We all have those training wheels that help us in tough times. Something to support and keep us focused on the light at the end of the tunnel. For some, those training wheels are hiking in nature, hanging out with friends or animals. Some will escape while reading a book. For me, those training wheels are music. It represents the voice that reminds me everything will be okay, and that guides me to safety.
Listening to music has been proven to cause dopamine secretion in the brain, which improves mood and reduces anxiety. It can also help produce the hormone cortisol which prevents stress and causes satisfaction, joy and motivation.
Each person has a specific taste in music, with which they merged and in which they found themselves. Music, like any other art form, is an opportunity to share experiences, to learn something about ourselves or others, and all we need to do is be willing to listen. Queer persons nowadays feel visible, valid and represented thanks to the brave artists who put their heart and soul in their art which is coincidentally queer.
One singer whose songs have been a great support on my journey of finding myself is Ben Platt. He may be known to some from the movie "Pitch Perfect" or the series "The Politician", although he is best known for his role on Broadway in the musical "Dear Evan Henson".
Ben saw his first album as an opportunity to tell us about his previous relationships and the outing proccess. He came out to his parents when he was 12, while he was on a school trip to Tel Aviv. On the bus, one boy said that Ben is "doing just fine" because he is gay and he "can hang out with girls". All this was heard by their teacher who thought it was hate speech, so Ben took the opportunity to call his parents to come out to them.
They said they were not surprised because he spent half of his childhood dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and that they love him. As for coming out, Ben thinks it shouldn’t be some big ceremony, but simply something to be generally accepted and something we need to get used to. Of course, he is aware that the situation on this issue is not the same everywhere in the world, so he expresses his support to everyone through his songs.
In the song "Honest man", he talks about a relationship with a closeted man, and how he noticed the shame and embarrassment that he felt. That caused frustration in Ben, and irked him to write this song so that he would have more patience and understanding towards his boyfriend at the time.
"In case you don't live forever" is a song dedicated to his father in which he expresses his gratitude and love for his father for teaching him how to be a man, and (thankfully) not in the sense of today's heteronormative toxic masculinity. Another aspect of this song is to express those words of love before it is too late. To tell others how much they mean to us before they die.
One of my favorite songs of his is “Grow as we go” which he wrote about when his then boyfriend asked for a breakup because he needed time and space "to be alone and grow". Ben and I share the same view - when you are with the right person, you can grow together, give each other room for change and support each other’s growth.
It was unusual to listen to songs that a man sang about another men, because I was used to the lyrics addressing the opposite sex. My favorite song is “Older” which helped me understand some of my goals, how achieve them, but also how to go back to the present, because the present is all we have. We should not rush to grow up and achieve all our goals as soon as possible, but to allow ourselves to enjoy the journey that life gives us.
Of course, Ben Platt is not the only queer singer whose songs change lives and make the world a more beautiful place to live. I would mention Mary Lambert who with her arrows of poetry stings our hearts. Calum Scott is also known for his beautiful voice that often brings tears of joy and leaves no one indifferent. It is impossible not to mention Montero Lamar Hill, better known as Lil Nas X, who "shocked" the public with his newer songs after his outing.
Unfortunately, there is no way to mention every public queer person who contributed to the community with their art, but that fact makes me happy - to know that there is so many of us out there. Just imagine how much power music has when it can awake a sense of worth, courage, love and everything that makes us human.
Autor: Alija Osmić
This article was written as part of the project "Access to Justice for LGBTI persons in Tuzla Canton", which is funded by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. The article does not necessarily express the views of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, but only the author.