Musician and hit songwriter Justin Tranter has joined the National Board of Directors for GLAAD, which promotes LGBTQ acceptance in the entertainment and news industries, the organization announced Friday (Feb. 10).
Tranter -- the lead singer of Semi Precious Weapons and a writer behind hit songs for Selena Gomez ("Hands to Myself"), Justin Bieber ("Sorry"), DNCE ("Cake by the Ocean") and dozens of other artists -- has been an activist for LGBTQ issues for years, including when he founded Musicians With a Mission while attending Berklee College of Music, a scholarship fund used to promote LGBTQ youth education.
After the June 2016 shooting at gay nightclub Pulse, Tranter flew to Orlando, Florida, to help volunteer and provide relief services to those involved and collaborated with Interscope Records and other artists to help produce a charity single titled “Hands” -- proceeds of which benefit the Equality Florida Pulse Victims Fund, GLAAD and the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida.
“I woke up to the news and I was so terrified and scared,” Tranter tells Billboard of last summer's tragedy. “I’ve been to Pulse many times. ... Gay clubs are really important to our community because [LGBTQ people] don’t feel like they can be themselves in most aspects of their lives. To us, these places are spiritual and special.”
Tranter said he chose to work with GLAAD because they act as a media watchdog and he hopes to continue combining music with advocacy to support members of the LGBTQ community. "Music is a big part of media and culture, so I thought I could really lend my voice and expertise and as much money as I can give."
Tranter told Billboard that activism had to take a backseat while he studied in college and developed his musical career, but now he's ready to take a more active role and use his position to help others.
"I feel like there is a lot of homophobia and misogyny in the music business, and I feel like I’ve gotten to a place where I've broken down a lot of those doors," Tranter says. "I've had the experience of going through homophobia in my work and I can share my experiences so future generations don’t have to deal with what I've dealt with."
However, Tranter doesn't feel like has to filter himself for people watching him and listening to his music. "I don't feel a sense of responsibility to watch what I say, but I feel a sense of prideful responsibility to be honest about exactly who I am," Tranter says. "I won't do press anymore unless I can talk about the homophobia and let queer people know our ideas are mainstream."
Tranter said he is continuing to write new songs, helping develop fellow songwriter/artist Julia Michaels' solo career, and working with transgender singer Shea Diamond as well as a new dance group, among other projects.
“I’m using the success I’ve had to help other people shine.”
Along with Tranter's new position, longtime fashion editor Ariel Foxman will also join GLAAD's board.