so instead of going with ‘pure favorite,’ I’m going to go with one of my faves that is lesser known. Because I could tell you my favorite Hayley Kiyoko or Halsey or Be Steadwell song or that Jenny Owen Youngs’ cover of Hot in Herre gives me life but instead I’m going to tell you about Fay Wolf. I discovered Fay Wolf’s cover of I Wanna Dance with Somebody after Glee had already gayed it up and no version (except the original obviously) would ever be good enough for me, but this song came on my Discover Weekly and it was soft and slow and I just let it ride. So then when it gets about 3/4 of the way through the song and she says, “I need a man who’ll take a chance…” and then there’s this sweet little, “or” that I love so much. You can almost hear her smile a shy smile like she knows she’s about to rattle your expectations, and then sings with confidence, “I need a woman.” And rattled I was! I think it was the first explicitly bisexual song I’d ever heard. Like I’d heard songs with the pronouns changed (or not changed!) to make it a lady-lovin-ladies song, and I’d heard totally gay songs, but I liked that this queer artist took this song and not only put her own musical twist on it but put her own personal stamp on it. It was a pleasant surprise the first time I heard it, and that little “or” makes my heart skip a beat every time.

Riese Bernard, CEO

Sometimes at the end of a concert that isn’t an Indigo Girls concert, when everybody’s clapping for an encore, I will yell PLAY CLOSER TO FINE and maybe one other person — usually zero, but sometimes one — will get the joke and smile in my direction. See, The Indigo Girls always play “Closer to Fine” as their encore song, and there is no concert I love like I love an Indigo Girls concert. The Indigo Girls have been around for a minute, so the part where they play “Closer to Fine” feels like a sacred lesbian ritual we’re all participating in together. The goddesses leave the stage, we cheer and roar, raining devotionals upon them from the depths of our sapphic souls, and we call out to them, come back to us, come back, and we know they will. We know what will happen when they do. They’ll play “Closer to Fine.” But we do it just the same, because ritual. Because there is power in the ritual. The topic of the song is how we mess up over and over again, not just within lifetimes but across them, and how we wanna figure out why we do what we do or what the point of all of it is, not because we think we’re gonna get better, but ’cause we hope we might one day become, you know, fine.

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  1. Love these! And love that so many flocked to the same songs! At fourteen (and very much in the closet) I found my heart-music in Tegan and Sara (So bold! So gay! So hot!). I had a hardcore crush on both of course.

    • I first heard of Tegan and Sara when their song “So Jealous” was featured on The L Word and then when they performed “Love Type Thing”. I went out and bought So Jealous but it was The Con that really made me love them. I saw them during their Sainthood tour and it made me love them even more!

  2. One of the things about being trans that makes me sad is that since I grew up convinced that I was a straight boy, I missed out on a lot of these early gay awakening moments. Secretly, I really loved female pop singers, but even though I wasn’t trying to be a tough, ultra masculine guy, I still embraced toxic masculinity enough to instinctively know what things I needed to pretend not to like. And for whatever ridiculous reason, I felt like pop music was one of those things.

    So, in middle school, I went through a very quick nu-metal phase (although I was mostly just following along with my best friend with that one). At the end of middle school and the beginning of high school, I mostly only listened to rap music. Then I embraced casually misogynistic nerd music like Weezer for a bit, and then I became an indie rock snob for a long time after that. But in 2004 at the height of my indie rock snobbery, I heard a pop song that I just couldn’t ignore. It was “Heartbeat” by Annie. It was just too gorgeous and perfect to deny. Granted, I wasn’t the only one. Rock critics were falling all over themselves to explain how Annie was the “Kylie it was cool to like.” I’ve since figured out that Kylie is the Kylie it’s cool to like, but at the time, Annie was my first step on a very long road to rejecting the toxic masculinity I was using as a shield and embracing the femininity I had buried within myself. So, while the song is not queer at all (other than the fact that lots of gay men loved it), it’s the song that feels the closest to this type of big moment for me even if I didn’t fully understand how or why it had had such a big impact at the time or why it quite often made me cry. After all these years, Annie is still my favorite singer and “Heartbeat” is still my favorite song.

