If there’s at least one positive thing we’ve learned in the ongoing chaotic aftermath of the Trump administration, it’s that as a modern civilized society, we can’t take things like diversity and inclusion for granted. When it comes to musical genres like punk rock and heavy metal, one should keep in mind that there have been many LBGT musicians at the forefront of the equality movement, long before Donald Trump even ran for office. From nu metal to classic hardcore punk, death metal, and even black metal, this list will prove that these types of music can be very embracing and accepting of members of the LBGT community.
Doug Pinnick (King’s X)
As the vocalist and bass player for the seminal proggy metal-tinged hard rock band King’s X, Doug Pinnick came out in 1998, during an interview with the Christian magazine, an irony due to the spiritual and uplifting nature of the music and lyrics which attracted many Christian fans who were against homosexuality. Pinnick did not give into this negativity or backlash, and kept on making music with King’s X, as well as with a solo career and work with many other groups and musicians, including everyone from Trouble, to Living Colour, and Dream Theater among many others both his bass and his vocals are influenced by funk, soul, jazz and even gospel music.
As former frontman for the Norwegian unholy black metal band Gorgoroth, Gaahl has led a life on and offstage that can only be described as extreme. His views on Church burnings and Satanism have been featured on various documentary films over the years, and both his personal life and antics with Gorgoroth have led to legal troubles during his time with the band. In 2004, the band found itself in some legal troubles in Europe where they used butchered animal heads and blood in part of their live show. In 2005, Gaahl was sentenced to just over a year in prison for assaulting a man and threatening to drink his blood. But despite this violent past, he has been an open homosexual with no reluctance or remorse, and in 2010 even won Gay Person of the Year in Bergen, Norway. Apart from Gorgoroth, Gaahl has also performed with the bands God Seed, Warduna, and more. He is heavily involved in the worlds of fashion, art, vegetarianism.
Paul Masvidal, Sean Reinert (Cynic, Death)
As founding members of the progressive, jazz-influenced death metal band Cynic in the early ’90s, Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert merged melodies and multi-genre influenced musicianship to form a band that paved the way for progressive metal, and the post-metal/djent sound. So many modern bands in metal owe a lot of the influence of both Death and Cynic. Before Cynic both Reinert and Masvidal played as members of the legendary band Death, with the one and only Chuck Schuldiner, and during this time, and their time with Cynic, they most likely led double lives as secretly homosexual males in a predominantly macho male extreme metal aggressive testosterone filled musical scene. But after years of living this lifestyle, which they hid from no one but did not make public, in 2014 both came out in an LA Times piece, and are proud to show that LGBT members can be part of the metal community.
Nervous Gender was born in the early first wave of hardcore punk in LA in the late ’70s and early ’80s. In 1978, the band was created by original members, Gerardo Velazquez, Edward Stapleton, Phranc and Michael Ochoa. Mixing punk’s fury, speed and in your face live performances, the band also mixed in a sound that was heavily reliant on synths, keyboards, and beats, rather than traditional guitar. Making the band experimental, confrontational and way ahead of its time. Further, the band’s blatant androgynous sound and style gave fans lyrics and live shows that were often sexually suggestive. Over the years the band underwent numerous lineup changes and evolved towards a more experimental sound as its career moved on. But, along with early punk band, The Screamers, Nervous Gender was a pivotal LA-based band that helped to usher in the industrial/ dark synth electronic genres of music with their sound and legacy.
The Dicks are a hardcore punk band formed in 1980 in Austin, Texas. Led by openly gay frontman, vocalist Gary Floyd, the band broke up in 1986 but was revived again in 2004. Considered to be one of the early hardcore punk bands to emerge from Texas, along with MDC, the Dicks were nonconformist in both style and sound and even ended up incorporating rock and blues into their interpretation of punk rock. The Dicks as a band is considered to be influential to the alternative, grunge and queercore movements that followed.
Otep Shamaya (Otep)
Otep Shamaya is a singer, songwriter, poet, artist, lyricist, spoken word artist activist and lead singer in the band that shares her name, an anagram for poet. Since 2002, Otep landed on the LA metal scene and with the force of aggression at the band’s performance, it somehow managed to get the attention of Sharon Osborne, who landed them a spot on the Ozzfest tour making her the first woman to perform on the tour. From the early days, Otep’s band managed to merge the sounds of Slipknot and Pantera, led by a frontwoman. The band has undergone numerous line u0p changes, but as the woman behind the music Otep has persevered, and in addition to her band, she is a political activist, speaking on Liberal leaning progressive issues and victims/women’s’ rights. She has been an open Lesbian and in 2010 was a GLAAD nominee for Outstanding Music Artist, alongside Lady Gaga and Adam Lambert. In 2018 Otep is back with a vengeance with a new album(and subsequent tour) due later this year, which focuses on contemporary issues and societal change.
