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Happy Pride to These 8 Songs That Helped Me Realize I’m Probably Not as Straight as I Thought

Kathleen Hanna, Avery Tucker, and Carrie Brownstein & Corin Tucker performing live.

Lately, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some people who are trying to reframe how we think about queer narratives. While the news is unfortunately laden with tragedy, we have a right to think of our own experiences as abundant with joy and community. In this way, we reclaim our narratives, in spite of it all.

Keeping this in mind, I’ve realized that one of the ways in which I was really able to come into my own as a queer person was through the music I listened to as a kid. The following songs were instrumental in helping me realize my own relationship to both gender and sexuality; I encourage you to share your own in the comments!

“Touch,” Shura

I remember watching this video and having my teenage mind blown. I don’t think I’d ever seen queer couples kiss, and in such abundance, in a way that wasn’t deliberately centered for the het-male gaze. My 16-year-old self was pretty much like this:

Nah, just playing, I was blushing hardcore. The music video, and the song itself, was constantly playing in my head. I’d play it in secret during my catholic school hours and feel like such a rebel. Speaking of rebel girls …

“Rebel Girl,” Bikini Kill

The first time I heard this song, I got shivers. I couldn’t believe a song like this existed. I was still a teenager when the whole “not like other girls” thing was still pretty socially acceptable, so this song blew my mind for that reason alone. But then there was the fact that I continually misheard the line, “I think I wanna take you home, I wanna try on your clothes.”

I definitely would sing the line, “I think I wanna take you home, I wanna take off your clothes,” instead.

Which yes, in hindsight, said a lot.

“Daniel,” Devendra Banhart

Since my family is from San Francisco, including gay relatives, I automatically made a lot of assumptions when Devendra said, “Meet me at the Castro tonight.” Apparently, the situation between these characters was fictional, but this was still something of a comfort song for me.

Though my relationship to my gender has changed, when I was younger, I definitely thought of myself as more masculine, and if I’d had the terminology back then, I probably would have experimented more with gender-nonconformity. I’d listen to songs that were ostensibly about love between two men, and I’d feel more compelled towards them. This was perhaps the most obvious song in that regard.

“Adam And Steve,” Megapuss

This was another song, in that regard. Here again we have Devendra, with his friend Fabrizio Moretti, the drummer for The Strokes. Together, they formed Megapuss, which was mostly a fun, silly band that made fun, silly songs like this.

But even if it was all for shits and giggles, this was still kind of a gay power song for me in my baby queer days. Just the energy of it, the playfulness, the openness—oh, I absolutely adored it. Still do!

“Tim, I Wish You Were Born a Girl,” Of Montreal

As the final representation of “Madeline’s gender envy days” songs, we have this one, which I have always considered such a sweet, cheeky song about a person who was also going through the process of coming out. On the surface, it might just seem like a song about loving your best friend so much that you wish you could date them—but first of all, in my experience, people who think that way end up coming out anyways (raising my hand, here).

And second of all, Of Montreal itself is an incredibly queer band. I got into them in middle school, and to be honest, I could include their whole discography on this list, as far as songs that helped me come out go. But this one always stuck out to me the most. It put my inner confusions (and delights) into words, and it’s damn fun to sing along to, as well.

“One More Hour,” Sleater-Kinney

Sleater-Kinney was, overall, one of the most formative bands of my teens, and this song especially felt special to me. It’s about the breakup between both frontwomen, Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein. Corin’s strong, phenomenal voice carries the entire song, with Carrie subtly backing it up during the chorus. Though sentimentally, it’s a pretty standard breakup song, it’s the context that makes it so damn special.

That’s funny, because you know damn well my shy, catholic-school-attending ass didn’t have any queer breakups to heal from when she first started listening to this song. It was the promise of such pains that I found so enticing, I suppose!

“Cherry-Picking,” Girlpool

Though my own upbringing and education was somewhat sheltered, I was always looking outwards to find a “better fit” for someone like me. That fit was anything from a sense of community to books and music. One of the things I tapped into the most, from afar, was the L.A. music scene during the mid-2010s, of which Girlpool was one of my favorite parts.

To me, Girlpool represented the kinds of people I wanted to be around: people who didn’t operate with traditional labels and limitations, and who expressed themselves freely and openly. I did eventually find those people, and what do you know? They also loved Girlpool for the same reasons. Though the band has since disbanded, it’ll always hold a special place in my heart for these reasons—this song in particular, as such a perfect encapsulation of the yearning I felt at the time.

“Lust for Life,” Girls

So, this one’s a bit more off-the-wall, in the sense that it’s not explicitly a “queer song,” despite having queer people featured in the music video. But, you know, it doesn’t have to explicitly be one to still hold meaning in my process of becoming.

This song, and this music video, felt like a homecoming to my alienated 13-year-old self. I saw all these people who were living their lives in a city that let them, and to me, that spoke to freedom. I wanted to be the gay couple drinking in bed. I wanted to be the woman in the bathtub with rose petals. Everything made a little more sense when I returned to this song. Maybe I’d have to wait a little longer, but there was a world out there for me, and people who’d not only “get it”—they’d be it.

So thank you, to all these artists, for helping me in my process of becoming. Happy Pride, y’all.

(featured image: Lindsay Brice/Michael Ochs Archives, Mike Pont, Kieran Frost/Redferns, Getty Images)

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Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).