    • I realized I was queer a month after turning 21 and I sometimes get bummed about not having those teen moments of discovery. (Though now looking back, I did have some, I just wasn’t ready to acknowledge them and or recognize them, you know?)

      Maybe that’s why I have a similar “the song is not queer at all (other than the fact that lots of gay men loved it)” experience with my artist of choice: Cher.

      For no reason at all I got obsessed with Cher when I was 9 and asked for her double greatest hits CD for Children’s Day. No grown ups around me listened to Cher, no classmates, nothing. I just wanted to belt her songs and dance all day every day. And I did, until some people pointed out that Cher was gay music and old and I should listen to rock as I became a teen.

      Rejecting toxic masculinity is so important and I’m glad you managed to do that and Annie helped you in that journey!

      • Ugh, I hate how much society shapes and molds us to fit a particular image even when it comes to something as simple as what music we listen to. And I especially hate how much of it comes from self-policing from our own peers.

        • I know! That sucks! But I’m glad that I’m past that now and this post reminded me of a picture I now need to find desperately: baby Jana at Cancun’s Planet Hollywood next to Cher’s signature and hands on concrete and some pants she used on tour

  3. It is not common knowledge Lesley Gore was gay because I didn’t know Lesley Gore was gay!

    And now I know!!!!!!!!! ??????

  4. I remember when Your Woman by White Town came out in the 90s. Here was a guy, singing about how he could never be “your woman”, which meant either he was singing from the perspective of a gay man to a straight guy, or a straight guy to a gay woman, but either way, it was 100% gay guaranteed, which was very exciting.

    • YESSSSS!!! This is ome of my absolute favorite songs of all time. Darren Hayes did a cover some time ago and i just about died

  5. “Closer to Fine” and “Fast Car” were the first two songs I thought of when i saw this, Closer To Fine is one of my favorite all time songs, ever since growing up going to an all girls summer camp, and Fast Car just seems to play in my head on a loop all the time. It really speaks to me about past relationships and about the mistakes I want to avoid in my future. In general, Indigo Girls and Chapman are gems. Check out Manic Focus’s remix of Give Me One Reason on soundcloud

  6. Love this! I’m in my late 30’s, so my first thoughts were similar to a lot of these – Tracy Chapman, Indigo Girls, Sarah McLachlan. Not to be too cliche, but I think it was also Ani DiFranco for me. Maybe specifically “She says” but everything from those early albums and Living in Clip.

    • I’m also in my late 30s, but was not into Indigo Girls, Tracy Chapman, etc. as a teenager. I was more into pop/R&B. And musical theater. However, my freshman year of college a girl who lived across the hall from me in the dorm lent me her CDs of Dilate and Little Plastic Castle. I already knew I was queer and was out to my friends, but I had never heard of Ani before then and my mind was blown.

  7. I had Wanna Dance With Somebody pop into my head in the shower this morning. I never heard this version though and wow you are right that “or”!

  8. Well, let’s add some spanish to this….

    What I love about these two songs is the intimacy, the idea that no matter what other people thinks, no matter what’s happening with the world, you love each other and the rest can go to freaking hell.

    “Puerto Pollensa” was written in 1981 by María Celina Parrondo (AKA Marilina Ross) and released on 1982 by Sandra Mihanovich. When this song was released Argentina was under a dictatorship and Marilina Ross was blacklisted on those days, so doing this, under those conditions, took a lot of ovaries.

    Y tu mirada se clavó en mis ojos
    y mi sonrisa se instaló en mi cara
    y se esfumó la habitación, la gente,
    y el miedo se escapo por la ventana.

    Y amándonos en una carretera
    nos sorprendió la luz del nuevo dia
    como a dos jóvenes adolescentes
    tu mano húmeda sobre la mía.

