Wrapping Up Pride Month with Conversations on Queer Identity

by Intern Flaunt

With yet another successful Pride Month coming to a close, it is essential to highlight some rising and established LGBTQ+ artists who are using their platform to shed light and knowledge about the LGBTQ community. From songwriters to photographers, fashion designers and singers, the LGBTQ community is a combination of gifted and talented individuals whose work extends beyond themselves.

Pride is a month of celebration and reflection, and to showcase this, we sat down with five artists of the LGBTQ community to discuss the importance of pride and their contribution to the community at large.

 Portrait by Harrison Glazier, styled by Leland

Portrait by Harrison Glazier, styled by Leland

Leland

Singer, songwriter and executive producer Brett McLaughlin, better known as Leland, is making a breakthrough from behind-the-scenes to front of stage. Leland is most popularly known for co-writing songs for  pop-artists Troye Sivan, Ariana Grande, Allie X and Charlie XCX. As the Mississippi native continues to gain experience and exposure in the industry, he is venturing out by dropping his own tracks and joining Troye Sivan on tour later this year. In addition, fans can get a taste of Leland’s executive producing skills from his Netflix original movie, “Sierra Burgess is a Loser,” which debuts September 7.

You recently performed at this year’s LA Pride. How was that experience like for you?

LA Pride meant a few things to me. One, when I first went to LA Pride, that was a feeling of, “I would love to be up there someday.” But also, just seeing artists that I see myself in. To be in that position a few years later was really overwhelming in a positive way. I’m also a new artist so I’m performing songs most people have never heard. Also, they maybe never heard of me in general. It is challenging. But the crowd was really receptive and encouraging and if any crowd was going to be, I would hope that it would be at a Pride. So it was a really great experience.

How do you want your art to impact the LGBTQ community?

I just hope that there are others that can see themselves in me. I am a gay man from South Mississippi who had dreams of going on tour and performing and being taken seriously as an artist. For me to have experienced that, I know that there are others who are probably feeling the same way. I was growing up in Mississippi ten years ago so it’s a very different time. I think it is much more accepting, but also there’s still so much more work to be done. I know that there are people that feel the same way that I felt when I was first starting. There are going to be people who connect with any artist because their narrative is similar and they see themselves in that artist.

For someone who identifies as heterosexual, what can they do to be an ally of the LGBTQ community?

At the core, being an ally is speaking up when you see something that isn’t right. Whether that’s your friends who are in the LGBTQ community or someone you don’t know. You see something that isn’t right, or you hear something being said that isn’t right, typically just ignorance, and an ally is someone who speaks up. Obviously, it’s a very brave thing to do. Also, an ally is someone who educates themselves on LGBTQ history. It’s not just our community that needs to educate themselves, which we do need to do more, but it’s also allies. They need to know where we’re coming from and that’s not taught in schools and it should be.

What does Pride month mean to you?

To me, pride month was something that was not only celebrated by the LGBTQ community, but also by the administration and you know, the White House was lit up by a rainbow when Obama was President. Now, pride month in my opinion has shifted from a celebration to making sure the current administration is aware that we’re not going anywhere and we’re going to continue fighting until there’s equal rights for everyone. It’s always such a misconception that the LGBTQ community is fighting for more rights and that’s a narrative that likes to be pushed. It’s simply just fighting for equal rights. Pride month is raising awareness, raising our voices. It is not just something to go party and get drunk, it’s much more than that.

 Portrait by Harrison Glazier, styled by Kodie Shane

Portrait by Harrison Glazier, styled by Kodie Shane

Kodie Shane

Kodie Shane is a gifted, Atlanta rapper that is quickly on the rise to something bigger than herself. At 19 years old, she is the only female in Lil Yachty’s Sailing Team, which she doesn’t take lightly. After making music and building her own fan base of her loyal ‘Shane Gang’, she has hopped on tracks with Lil Yachty and has also collaborated with him and Lil Uzi Vert for her song, “Hold Up (Dough Up)”. Her unapologetic attitude and mission for success gives her the momentum to start her own revolution. The ‘Shane Gang’ can expect a new album later this year as well as new songs sooner than they know it.

How have you used your platform to connect with the LGBTQ community?

