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The 2019 Grammys Will Go Down as the Year of Queer Women

Queer women ruling the Grammys

More than a dozen LGBTQ women are nominated and five of this year's performances will be from queer ladies. 

Queer representation at the Grammys hit a particular zenith in 2014 when the lesbian singer/songwriter Mary Lambert dueted with Madonna on "She Keeps Me Warm" (Lambert's hook from Macklemore's "Same Love) as Queen Latifah officiated the nuptials of 33 same-sex couples. The orchestrated moment could have only occurred because of long-fought shifting cultural mores, increased visibility, and marriage equality legislation.

Five years later, the 2019 Grammy Awards (airing this Sunday on CBS) is irrefutably a landmark year of visibility for queer women. There are no fewer than 13 queer women nominated across multiple categories. And five of the female artists slated to perform for a live television audience at the ceremony are part of the LGBTQ community.

Recent Grammy Awards ceremonies have recognized the work of queer women including Kesha, Lady Gaga, and Kehlani with nominations. But this year, women across the queer spectrum in a variety of music genres and from several generations earned nominations. Some of the women nominated have been out for decades while others came out within the past year.

Janelle Monae, who came out as pansexual in 2018, is nominated for her paean to labia for "Pynk." And her singularly innovative Dirty Computer earned a nod in the album of the year category. When she received her nominations, she shouted out to underrepresented and under-recognized artists.

"Being a young Black queer woman in America, there was something I had to say and there was a group of people that I wanted to celebrate, and I'm happy to be representing them," Monae said when the nominations were announced.

"I hope they feel seen; I hope they feel heard; I hope they feel loved, and I hope they feel celebrated. This is for you!" she said.


Janelle Monae

Joining Monae in the album of the year category is Brandi Carlile, the 37-year-old singer-songwriter from Seattle who's By the Way, I Forgive You, wowed critics and audiences alike.

An out lesbian since before her career kicked into high gear circa 2007, Carlile picked up a total of six nominations including four in major categories as well as in Americana and Roots music categories for the album and also for the song "The Joke."

When the nominations dropped in December, Carlile paid homage to the queer legends who came before her.

"Those of us that are just a little bit younger than [Linda Perry], and the Indigo Girls, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, K.D. Lang, George Michael -- and so on and so forth -- our road has been paved with parody and humility," Carlile told Billboard. "That's something I'll never forget. Those people have been parodied for being gay through the course of their career in a way that would never be acceptable now."


Lady Gaga

A perennial favorite, Lady Gaga earned five nominations with her megahit "Shallow" from A Star Is Born, which earned nods for song of the year and record of the year.

Meanwhile, bona fide breakout star, Cardi B. who came out as bisexual in the dust-up over Rita Ora's "Girls" is nominated in several categories including for album of the year, record of the year, and best rap performance.

Other nominated queer female musicians include, Me'shell Ndegeocello whose Ventriloquism landed a nod for Best Urban Contemporary Album category; St. Vincent (Annie Clark) for Masseducation in the alternative album category; the Scottish musician Sophie for best dance album; and best new artist nominee Bebe Rexha, who also came out as a result of her participation in "Girls."


Brandi Carlile

While Carlile, who appeared in A Star Is Born in the film's Grammy's scene, has broken out of the more niche American section of the Grammys and earned nominations in major categories, there are two legendary women holding down slots in the folk music category. Lesbian singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier, 56, is nominated in the folk album category for Rifles and Rosary Beads. The 78-year-old iconoclast Joan Baez (who spoke about her relationships with women in 1973) is also nominated in the folk category for Whistle Down the Wind.

But it's not just musicians who've earned recognition from the Grammys this year. Linda Perry earned a nomination for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical. Meanwhile, songwriter Teddy Geiger earned a nomination for co-writing Shawn Mendes's "In My Blood" while Sarah Aarons co-wrote the nominated smash "The Middle" by Zedd, Maren Morris, and Grey.

Beyond representation across categories, four of the nominated women including Monae, Carlile, Gaga, and St. Vincent are slated to perform. If that weren't queer representation enough, Miley Cyrus is also taking to the Grammy's stage.


Annie Clark (St. Vincent)

It's not new for queer women to stake a claim at the Grammys. They've been nominated and winning for decades. Melissa Etheridge has a pair of wins for best rock vocal female for "Come to My Window" and "Ain't it Heavy." k.d. lang has four wins, including one for best pop vocal performance, female for "Constant Craving. Gaga has won six Grammys -- five from the "Poker Face" and "Bad Romance" stages of her career.

But while queer women have been recognized by Grammys past, the sheer number of remarkable women from the LGBTQ community who are of up for awards this year and the fact that Monae and Carlile are both nominated for album of the year, is momentous.

And of the more than a dozen queer women nominated this year, the only previous winners are Gaga and St. Vincent, who won for best alternative album in 2014, leaving room for so many historic wins at the 61st Grammy Awards on Sunday.

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