    (And your eyes fixed on my eyes
    and my smile settled on my face
    and the room vanished, the people,
    and fear escaped through the window.

    And loving us on a highway
    we were surprised by the light of the new day
    like two young teenagers
    your wet hand on mine.)

    Here you have Sandra Mihanovich on the left and Marilina Ross on the right. By the way, both married they long-time girlfriends on recent years.

    My other favorite song is “Mujer contra Mujer” released on 1988 by Mecano, a very popular (huge) band from Spain. It was, at the time, the very first openly lesbian song you could find in spanish.

    Nada tienen de especial
    dos mujeres que se dan la mano
    el matiz viene despues
    cuando lo hacen por debajo del mantel

    Luego a solas,
    sin nada que perder
    tras las manos
    va el resto de la piel

    Un amor por ocultar,
    aunque en cueros no hay donde esconderlo…

    (Nothing special
    two women who shake hands
    the nuance comes later
    when they do it under the tablecloth

    Then alone,
    nothing to lose
    behind the hands
    the rest of the skin goes

    A love to hide,
    although naked there is nowhere to hide it…)

    P.D.: I knew these songs some years later taking into consideration that I was born in 1980 and “Puerto Pollensa” was taught to me on primary school where we used to learn and sing popular songs.

    • PUERTO POLLENSA omg I remember crying about the first girl who broke my heart and a friend playing this for me

      • You know, I think listening this song with a friend after a break up is a common experience for almost every lesbian in Argentina. At least once in your lifetime we all do this.

  9. I remember being fifteen and shaken by Sarah Bettens’ (from K’s Choice) ‘Come Over Here’. I had no idea who she was, or that she was gay, but she croons :

    “Something tells you, you should go
    Deep down you’ve always known
    Something sweet is on the other side /
    Mama is gonna cry for you
    Papa might disown you
    You are getting ready for the ride”

    That sound sounded so queer I would never play it in public – but I linked to in on my text blog without comment, because 2005.

    • I heard Come Over Here for the first time two years ago thanks to a AS playlist, and DAMN !

      I still get the most incredible chills whenever I listen to it, which isn’t often because it makes me feel all funny.

      If I’d heard this song when much younger, I think I would have spontaneously combusted.

    • K’s choice!

      “Now there’s a key where my wonderful mouth used to be
      Dig it up, throw it at me
      Dig it up, throw it at me”

      I’ll always think of Vamp Willow when I hear that band. That lyric and moment were so gay.
      What a great soundtrack to that episode.

  10. they were all really private at the time (and still are, which i appreciate), but “one more hour” by sleater kinney blew my mind when when i was like… 13.

  11. I grew up Trans hating how ‘god made me all wrong’ but then one day I heard the Kinks ‘Lola’ on my little black transistor radio and I was like whaaaat? “ boys will be girls and girls will be boys it’s a mixed up crazy world” or some such. And I was like wait boys will be girls. Whoa thats me. Yet still I repressed it Hard. It was the one thing I learned to do real well. Repress who I knew I was. Still this song gave me a clue who I was. A big flashing one.

    • Ok here is the line I had to go look it up.

      Girls will be boys
      Boys will be girls
      It’s a mixed up
      Muddled up
      Shook up world
      Except for Lola

      Lola by the Kinks

      So Yeah that.

  12. Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge and KD Lang were early influences but I want to shoot out to a less well known group.

    I think I mention 2 Nice Girls every time AS has a post about queer music, but you know, their music was really formative for me. They were an openly lesbian band that never made it as big as The Indigo Girls – a friend in college who came out the same year I did introduced our friend group to them.

    Their song Last 10 Dollars was the favorite drinking song of our group of queer weirdo friends senior year of college – the chorus is:

    I spent my last 10 dollars on birth control and beer.
    My life was so much simpler when I was sober and queer.