I kinda just feel like with my music and with my whole personality and me in general, I just try to encourage my fans to be themselves, always. I feel like as my platform gets bigger, I will be able to reach more people with that message. I always try to connect with that community as much as I can, cause I’m a part of it. All of my music I’m kinda just speaking my truth, so I hope that’s the way we connect.

What’s your role like being the only female in Lil Yachty’s Sail Team?

Yachty’s done a lot for me. It’s kind of like having a lot of big brothers. Things have kind of calmed down, but there’s always gonna be love, you know what I mean?

What’s the importance of being open with your identity in your music?

I just think you gotta be yourself in anything you do, especially in music. So that when the fans do get attached to you, that they’re getting attached to something real.

What are you doing to celebrate Pride month? What does it mean to you?

It means a lot to me. I’m a part of the community. This month has been so crazy with BET and everything, but definitely last year I did some cool stuff for Pride and next year I really wanna do a tour.

 

 Portrait by Harrison Glazier, styled by James Flemons

Portrait by Harrison Glazier, styled by James Flemons

James Flemons

Fashion designer and stylist, James Flemons, has worked with artists such as Jaden Smith, Solange, Blood Orange and other iconic figures to showcase his talent through clothing. James’ passion for art coupled with his sincere humility, is making him a go-to for LGBTQ fashion. James tirelessly works to create clothing items that represent individuality and equality. His most recent project is the start up of his new collection of basic wear titled, ‘NONBASIC’ under the brand name ‘PHLEMUNS’. James is proud to announce the clothing line is entirely non-binary.

How do you want your art to impact the LGBTQ community?

I’ve always wanted my art to be an expression of myself, it is an expression of myself.  I’ve always promoted people being expressive of their genuine self. I have always wanted it to be an outlet for people to be expressive, you know, and bring happiness and comfort into how [consumers of the art] are as an individual. Our clothing is the first thing that is impactful to another person - before we even open our mouths. Our clothing is a reflection of ourselves, and I just aim to be expressive which very much comes through with being part of the queer community.

What is a step that you take as an artist to normalize gay (transgendered or non-binary) romance?

I very much like to approach things in a subtle kind of way. Whether it be advocacy or political views or what not, expressing that through your platform it is always important to have those more aggressive figures who shove things in people’s faces and down their throats and that reaches a certain audience. But it is equally important to have those who soft-handedly and subtly normalize queerness without over-highlighting it. That has been my route of sliding in my agenda. You don’t even realize it is anything too outset the norm. The fact that I create unisex and non-binary clothes gives the statement that it wasn't made for anyone in particular. If you like it, you like it and it doesn't matter who you are.

How do you deal with homophobia?

I like to laugh and smile at things. I don’t believe in feeding anger with anger in my personal life. You get a bigger reaction when you smile and laugh it off. Give a thumbs up - that is a stand in its own. Letting people know I am comfortable in who I am and if you have a problem with that, then you need help and that's on you.
 

What does Pride Month mean to you?

To me it means a time to showcase all the beautiful things and happiness that the queer community has contributed to the world and society. Shedding a light on how much more darkness would be in the world without the queer community. It is a time to be full out celebratory of all the accomplishments and great things the queer community has done. This is just a time to embrace that and fully stnd in who you are. No matter if you are heterosexual or homosexual, this is a time to just really be free and drop inhibitions. Open your arms up to the world.

 Portrait by Harrison Glazier, styled by DEVMO

Portrait by Harrison Glazier, styled by DEVMO

DEVMO

Devin Moses, under the moniker DEVMO, is the female hip-hop artist that has been rapping better than your boyfriend since 2013 - and she is nowhere near finished. This fiery redhead is a prime example of the unexpected. Do not let her appearance fool you, because as soon as she spits verses on the mic, her talent speaks for itself. The rap goddess recently performed at OC and San Francisco Pride, is opening for Snow Tha Product in July and plans to release her five-track EP, Change My Mind on July 20.

What are the challenges you face being a female, LGBTQ rapper?

Being a female in rap is a little more difficult to break into the game because there’s less females. But I also think it gives me an edge and there’s an advantage because when people see me performing, they automatically will pay attention just because I’m a girl rapping. I automatically get ears and then they hear me spit and they really like it. I think there’s definitely an advantage. There’s been some men that unfortunately will try and take advantage and bribe you upfront to get places. But right off the bat I make it apparent that I’m into girls and that I don’t do that. In a sense I feel it saved me in some ways.

