8 Times Musicians Spoke Out for Trans Rights: Demi Lovato, Jack Antonoff, Beyonce & More

President Donald Trump's announcement Wednesday (July 26) that the U.S. military will now ban transgender individuals from service sent a furor through the LGBTQ community, and it's hardly the first blow the Trump administration has dealt trans Americans. In recent years, a growing number of musicians have begun using their star power to speak out for trans rights -- whether through speeches, foundations or even letters to lawmakers.

Below, eight musicians who are in that group, from Miley Cyrus and Alabama Shakes to Shea Diamond and more.

Jack Antonoff

A longtime advocate for the LGBTQ community, fun. and Bleachers singer/songwriter Jack Antonoff in February rounded up 142 fellow musicians and other creatives to sign a letter to Texas leaders decrying legislation that would restrict transgender students from using public school restrooms that align with their gender identity. Speaking to Billboard about the project, Antonoff called the so-called Texas "bathroom bill" and all others that resemble it "hate bills against the LGBTQ community," declaring his intention to fight back.

"I want to come and play in cities and states where transgender citizens are not discriminated against, where there’s no hateful bathroom bills at the shows where I’m going to be playing," he said. "We all have to stand up, even if we’re not from Texas, or LGBTQ -- we all have to say that this isn’t OK with us."

Tegan & Sara

The tragic massacre of 49 people at Orlando gay club Pulse last June prompted many artists to speak out -- among them, indie-folk sisterly duo Tegan and Sara. The singers, who are both openly gay, took a moment backstage at the iHeartRadio MuchMusic Video Awards that month to explain that legalizing gay marriage is merely the beginning of the LGBT rights battle.

"We have a huge civil-rights movement happening right now with transgender people in America, and I think the worst thing that could happen to our community is we could become apathetic and we could think that everything has changed -- everything has not changed," Tegan said. "We are still a minority group and a lot of people still hate us, and that was proven last weekend."

Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus is a known LGBTQ ally, whether through her frequent posts on social media speaking out for trans rights or her music's overarching message of self-love and personal truth. But her commitment to supporting the transgender community is perhaps most concrete in her work with the Happy Hippie Foundation, a nonprofit the "Malibu" singer launched in 2015 with the joint goals of helping homeless and LGBTQ youth. For one of the foundation's first campaigns, Cyrus partnered with Instagram to create "InstaPride," a two-week photo shoot series (shot by Miley herself) to highlight and celebrate transgender individuals.


Just after performing in Raleigh, North Carolina, as part of her Formation World Tour last summer, Beyoncé posted a note on her website condemning the state's controversial HB2 law, a bill that would restrict transgender individuals' public restroom use. The bill presented a debacle for many artists scheduled to perform in the state -- while Bruce SpringsteenRingo Starr and others opted to cancel their North Carolina concerts in response, Bey used her Raleigh concert to bring attention to organizations working to promote trans rights.

"We think it is important for us to bring attention to those who are committed to being good and carrying on the message of equality in this core of controversy," the note says, directing readers to Equality NC, "among the many organizations doing the good work to get this bill overturned."

Demi Lovato

Performing her hit "Cool for the Summer" at the Billboard Music Awards in 2016, Demi Lovato let her attire do the talking. Lovato donned a mesh shirt adorned with an all-inclusive, gender-neutral bathroom symbol, a subtle stand against trans-discriminatory "bathroom bills." Earlier that summer, Lovato canceled the North Carolina stops of her tour with Nick Jonas as a response to the state's HB2 law. An Instagram post explained her decision, telling her fans, "We trust that you will stand united with us against this hateful law."



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Gavin Russom

For some musicians, coming out publicly is a statement in itself. When LCD Soundsystem's Gavin Russom came out as transgender at age 43 in an interview with Grindr's Into earlier this month, she hoped to inspire others to do the same -- "What would be better than giving someone permission to do that through my performance?" she said. 

“I am someone who has spoken out on both women’s rights and trans rights for a long time,” she added, “but when I started to transition myself, that was one of the most shocking things. I’m carrying so many of these things around with me. That’s been challenging to work through -- having those preconditioned societal ideas of what transgender women can do.”

Alabama Shakes

Grammy-winning rock group Alabama Shakes were another act to speak out against North Carolina's HB2 law last spring. While the group decided to perform as scheduled in the state, singer Brittany Howard denounced the bill in a podcast interview for CRN International. 

"I think it was wrong what the lawmakers did," the artist said. "[It's] wrong to take their tax money, turn around and then disbar them from living with their identity that they fought so hard to understand and develop."

Shea Diamond

In an emotional video recorded for The Economist for this year's Transgender Day of Visibility, transgender recording artist Shea Diamond offers advice to her younger self -- and thousands of other young people struggling with anti-trans discrimination. The artist behind the self-realization anthem "I Am Her" also wrote a Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community as part of Billboard's Pride Month series.

"If I had a message to give to my younger self, it would be to continue to fight," the artist explains. "You have to fight to be yourself, and you have to fight to continue to have your rights."


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