10 LGBTQ+ Artists Who Indelibly Shaped the House Music Landscape

Jun 16, 2023

Rob Engle

7 min read

Emerging as a counterculture movement from the predominantly Black and Latino queer underground scene of late-70s Chicago, house music has always been emblematic of equality, liberation, and power. This genre was evangelized by LGBTQ+ DJs, producers, promoters, and clubgoers of the era.

But the fact house music is rooted queer culture is more than a piece of trivia. It’s a detail intrinsically woven into the sonic and sociopolitical fabric of the now-prolific global genre. Here is a far-from-exhaustive list of 10 LGBTQ+ artists who have demonstrably left their mark on the house and broader dance music scene of the past, present, and future.

The Godfather of House, Frankie Knuckles

The late Frankie Knuckles (real name: Francis Warren Nicholls, Jr.), widely regarded as the creator of house music, famously said, “House music is disco’s revenge.” But to the many who knew Frankie, “vengeful" was the furthest thing from a descriptor of this iconic artist. Known as one of the humblest people to ever grace the dance music scene, Knuckles was regarded as one of the most innovative DJs, producers, and remixers in history.

Photography by Steve Black

His soulful anthems including, “Where Love Lives” and Sounds of Blackness's "The Pressure" remix — among many others — still ring out across dancefloors today. Originally from The Bronx, the legacy of house music was borne out of Knuckles's leadership at The Warehouse, a small, three-story industrial nightclub in Chicago’s West Loop patronized primarily by gay Black and Latino men. The impact of Knuckles cannot be contained. It’s a legacy that will never stop expanding.

Paradise Garage Disco Pioneer, Larry Levan

A resident of the famous Paradise Garage — an LGBTQ+ nightlife haven in a post-Studio 54 New York City — Levan is lauded as a pioneer of the concept of modern DJing. A masterful artist, Levan was highly experimental, integrating drum machines and synthesizers into his live DJing sets. He is largely credited for introducing dub, an electronic music style that grew out of reggae, into disco music. This served as an important precursor to house music, which his longtime friend, Frankie Knuckles, would carry west to The Warehouse in Chicago.

New York House Maverick, Danny Tenaglia

Tribal. Rhythmic. Undulating. And characterized by drums, drums, and more drums. Such is a Danny Tenaglia set. Anyone who’s ever witnessed the masterclass that is Tenaglia behind the decks can hear how influential the artist was in the development of New York-style house, a genre marked by its deep rhythms, heavy basslines, and percussiveness. Well into his fourth decade as a professional DJ, Tenaglia still can be found lying down classic, soulful, rhythm-infused performances on some of the biggest stages in the world, from Brooklyn Mirage to Pacha Ibiza.

Music and Fashion Icon, Honey Dijon

The ascent of Honey Dijon (real name: Honey Redmond) has been nothing short of spectacular — but every bit of it earned. The DJ/producer, fashion icon (New York Times’ 93 Most Fashionable People of 2022), change-maker (Lifetime achievement award recipient at the Leslie-Lohman Museum), Dijon finds herself providing a platform on which other Black, trans, and queer artists can flourish. Approaching nearly 25 years as a DJ, the Chicago native has boldly stepped up from dance music’s underground and established herself as one of the leading purveyors of house music in the world.

Among her vast list of accomplishments in 2022 alone: Her accomplishments in 2022 alone included her first Grammy win as a writer and producer on Beyoncé’s album Renaissance, a contributor to Madonna’s Finally Enough Love, remix album, the release of her 15-track, collaboration-laden LP Black Girl Magic filled with house hits. All on top of approximately 180 festival and club appearances in 2022.

Fierce Queer Advocate, The Blessed Madonna

In 2016, The Blessed Madonna (real name: Marea Stamper) was honored as Mixmag’s first-ever female DJ of the Year. But that only cracks the shell of Stamper’s long list of accomplishments as one of the most acclaimed acts spanning classic house and modern dance music. Notably, in 2020, she released a remix album of British popstar Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia, featuring samples from Missy Elliott and Madonna, among others. An openly queer woman, The Blessed Madonna has used her platform to advocate for the advancement of women and LGBTQ+ individuals in the industry – including traveling to Uganda to work directly with aspiring queer women DJs.

Detroit Love Founder, Carl Craig

Hailing from one of the most sonically abundant cities in human history, Detroit, Carl Craig, an openly gay man, is a prominent figure in the second wave of pioneering Detroit techno. His admiration for his hometown — the birthplace of Motown, techno, and the launchpad for thousands of well-known artists — is immediately apparent in his brand. His party Detroit Love pays homage to the musical influence of the Motor City and has infiltrated nearly every corner of the globe, with stage takeovers at festivals including Defected Croatia, BPM Costa Rica, and others.

Multi-Hyphenate Creative, Kim Ann Foxman

Kim Ann Foxman’s trajectory as an artist is highly unique. The Hawaii-born and raised DJ and producer is likely one of the few modern musicians who can lay claim to the title of former Miss Teen Filipina Hawaii. An original member and vocalist of the acclaimed musical act, Hercules and Love Affair, Foxman, now based in New York, is known for her dynamic, cross-genre, and experimental underground style. Foxman, openly lesbian, continues to use her platform to promote visibility and equality for the LGBTQ+ community in the global club scene.

Trans and Transformative Artist, Octo Octa

A rising notable figure in the house and techno scene, Octo Octa (real name: Maya Bouldry-Morrison) has made an unmistakable mark on the New York music scene and beyond.

The Chicago-born, Brooklyn-based artist came out as transgender in 2016. Meeting and combining forces with their now-partner DJ and producer Eris Drew, the couple became a formidable force and eventually founded their record label T4T LUV RNG in 2018, which they have expanded globally with curated events. “Our lives as trans people are better for the connection we have together,” said Maya and Eris in a 2020 interview with PAPER Magazine.

Photography by Charles Ludeke

Queer Philosopher, DJ Sprinkles

DJ Sprinkles (real name: Terre Thaemlitz) is a transgender music producer and DJ who has made a profound contribution to the subgenre of deep house and ambient electronic music. Incorporating themes of gender, sexuality, politics, and identity into her work, Thaemlitz aims to create discourse around these subjects within the music industry. More broadly, the activist, educator, and queer philosopher have made significant inroads in advocating for the rights of trans people around the world.

Eclectic Crossover Artist, Jennifer Cardini

Cutting her teeth in the Parisian nightlife scene, Jennifer Cardini has spent decades building a globally renowned reputation for her unique techno and house crossover style. Cardini is openly gay and has made a significant impact on the LGBTQ+ music scene, particularly in her home country of France. She has graced some of the most prominent nightlife institutions in the world, including Panorama Bar in Berlin and LuxFragil in Lisbon, and her eclectic DJing style reflects her philosophy that the dancefloor should be rooted in equality and liberation.

Upcoming events

Hï Ibiza Opening Party

Hï Ibiza

San José, Spain

Apr 27, 202411 PM

Honey Dijon is on the lineup

Amnesia Opening Party 2024

Amnesia Ibiza

Ibiza, Spain

May 11, 202411 PM

Honey Dijon is on the lineup

Primavera Sound 2024

The Blessed Madonna is on the lineup

Junction 2 2024

The Blessed Madonna and Honey Dijon are on the lineup

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