Who throughout LGBTQ history or in the community has inspired you to embrace your individuality and artistry?

When I was little there wasn’t anyone that I looked up to that was gay because I didn’t even realize that I liked women until I was older. So, this is kind of embarrassing, but I guess my first girl crush was Tila Tequila when she did A Shot at Love. That was like the first mainstream, bisexual or even slightly gay reality show or love show.

What type of advice would you give your fans who are currently struggling with their identity?

I don’t know because I think for me, it wasn’t that big of a struggle. The first girl I actually liked, I loved her and because I loved her so much, that to me was more important than keeping a secret. Nothing else really mattered at that point. I was ready to tell the world. That’s how much I love and cared about her. My advice is, I think love is more important than people’s judgment and be true to yourself. Because for me, it totally overcame any type of doubt I had in my head about who I would lose in my life.

What’s a step that you can take as an artist to normalize LGBTQ romance and relationships?

For me, that involves me talking about what’s going on in my relationships. In my songs when I’m talking about a girl who broke my heart, then I’ll say ‘she’, I’ll say ‘her’. I’ll be very outward about it because I don’t think there's anything for me to hide. I’ve been told by people that I shouldn’t say that because you want to be more relatable to the masses, but I don’t care because this is first and foremost my art and my therapy. I’m going to talk about my heart being broken by a girl. I’m going to talk about being in love with a girl. I’m just going to be myself. I need to talk about it. I think that’s one way, just not to be scared.

 Self- Portrait by Harrison Glazier, styled by Harrison Glazier

Self- Portrait by Harrison Glazier, styled by Harrison Glazier

Harrison Glazier 

Harrison Glazier, photography prodigy, started his career in his early teens and has flourished in the art community of San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles. The newly 20-year-old artist has shot for Nike, Puma, Converse, Urban Outfitters, and MILK. Harrison’s artwork has strongly reflected his LGBTQ identity and has gathered a following over the years due to his shameless and beautiful self-reflective work. His artistry is fresh and modern, using photography as narrative, yet also pulls inspiration of the past through daguerreotype photography methods.

What is one thing that you would say to your fans and followers who are currently struggling with identity?

Take your time. You don't have to figure everything out in this very moment. There is no pressure. No one is hitting you over the head telling you that you need to know immediately who you are or what being queer means to you. It is such an individual journey. I think a point of queerness is defining what gender, sexuality, and even living is about for you. I am still discovering what it means to be queer. Have compassion for yourself and take the waves as they come.

What is a step that you take as an artist to normalize gay (transgendered or non-binary) romance?

I think addressing topics of sensuality and sexuality within your work as a queer person is inherently counter culture and counter cishet normative. Even kissing in public is an act of queer resistance. When I address things like that in my work, it goes against the mainstream culture. Addressing these topics at all is enough to normalize it and say ‘Hello, I am here’. At the same time - queer sexuality is just sexuality. There is a ‘normal’ which deviant of other ‘normals’. There really is no set ‘normal’.

For someone who identifies as heterosexual, what could they do to be an ally with the LGBTQ community?

Listening always. Always, always, always listen. When a queer person invites you into their experience, recognizing it is not your time to talk and chime in. Turning inwards and asking yourself ‘what are ways that I am personally contributing to this cis- heteronormative world?’ Are you instead supporting queer musicians and artists? Or are you giving money to companies that are violent against queer POC, or other marginalized members of the queer community? Watch where you give your money and put your money where your mouth is.

How do you deal with homophobia?

Reminding myself that this isn't a huge giant you have to slay. It isn’t a giant. There is no real fight. When it is directly pertaining to me, I am allowed to check out at any point and take care of myself before I feel the need to put in the emotional labor of fighting for that. It is different if I see homophobia against someone else - for those whose queerness that might be more externally visible than mine. It is important to check your own privilege even within the queer community and use what power you have to fight on behalf of others. There is responsibility you have to look after your queer family.

 


Written by Allyson Borunda and Chloe Laughlin

Photographed by Harrison Glazier