Marissa Martinez (Cretin)
In 2008, Dan Martinez of SF Bay area grinding death metal band Cretin came out as a transgender woman, and used the heavy metal magazine Decibel, as well as social media to document her transition from male to female. To many, Marissa, as she has been known since transitioning, is a pioneer and role model for the LGBT community and extreme metal. It has been over 10 years, and Cretin and Marissa have gotten nothing but acceptance and support from the extreme metal community. She didn’t let her transition end the band, and still performs with Cretin, a band made for fans of Napalm Death, Possessed, Exhumed, Repulsion, and Malevolent Creation.
Laura Jane Grace (Against Me)
Thomas James Gabel was born in 1980, and went on to form the Florida based punk band Against Me in 1997. After five albums with the group, Gabel came out in 2012 with the fact that he had long suffered from gender dysphoria, and would be transitioning into a woman. The transition did not end Laura Jane Grace’s career in music with Against Me. Since coming out as a transgender woman, Grace has made two albums with the band, 2014’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues
and Shape Shift with Me from 2016. She has also been an outspoken advocate for the LGBT community frequently telling her story, working with the likes of Miley Cyrus and Joan Jett for LGBT equality, and even authoring an autobiographical memoir entitled Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout, with co-author Dan Ozzi in 2016.
Mina Caputo (Life of Agony)
Originally known as Keith Caputo, Mina Caputo formed Life of Agony in 1988 in Brooklyn, New York. The band emerged into the scene with the merging of alternative metal, hardcore, and hard rock and become peers with bands like Biohazard, Sick of it All and Type O Negative. After exiting the group in the late ’90s, and after several reunions, in 2011, Caputo went public with plans to have gender reassignment surgery, as part of her transition. Now in 2018, LOA is back with Mina Caputo fronting the band and is embarking on a nationwide tour, with nothing but acceptance and open arms at the shows played so far, including several festival appearances.
Dave Dictor (MDC)
Austin, Texas-based hardcore punk band MDC might be known by different names including Millions of Dead Cops, Multi-Death Corporation, Millions Of Dead Children, and Millions Of Damn Christians, but since the beginning of the band, in 1979, the one constant has been the frantic, charismatic frontman Dave Dictor, who has used the fury of punk to sing against racism war, corporate control, and in favor of animal and human rights, equality for gays, minorities, and women. Dictor took time off from the band in 1995 and reformed with a new revamped line up in 2000. Since then the band has been raging on against homophobes, capitalists, and racists using the force of hardcore punk. Dictor has long been an LGBT advocate with MDC and even wrote his own book entitled Memoir From a Damaged Civilization: Stories of Punk, Fear, and Redemption, published in 2016. MDC has gained notoriety in today’s world of Trump, due to Green Day’s 2017 use of the anti-Trump chant “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” This came directly from MCD’s 1982 song Born To Die, which has the lyrics “No war! No KKK! No fascist USA!”
Rob Halford (Judas Priest)
Rob Halford (aka The Metal God) of the mighty Judas Priest is the quintessential example of the evolution of heavy metal music in the early to mid-1980s. Along with Iron Maiden, Moorhead and Black Sabbath, Priest, are considered to be the Godfathers of heavy metal and were formative as one of the early UK bands to bring in the sounds of the New Wave of Brittish Heavy Metal in the late 70s/early 80s. Looking back, with the black tight leather, chains, and suggestive lyrics, it’s no surprise that Halford is a gay man, and proud of it. He came out in 1998 in an interview with MTV News. Since then, Priest has only become even bigger in terms of albums and tours, and is still a force to be reckoned with in heavy metal, despite setbacks in personnel, including the recent announcement of the departure of original guitarist Glenn Tipton, who had to step out due to health concerns from Parkinson’s Disease. through this unfortunate episode, the band still rages on and has a hit with its latest album Firepower. Halford has been a vocal proponent of equality of rights in the LGBT community and frequently speaks out about his experiences coming out in the music industry, in particular, heavy metal. He has been hailed by fellow musicians, fans, journalists, and advocates a leader and role model among such other LGBT performers as Adam Lambert, the great Freddie Mercury, and even Elton John.
Alex Distefano is an established freelance writer and music blogger from the Los Angeles area. With over a dozen years under his belt as a published Journalist, he covers the worlds of heavy metal music, punk rock, current events, cannabis culture, comedy, radio, food, tattoos, the paranormal, and ‘conspiracy theories.’ He graduated from California State University Long Beach in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in both Journalism and Ancient History. Aside from his professional writing endeavors, Distefano works as an Educator, and delivery/rideshare driver.