Trans rights are human rights. Trans rights are women’s rights. Trans rights are just plain right. Trans artists are Grammy-nominated and Grammy-winning; they’re chart-topping. Queer culture is also, of course, at the root of dance music culture, with LGBTQ+ people forging the scene in sweaty warehouses, loft parties and discotheques during the late ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s.
So in honor of International Transgender Day of Visibility, we’ve compiled five dance music videos that celebrate and support trans visibility, in one form or another. Being trans does not define who you are, and it certainly doesn’t define your style of music, so this list also celebrates the diversity among the trans community because no one man, woman or non-binary person is exactly the same.
Now, enjoy these videos.
The late-producer Avicii really wore his heart on his sleeve. His effusive melodies boil over with triumphant joy, juxtaposed by lyrics that dive into deep shadows. His biggest hits tell the tale of his personal struggles, but they also spring from an endless well of hope.
“Silhouettes” is somehow both haunting and ecstatic, capturing the proud strength that comes from rising above one’s troubled past. The music video tells this story via the lens of one woman’s transition. A surprise ending shows that the hurting man seemingly left behind by the careless woman is merely the old her. She has made her freedom, and she embraces it wholeheartedly.
Released in 2012, “Silhouettes” was an early example of an international pop star supporting positive trans visibility, and while Avicii was not trans himself, it’s cool to see he was an ally. “In writing the treatment, I gave the team a brief to create something showing that we stand up for all our fans and people regardless of their background or choices in life,” Avicii’s former manager Ash Pournouri tells Billboard Dance, “and this was the treatment that I picked as it expressed that openness and unique vibe of the track.”
Sophie, “It’s Okay To Cry”
Scottish DJ and producer Sophie was well established by the time she came out as trans. Known for her mind-blowing mix of hard-edged experimentation and cavity-sweet pop tropes, “It’s Okay To Cry” marked the first single from her 2018 debut album, Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, which earned a Grammy nod in 2019 for best dance/electronic album. It signaled a new chapter in Sophie’s career, a first ever use of her own voice and image.
In the video, she appears angelic and bare-chested, poised with shimmering pink lips and windswept before images of heavenly skies and galactic space. She soon spoke about her transition in the press, telling Paper that “transness is taking control to bring your body more in line with your soul and spirit so the two aren’t fighting against each other and struggling to survive,” and so “It’s Okay To Cry” has come to be regarded as a strong personal statement of being comfortable in one’s own skin.
Kim Petras, “Sweet Spot”
Remember when Kim Petras dropped Turn Off The Light in 2018, and it was the only thing anyone on your Twitter feed was talking about for like, a whole month? If that wasn’t your experience, maybe start following some fresher accounts, but either way, Petras is a powerful pop star for a new generation. She is by no means defined by her transition. It’s merely a fact of her life, but with each new hit and crave-able hook, she’s breaking new ground for trans entertainers around the world. If the little boys and girls of today look up to Petras, we’ll all enjoy a better tomorrow.
She didn’t make any music videos for Turn Off The Light, so we’re highlighting “Sweet Spot” from her follow-up album, Clarity, for its disco-infused rainbows, co-produced by electronic duo dance favorite Oliver.
100 Gecs, “Money Machine”
We want to first applaud Laura Les for her brave support of mall goth visibility. For too long, our teenage truths have been hidden away in the back of our T-shirt drawers.
Seriously though, 100 Gecs are the next cool thing on the scene. The duo just tapped Charli XCX, Kero Kero Bonito and Rico Nasty for the official remix of their tune “Ringtone.” That video is cute, but it mostly features Les — who wrote about the challenges of trying to dress as a trans person on 2017’s “how to dress as human” — and her partner, Dylan Brady, covering their faces with cutouts of those aforementioned artists. Instead, we give you “Money Machine,” one of the most brash and boisterous bits of ugly-on-purpose we’ve seen in a minute.
LCD Soundsystem, “Tonite”
When all the world wanted to sing about letting go, being young and giving in to life’s short-sighted pleasures, dance music’s celebrated veterans LCD Soundsystem came through to remind everyone that, yes, tonight will end and there will be a tomorrow — so many tomorrows. The track is great, and the corresponding music video is fantastically simple and raw.
In the midst of the band’s spinning apathy sits Gavin Russom, a month fresh from announcing her transition, looking fierce and bored and bad as hell like a real rock star should. Transitioning didn’t make her into a pop princess, just a more honest version of herself because no one should have to face all those tomorrows while living a lie. Also, this song won the Grammy for best dance recording in 2017.