    Current me is aware of the bi-erasure going on in those lyrics, but for 21 yo me, newly out as bi, believing/hoping that dating women was going to solve all my problems, this song really, really resonated.

  13. “High School Confidential” by Rough Trade was my first openly gay anthem and hey, it was Top 40 so totally legit for me to belt it out at the top of my lungs in public.

    Good times !

    • I saw Rough Trade perform this on an episode of SCTV and oh wow was Carole Pope all angles and gayness! Excellent choice for an anthem.

  14. Gonna age myself right here: We Are Family by Sister Sledge, I’m Coming Out by Diana Ross, It’s Raining Men by the Weather Girls.

    Clearly I spent my baby dyke days in a gay bar.

    • But… but what about Abba’s Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight), 100% sure gay bar material

  15. I grew up in Melissa Etheridge prime and I loved “I want to come over”. My stepmother casually said “you know she’s singing about a woman?” And I was totally floored. I listened to it every day for so long and quietly sat in my room dreaming of my best friend and it was one of the very early signs that I was very gay.

  16. “I Know, I Know, I Know” by Tegan and Sara. Truly, that whole album.

    I was 18 and getting my first tattoo, a big rib piece that took several sessions. The tattoo artist was named Jill. She played So Jealous continuously for hours. She had short hair, leopard print inked in her right ear, talked openly about her girlfriend and how Tegan and Sara were both lesbians. I wanted to climb inside her skull and curl up. I wanted to get more tattoos so I could feel her hands on me.

    I put it down to the thrill of getting my first tattoo. Took me three years and a starter marriage to figure out HOW FUCKIN GAY I AM.

  17. oh, Closer To Fine… 11th grade English class. the teaching intern (who I had a complete and total crush on) gave me a cassette tape copy of The Indigo Girls and I was utterly sold. Heck, she could’ve given me a tape of goose calls performed by the neighborhood drunks and I would’ve eaten it up, if I’m being honest. But yes, I already knew I was gay but this just cemented it *laugh*

    • “goose calls performed by the neighborhood drunks”

      The Tipsy Gay Goose Compilation” I want that album !!

  18. I’m genuinely surprised that with so many professed theatre kids around these parts, no one else has picked “Take Me or Leave Me” from Rent. I can still remember being at summer camp, and hearing this album for the first time, and realizing mid-song that it was TWO WOMEN singing to each other! I was 12 years old and that blew my fucking MIND.

    • YES THIS! At high school parties, my gay dude best friend and I would switch clothes so I was wearing his button ups and boys’cargo pants and he was wearing my skirt and low cut tops, and we would take over the cd player and just belt this out to each other. Shockingly, this did not go over well at high school parties, but we had fun.

  19. There really wasn’t mainstream song that was by trans musicians(or they weren’t out then) so I don’t have a song that resonated like me that way. The only really out and gay musician I was heavily into in my tees was Judas Priest and that was about 7-8 years after Rob came out. He is this very noticeable leather daddy talking about taking action, and loving, but once he came out the songs had a different meaning. The song that still resonates with me is Breaking the Law, as I am pretty sure it’s about being lgbtq.

    So much for the golden future I can’t even start
    I’ve had every promise broken, there’s anger in my heart
    You don’t know what it’s like, you don’t have a clue
    If you did you’d find yourselves doing the same thing too

    Which to mean is saying you don’t know what it’s like to be gay/queer in the 70s and 80s England or anywhere that your rights are under attack. It really speaks to me cause not that many people know what it’s like to break the law just by existing as a butch, a queer trans woman, or as someone not within the binary.

    • Rob Halford was the first musician I knew to be any kind of queer as a kid. When I was learning queer history and reading Stone Butch blues that song resonated the similarly with me and still does. It wasn’t just some rebellion for rebellion’s sake song that suburban kids shout along with.

