This Transgender Awareness Week (Nov. 13-19), we’re highlighting trans musical artists who are making a significant impact in their genres. From a pioneering opera singer to a rapper making a difference on and off stage, here are eight incredible musicians you should know.
German singer/songwriter Kim Petras has been making music for over a decade and just picked up her first Grammy Award nomination. Petras and nonbinary artist Sam Smith are nominated as Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for their song “Unholy.” Petras has tens of millions of streams on Spotify, two studio albums and an EP under her belt, and she made history as the first trans woman with a number-one song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Unholy.”
Honey Dijon is also Grammy-nominated for her songwriting and producing contributions to Beyonce’s “Renaissance” under Album of the Year. A well-known artist and DJ in the house and dance music scenes, Dijon is also an advocate and activist for trans visibility. Earlier in November, she was awarded a lifetime achievement award from the LGBTQ+-focused Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art. Her latest full-length album, “Black Girl Magic” comes out Nov. 18 and can be found wherever you stream or buy your music.
Mal Blum is a nonbinary transgender singer/songwriter who has been making indie and Americana music since the mid-aughts. Blum, who uses he/they pronouns, released the full-length album “Pity Boy” in 2019 to critical acclaim. Blum has followed up with the new album, “Ain’t it Nice” which they describe as tapping into the themes of “exploration, isolation and longing.” It’s also Blum’s first album with Nashville-based producer and songwriter Kyle Andrews.
Shea Diamond is a soul and rhythm and blues singer/songwriter who has made a big splash with her songs being featured on shows and movie soundtracks, including “Happiest Season” (Hulu), “Changing the Game” (Hulu) and “We’re Here” (HBO). Her song, “I Am Her” has become an anthem of acceptance and advocacy, which Diamond wrote, “for all those that felt shunned for simply being who they were.” The video for her 2020 release “I Am America” features appearances by Bob the Drag Queen, Shangela and several other famous LGBTQ+ faces.
An activist for transgender visibility and representation since the age of 13, Ryan Cassata is no stranger to the spotlight. Now 28, Cassata is an experienced performer and award-winning songwriter with over a dozen EPs and albums. Cassata was the first openly-trans performer on the Vans Warped Tour and has traveled extensively as a performer and speaker. His latest EP, “Everything Changed,” was released earlier this year.
Australian pop/punk musician Shia Ahmad composes across genres and performs solo as Shoeb Ahmad. Ahmad combines sound and imagery and has written the scores for several multimedia art projects. Ahmad released two albums drawn from her experience during the Covid-19 lockdowns and the 2019-20 Australian bushfires, “A Body Full Of Tears” and “Facade.” Her latest, the ambient “Breather Loops,” is an ethereal soundscape and was initially performed live during the day via streaming so that “people could tune in and meditate and reflect along with the music while they had lunch, read a book, or work.”
Hailing from Wolverhampton City in the United Kingdom, Nate Ethan Watson is a star in the rap and grime scene. Watson had an established rap career before beginning his medical transition in 2019 and has been recognized for his LGBTQ+ advocacy with the 2022 National Diversity Award. When Watson wasn’t performing, he earned his public health degree and has been outspoken about the challenges he experienced as a patient with the National Health Service.
Opera singer Lucia Luca is a California native but has spent the last decade calling Germany home. The classically trained singer was the first transgender female baritone to perform a leading role in a U.S. opera staging, playing the titular role of Don Giovanni at the Tulsa Opera. The groundbreaking role was chronicled in the documentary “The Sound of Identity,” which is available to watch through YouTube Movies and TV.
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