It’s time to open the can of worms on something that has not been discussed much in dance music journalism—the lack of gay and lesbian presence in the industry. Dance music has a lot of gay fans, and it has been that way since long before most of the current EDM fans were born (myself, included). However, there are ostensibly no high-profile gay producers who have come out, despite the fact that dance music is largely accepting of its gay fans. In my opinion, it would be largely beneficial to dance music, and the music industry overall, for a high-profile producer to come out of the closet.
In a world where athletes like Michael Sam and Jason Collins can feel comfortable coming out of the closet, it’s shocking that there are seemingly no openly gay producers in EDM (and let me be clear, there may be some. That means that either they just haven’t shared it with the public, or they aren’t well known). Sam and Collins play professional football and basketball, two of the most hegemonically masculine jobs in our culture, yet in the last few months we’ve seen them do something that had only been talked about for years – coming out as a professional athlete (or soon to be, in Sam’s case). So why is it that there aren’t any openly gay high profile producers in dance music, a culture that is supposed to be open and accepting of everyone? There are many possibilities, and the following are some that I have come up with.
There are no high profile gay producers (highly unlikely)
The high profile producers are afraid that coming out will affect revenue and support from fans
The stigma of being gay in a masculine-dominant industry
The producers don’t think their personal lives are important, “let the music do the talking”
Save for the first option, it would appear that any of these could be reasons that we have not seen any producers come out of the closet, in addition to any personal reasons that each individual in-the-closet producer may have as well.
The topic of sexism and objectification of women in the EDM business (both from a fan and industry perspective) has been covered by any number of outlets, but rarely, if ever, has anyone written about the lack of sexual diversity in the industry. The fans are as diverse as people come, but the industry leaders tend to be white, male, and straight. The presence of openly gay producers could create an outlet to diversify the industry and potentially bring in more gay fans who may feel alienated by an industry that, interestingly enough, has its roots in gay culture.
House music started as the soundtrack to underground gay, black and Latin clubs in the 1970s as a fusion of disco and Euro-pop. In the 70s, disco was at its peak, and the genre was viewed by many straight, white males as the ultimate threat to masculinity, which eventually lead to disco's demise. But the demise just pushed discos way back into the gay clubs, and in the gay clubs of Chicago is where disco transformed into house music. Early pioneers of house music like Frankie Knuckles were important to the rise of house, and eventually their influence spawned techno music in Detroit in the 80s.
Ultimately, dance music was given a chance outside of these minority clubs and made a small return in the 90s with acts like Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers, and Fatboy Slim. The popular EDM culture we know today started only a few short years ago, and with its rise, much of the gay culture that once was so important to dance music has been lost.
So why is recognition and inclusion of gay culture important to the future of EDM, and why is it important for a gay producer to come out? There are, most likely, gay producers out there who are hiding their sexuality because of expectations; in a male-dominated industry, famous producers can be expected to sleep with lots of women. A producer should not have to hide their sexuality because of these expectations, or out of fear that they may lose some revenue or popularity (in reality, it may actually do just the opposite). EDM culture is associated with ‘PLUR’ and kandi ravers, who are all about love and acceptance of one another. Not to mention that nearly the entire demographic of dance music fans are 16-30 year olds, which also happens to be the age demographic that is most tolerant of sexual orientation. We now stand at the cusp of a major social shift in the Western world: the open acceptance of gay culture in the mainstream. Dance music holds so much power and sway over the opinions of people across the globe, and for a well-known producer that millions idolize to come out of the closet would be one more massive step forward in eliminating hate and bigotry towards a group of people who have tolerated negative societal pressure for far too long.
I recognize that not everyone thinks it’s important to broadcast his or her sexuality, and that’s completely understandable. Famous people are people too, and they are entitled to privacy in the bedroom. But just like with Michael Sam and Jason Collins, it takes somebody being the first to do something to open up the conversation and really generate social change. Change isn’t something we’re all comfortable with, but after all, this music that brings us all together began within gay culture, and I think now it’s finally time to start embracing that as a fundamental part of dance music’s past and present identity.