Transgender singers have long held a place in the music industry, which is becoming more and more welcoming and inclusive. Especially, Trans women have enjoyed a long history in the music industry and an equally long history of pushing that industry forward.
Here we’ve listed some of the more well-known trans singers and musicians who are helping to move the industry forward and making their voices heard.
1. Jackie Shane
The legendary Jackie Shane was an American soul and rhythm blues singer, who was most prominent in the local music scene of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in the 1960s. Considered to be a pioneer transgender performer. she was a contributor to the Toronto Sound and is best known for the single “Any Other Way”, which was a regional Top 10 hit in Toronto in 1962 and a modest national chart hit across Canada in 1967. Her electric performances in the 1960s made her an elusive cult heroine. A Numero Group boxed set unravels her true story for the first time. Ms. Shane walked away from her career without explanation in 1971. In the intervening decades, she has become an internet curiosity and minor cult heroine among soul music aficionados who have spun crackpot theories as to her whereabouts and well-being. She released her first single, a cover of Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want)”, in 1962. She followed up with “Any Other Way” later the same year. But the discovery of these Jackie Shane recordings now feels electric—the sound of a singer who explores the full range of both male and female expression, a transformative definition of what it means to make soul music.
2. Shea Diamond
Shea Diamond was born on March 17, 1978. This American transgender singer also played her role as a songwriter and transgender rights activist. Her music is mostly soulful includes elements of blues, rock, hip-hop, and folk. Diamond ran away from home at age fourteen and spent time in the foster care system till she became seventeen. She was inspired to become a singer by Tina Turner. That time she sang the religious chorus, where she was often chastised for singing too high. At age 20 she robbed a convenience store at gunpoint to pay for gender affirmation surgery. Diamond stayed in prison in Michigan from 1999-2009, where she wrote her song “I Am Her.” Diamond faced discrimination specifically for her identity as a trans woman. She was kept in protective segregation and lost privileges often to keep her away from the male population. Humiliation, isolation, and misgendering were used as punishment.
3. Todrick Hall
Todrick Hall is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, actor, director, choreographer, and YouTuber, born on April 4, 1985. He gained people’s attention after participating in the ninth season of the singing competition American Idol, where he made it to the semi-finals. Following this, he amassed a following on YouTube with viral videos including original songs, parodies, and skits. He aspires to be a role model for LGBTQ and people of color and includes his experiences as a Black gay man in his art. A documentary series about his video-making process titled Todrick was exposed on MTV in 2015. As a singer-songwriter, he has released four studio albums, including the visual albums Straight Outta Oz (2016) and Forbidden (2018). In 2020 he released an EP, Quarantine Queen, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic featuring “Mask, Gloves, Soap, Scrub”, and was the international host of Global Pride 2020.
Ah-Mer-Ah-Su is black, transgender, and in demand. On her latest album STAR, the Oakland singer gets personal, telling a story about her trans identity and how it is often connected to pain and tragedy. The Oakland-based songwriter Star Amerasu (also known as Ah-Mer-Ah-Su) is creating some of the dreamiest indie electronic pop around these days. And with the release of her self-titled debut album, Star, earlier this year, the artist is hitting her stride and singling in on the kind of beautiful, flowingly catchy music she’s always wanted to make. Her single “Klonopin” is a hazy trip through a dream-like afternoon, one that doubles as a confessionary look at her very real struggle with addiction: “I pop my Klonopin in the morning/I pop my pills to keep me going/I think that I might have a problem/But I still ain’t hit rock bottom,” before a dreamy loop at the word “Klonopin” comes in for her to sing over. Her music may sound like a beautiful dream, but it’s also filled with deep and relatable truths — songs that tackle her hopes and fears, and ultimately, the strength she needs to be herself in today’s society.
5. KC ORTIZ
Ortiz is a Chicago-based, Alabama-raised rapper who lets her church roots shine through in her gritty yet glamorous hip-hop. With a mix of twangy southern flow and Chicago toughness, her music is nothing if not unpredictable; you’re liable to hear her rap about sex and Jesus in a single couplet. But more than that, her work is about celebrating herself for who she is; stand out single “Shut Up” injects parts of a sermon from Pastor Sheryl Brady into a song about silencing her haters and self-doubts. It’s a powerful, unique message delivered over a honey-sweet drip drop beat that demands you get out of your seat. The former Air Force personnel released her second album Church Tapes in 2019.