You don’t have to wait for Pride Month to exercise some musical appreciation for LGBTQIA+ artists. Queer and lesbian singers have been making waves in the music industry for decades.
From hardcore rock-and-rollers to hip-hop superstars, our ears have been blessed with some truly amazing singers. These singers break boundaries and make music more inclusive for everyone, all while creating original and awesome songs.
So, whether you’re looking for music that reflects your identity and experience or simply want to broaden your tastes, in this post, we’re going to take a look at 17 of the most famous lesbian singers of all time. Let’s get started.
Related: Check out our post on the greatest LGTBQ singers here.
1. Melissa Etheridge
Up first we have Melissa Etheridge who has been an important member of the lesbian community for decades. In fact, before her big break, she would regularly perform at lesbian bars.
Etheridge made waves in 1993 when she came out as a lesbian at the Triangle Ball, a celebration for Bill Clinton’s inauguration. Since then, she has been a prominent gay rights activist.
Shortly after publicly coming out, Etheridge produced two mainstream hits on her fourth album, Yes I Am: “Come To My Window” and “I’m The Only One.” Her strong rock-and-roll vocals and deep passion have made these songs stick around as popular favorites.
2. Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe is an incredibly talented artist who has gained mainstream success over the past decade. She attracted attention broader when she appeared on Fun.’s “We Are Young,” and has since produced several critically acclaimed albums and has even dabbled in acting.
Monáe’s musical style is unique, bridging genres such as pop, hip-hop, R&B, funk, and progressive soul. One of her biggest hits was the pop song “You Make Me Feel,” from the album Dirty Computer. Monáe credits Prince as a major influence on the song, as well as on the album in general.
Monáe has publicly described herself as pansexual and bisexual and has also shared that she is nonbinary. Her androgynous style and fearless musical innovations make her an inspiration to many of her queer fans.
3. kd Lang
Born Kathryn Dawn Lang, kd Lang is an essential musician to include on any list of lesbian singers.
Lang grew up in Alberta, Canada, where she first gained her musical reputation as a member of The Reclines, a Patsy Cline tribute band. She later gained international attention when she performed at the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Lang’s style was often described as cowboy punk, or “cowpunk,” and her music is a satisfying blend of pop and country. Although Lang generally has a country influence, her most popular hit, “Constant Craving” from the 1992 album Ingenuehad much more of a mainstream pop feel.
4. Dusty Springfield
Dusty Springfield’s career is an important reminder that queer women existed in the music industry long before it was safe for them to come out. Springfield is an iconic English singer known for her beautiful soprano voice and beloved pop ballads.
Although Springfield worked for five decades, some of her most famous songs were released in the 1960s, including “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” (1966) and “Son of a Preacher Man” (1968).
Sadly, Springfield struggled with mental illness and drug addiction throughout her career, and many of her issues are believed to relate to her anxiety over being outed as a lesbian.
5. Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah is both a famous actress and a famous musician. When it comes to powerful lesbian singers, it doesn’t get much better than the “Queen of Rap” herself.
Latifah started as a hip-hop artist, including as a beatboxer for Ladies Fresh and a member of Flavor Unit. In 1989 she released her first single, “Wrath of My Madness,” which was then sampled by multiple other hip hop artists during the era.
One of her most popular songs is “UNITY,” which was released in 1993 and featured lyrics criticizing misogyny in the hip hop culture. Since the early 2000s, Latifah’s musical style has transitioned to soul and jazz.
Queen Latifah is private about her personal life but does have a long-term female partner.
6. Tracy Chapman
Tracy Chapman is a folk and soul singer known for her incredibly moving songs. Chapman first got her big break in the 1980s as a student at Tufts University, when she signed with Elektra Records and released her album, Tracy Chapman.
In 1988, “Fast Car” was already rapidly gaining popularity. Tracy Chapman also featured the well-known song “Baby Can I Hold You.” Chapman’s later albums also delivered big hits, including “Give Me One Reason” in 1995.
Similar to other musicians on this list, Chapman tends to be quite private about her personal life. However, prior girlfriends have publicly shared that they were in a relationship with her, and many members of the lesbian community look up to Chapman as a role model.
7. Hayley Kiyoko
Hayley Kiyoko is a fantastic representative for Millennial and Gen Z queer femme music fans. Before Kiyoko was a major lesbian icon, she got her start as a young actor and musical performer, appearing on Disney’s Lemonade Mouth and Wizards of Waverly Place.
Kiyoko’s hit single “Girls Like Girls” quickly became a popular lesbian anthem when it was released in 2015. Since then, Kiyoko’s electro-pop style has continued to be a favorite for young LGBT fans.
This lesbian singer has never shied away from her identity: Kiyoko has shared that she knew she was gay when she was as young as six years old.
8. Young MA
Young MA has taken the throne as the younger generation’s fearless lesbian rapper. She first gained notoriety in 2014 when a Facebook post criticizing her music went viral. Ironically, this critical post only helped her to become more popular.