      Being 16 and tallying up how many items came from which department of a store I was wearing to see if I’d get arrested back then…

  20. UHHHH Let me tell you the story of my first “date” with my forever-bae because, wow.

    Growing up in a household where I knew from a young age that it was not ok to be gay, the way I processed my non-normative feelings/curiosity was to get really into anime / video games (with somewhat effeminate-looking male characters) and read slash fanfiction (definitely never fiction with women characters because I was definitely NOT a lesbian).

    One of those works of fanfiction introduced me to the song “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” by Sophie B. Hawkins, at age like 13 in 2003. I had to get a friend to Kazaa it for me (lol) & burn it to a CD. It was one of the first 2 songs I ever actually owned and listened to and I LOVED it and definitely ONLY imagined the two dudes from the fanfiction being angsty about each other to it… And mind you, this song came out in 1992 so definitely was not generationally a thing it would make sense for me to know about.

    Fast forward to age 24, I’m out and am having my own angsty should-we-or-shouldn’t-we thing with a coworker I was in love with. After 3-6 months of figuring our shit out (which involved realizing we were interested, deciding if we wanted to do long distance, deciding if we were ok with a 10 year age difference, breaking up with other people, etc), we finally decided to take a leap and try to go for it with each other (despite the risk of working at a tiny company and what might happen if it didn’t work out). I say our first “date” because it involved boo showing up in my city to hang out for only ~18 hours before I had to fly home for the holidays – so it wasn’t a traditional date.

    BUT boo went to put some music on at some point and what comes on but “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” — I stopped in my tracks, like, how do you know this song that I discovered through some super obscure fanfiction?!! And boo was like “how do YOU know this song that came out when you were literally 2 years old?!”

    I explained how I discovered this song that for ~some reason~ really moved me as a young queer person trying to figure my shit out – come to find out boo had somehow been moved to listen to this exact song on loop during the months of angsty lead-up to us actually dating – and we had never spoken about it until that moment.

    And now we’re getting married.


    The end.

  21. “As I Lay Me Down” by Sophie B. Hawkins is one of the first songs I ever remember hearing on the radio and I have strangely heard it in some way (on the radio, in a store, in a playlist, etc) during every major life change to the point that I think of it as a luck charm.

    I didn’t know until my 20s that basically all her work is super queer, and it just fit.

    • Whoa, I LOVED this song as a little kid but never knew who sang it and definitely never knew she was queer. Listening again for probably the first time in a decade and it really holds up!

  22. Ohhhhh my this brought back serious baby queer angst at science fiction/fantasy/horror teen writer camp when I was 14 with this straight girl that I had like JUST REALIZED I was so in love with!!! And we would cuddle for hours and then I was playing “Untouchable Face” over and over and over and over and wandering around the empty college campus and NO ONE UNDERSTOOD MY PAIN. Except Ani. With her curse words.

  23. it is EXTREMELY RUDE that both Rachel and Riese decided to make me cry via this round table, what the actual fuck, i thought we were friends here.

    also i discovered ani difranco in the 8th grade – 32 flavors, obviously, via a TeenOpenDiary that posted song lyrics, OBVIOUSLY – and loved her ferociously for 8 years before realizing i was gay. i really just thought i was a straight girl who liked to make duct tape wallets with lines from poems by jewel written all over them for my crushes and who loved ani difranco because she was like, “a good feminist” (lol).

    anyway, turns out i’m gay.

  24. Listening to Anna Ternheim, covering and gender-bending Broder Daniel’s “Shoreline” live, just her and the piano, about ten years ago, healed something I hadn’t realized needed healing. She’s never come out as gay as far as I’m aware so she doesn’t really fit this list but, oh, this song was so damn important to gay small town-me even after years living the big city life.

  25. I didn’t find out about Leslie Gore until a few years ago.

    But looking at that serious case of gay face I cant believe I didn’t figure it.

  26. A little late but anyway. I grew up with “You don’t own me” due to my mum’s obsession with “The First Wives’ Club” and never knew that Lesley Gore was gay until I had moved out. Looking back my parents listened to lots of queer music (Tracy Chapman, Queen…).
    My very own weirdly intruiging song that made me think was when I listened to the bootlegged version of Melissa Etheridge’s Skin that a woman gave my mum (in hindsight: that woman was probably in love with my mother. She was obsessed with her. I think they worked together, the woman made a scene, gave my mum the CD and vanished. I had to google who Melissa Etheridge is and when I told my mum, she gave the CD to me.) .

    The song that touched me most was “The Different”:

    “You’ve never been to the moon
    But don’t you want to go
    Under the sea in the volcano
    You’ve never looked into my eyes
    But don’t you want to know
    What the dark and the wild
    And the different know”

    And I was like…woah. I wanna know what the different know! AND IT STILL TOOK ME 10 YEARS AND DELPHINE CORMIER TO REALISE!!!

  27. A little late but wanted to comment anyways…

    Earliest one is 525600 minutes from the rent soundtrack, played in my parents van in 1997 driving to go skiing in the U.P. in Michigan in January or February, late at night, I was snugged up in the backseat, knowing there was something about this musical that my parents weren’t talking about that endlessly intrigued me.

    Later one when I was 18, coming out, in my first (intense) relationship was dancing on my own, somehow realizing that i’d soon be dancing/screaming to this at every party/club/bar with my friends and later begin to tire of it for that reason

    • car rides up to the UP in Michigan are always magical, and literally anything you want to manifest can be done in the dead of night, in a dark car on your way to that little slice of paradise!

  28. IDK how many times I belted my way through the entirety of the album that kd lang’s Constant Craving was on, but it was a lot. I was clueless that I was queer and yet totally into everything that kd had going on, down to the infamous photoshoot with Cindy Crawford.

    Years ago my not really out because I’m bi and it’s complicated self sang Constant Craving at a karaoke night that just happened to be at a SLC lesbian bar (RIP Paper Moon). whenever I think back on that it goes me away how hella gay that was despite how much I struggled with my sexuality and the culture in Utah that was smothering me.

  29. not to be that person but ………………………………………………….sarah mclachlan is gay??????????????????????????????

    a lot more stuff makes sense now

    • Her Wikipedia page says nothing, which more than likely means she straight. However, after a recent incident I had on their, maybe a homophobe editors/volunteers there was line sorry no she’s straight.

  30. Tracey Chapman! I, too, was beguiled by and could not parse her gender ambiguity as young queer thing. And though “Fast Car” will always rank among my favorites, I’d have to name “Telling Stories” as my early gay anthem of choice.

    Long before I would have words like “lesbian” and “nonbinary,” I knew in some instinctive way that the person I really was could not exist in the world. I’d have to mediate myself somehow, and writing stories could do that–reveal real desires while providing a protective carapace of the fantastic and the unreal. And I was excited more generally by the ways stories seemed to both invite recognition and preempt it, offering up the possibility of meeting another person, but only through the carefully constructed artifice they left behind.

    Anyway, this song nails those feelings of alienation, of unnavigable distance between people, that sense that the only way to be “in” the world is to invent something that tells part of the truth, but still carefully keeps everyone at arm’s length. If that’s not gay, I don’t know what is.

    Bonus points: queer couple on the bus.

    • Yes! Girlyman played a big role in my realizing the extent of my queerness. In my case it was “Hey Rose,” I think.

  31. This Roundtable is perfectly timed.

    My wife and I were just talking to the kids about Galileo and I had to play “Closer to Fine.” We sang along to the whole song and the kids realized this was a very important piece of music.

    And that Galileo is very aspirational benchmark for defying the status quo with truth.

  32. update: when asked her two favorite songs, my mom (who responded “i used to, too” when i told her i liked girls) said Closer to Fine and Fast Car!

  33. Savage Garden!!!! I was obsessed with them when they first came out (when I learned later that Darren Hayes came out as gay, my feelings also made so much sense). I can’t believe there’s another one of us out there. When he cut his hair I was so sad, because I felt I’d lost my main androgynous pop star.

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