In 2016, Young MA’s debut single “Ooouu” was extremely successful and was even used by other prominent hip-hop artists. Young MA released an album in 2019 and an EP in 2020 and has also made her acting debut in an episode of Mr. Robot.
Young MA is open about her sexuality and her attraction to women. In 2018, she directed a lesbian adult film.
9. Tegan and Sara
Tegan and Sara is the epitome of 2010 indie lesbian music. The band is comprised of Tegan and Sara Quinn, identical twins who are both lesbians.
The Canadian sibling duo gained critical acclaim for their sixth album, Sainthood, elevating them from teen alternative music to mainstream success. In 2013, Tegan and Sara released one of their biggest hits, “Closer,” a nostalgic love song that reminisces about simpler times.
Tegan and Sara are involved with LGBT activism and started the Tegan and Sara Foundation to support queer women and girls. They have also been awarded Outstanding Music Artist from GLAAD Media Awards.
Kehlani is an R&B, pop, and hip hop musician who has been quite open about their sexuality and gender identity. They first came into the spotlight at age 14 as a member of the band PopLyfe, which appeared on the sixth season of America’s Got Talent.
After leaving PopLyfe, Kehlani went through a period of extreme poverty and homelessness. However, they got another big break in 2013 when Nick Cannon offered them housing and studio time.
Since 2013, Kehlani has released multiple mixtapes and full-length albums, resulting in several platinum singles.
11. Brandi Carlile
Brandi Carlile has been active in the music industry for decades. She has an incredible singing voice and a distinctive folk-rock style with country and western influences.
Carlile gained considerable attention with her second album, The Storywhich featured the well-known song “The Story.”
To get a feel for Carlile’s staying power, turn on an episode of Gray’s Anatomy—the early seasons of the television show frequently used her music and cemented her into the pop culture lexicon.
12. Indigo Girls
Indigo Girls are a classic lesbian folk-rock band. The band consists of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, who are out lesbians.
Ray and Saliers have known each other since elementary school, and have been performing as a duo since they were teenagers. They started performing under the name Indigo Girls in 1985.
Their first major album, Indigo Girls, came out in 1988 and featured their big hit “Closer To Fine.” The band has continued to stay active and has released music independently on their label since 2007.
13. Brandy Clark
Country music has not always been an inclusive space for LGBTQIA+ people, and the country singer Brandy Clark broke some significant barriers by being an out lesbian country artist with a Grammy-nominated album.
Before becoming famous as a singer, Clark wrote songs for many of today’s prominent female country singers, including Kacey Musgraves, Miranda Lambert, and Sheryl Crow.
In 2012, Clark released three singles, including “Stripes,” which received critical acclaim and raised interest in her solo work. Clark’s second album, Big Day in a Small Townwas released in 2016 and nominated for a Grammy in Best Solo Country Performance.
Syd, formerly known as Syd tha Kyd, is an American alternative hip hop artist who has seen considerable success in the last decade.
Early in her career, Syd was a member of Odd Future, an alternative hip-hop music collective that included Tylor the Creator. She was the only woman and openly gay performer in the group. In 2017, Syd released her first solo single, “All About Me,” and her first album, Fin.
Syd is also part of the band The Internet, which has a funk, jazz, and electro-pop blended style.
15. St. Vincent
st. Vincent, also known as Annie Clark, is known for her distinctive alternative rock style with electro-pop and soft rock influences. She has released several hit singles, including “Cheerleader” and “Cruel.”
st. Vincent has had a notable influence on the pop-rock genre over the past, co-writing popular songs such as “Cruel Summer” and releasing her own successful solo albums and singles.
The musician has also gained fame for dating a few female celebrities, including supermodel Cara Delevingne. st. Vincent has said she believes in gender and sexual fluidity.
16. Lesley Gore
Lesley Gore was a well-known singer in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of her big hits include “It’s My Party” and “You Don’t Own Me.” Gore recorded “It’s My Party” when she was still in high school, and it became a Gold record.
While working as a musician, Gore attended and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College. From 1980 to 2014, Gore transitioned to composing film soundtracks, including music for the film Fame.
Gore never went out of her way to hide her sexuality and hosted the PBS program In The Life, a show that focused on LGBTQIA+ issues.
Related: More famous female singers of the 1960s.
17. Arlo Parks
Arlo Parks is an English R&B and indie-pop musician. She is a talented singer and poet, and her music stands out with creative and distinctive lyrics.
Parks’ debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams, was released in 2021 and received high praise from critics. The album has since won multiple awards. Parks has been the opening act for artists such as Harry Styles and Billie Eilish.
Parks has cited Sylvia Plath and Joni Mitchell as significant influences on her creative work.
Summing Up Our List Of Famous Singers Who Are Lesbians
As this list demonstrates, there are far more famous lesbian singers than just Melissa Etheridge or kd Lang.
The singers included in this article had to break a lot of glass ceilings to make it big as queer women in the music industry.
Their passion, intelligence, and creativity are apparent when you listen to their work.
Whether it’s a politically provocative rap verse or an enthralling love ballad, these musicians showcase the power of queer art.