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Toward a Queer Music Therapy: The Implications of Queer Theory for Radically Inclusive Music Therapy



Interest in music therapy with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals has increased in the last decade, and the distinctive needs of the community have been acknowledged through the publication of LGBTQ best practices in music therapy (Whitehead-Pleaux et al., 2012). Developing competencies around LGBTQ issues in music therapy is more complex than simply including, or incorporating, diverse sexual orientation, and gender identity issues, into an existing disciplinary framework, that has an historical hostility towards non-normative sexualities and genders. The challenges of conducting music therapy with LGBTQ populations within community settings has been documented in few sources, and this lack of attention in the existing music therapy literature has inspired an interdisciplinary framework by which to consider these challenges. First, we introduce and survey key developments in queer theory. Second, we explain how queer theory may complement and challenge recent developments in inclusive, and social justice-based, music therapy approaches. Then, we outline several potential therapeutic approaches with LGBTQ youth that reflect queer theory. Finally we discuss the broader implications of queer theory for music therapy, with the intent to move the field toward a radically inclusive approach to therapy with LGBTQ clients.
Toward a Queer Music Therapy: The Implications of Queer Theory for Radically Inclusive
Music Therapy
[Note that this is a pre-publication version of a manuscript forthcoming in The Arts in
Interest in music therapy with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ)
individuals has increased in the last decade. The distinctive needs of the community have been
acknowledged through the publication of LGBTQ best practices in music therapy (Whitehead-
Pleaux et al., 2012). A survey of U.S. music therapists’ attitudes towards the LGBTQ community
received 409 responses in the first two months. These respondents demonstrated progress in
music therapists’ understanding and knowledge of LGBTQ issues, but at the same time, more
than half of the respondents did not feel adequately prepared to work with LGBTQ clients
(Whitehead-Pleaux et al., 2013). Queer, in the context of this paper, denotes both a) individuals
who identify as any non-conforming sexual or gender identity (including lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender, transsexual, asexual, pansexual, etc.), or b) individuals, and theoretical perspectives,
that reject heteronormative sexual and gender politics. Given the complicated and fraught history
of the medicalization of sexuality and gender (Bland & Doan, 1998; Bryant, 2006; Foucault,
1978; Terry, 1999), the constitution of LGBTQ youth in particular as an at-risk group (Cover,
2012; Waidzunas, 2012), and music therapists’ increased interest in conducting affirmative
therapy with sexual minority and gender nonconforming clients, it is critical to identify the
potential challenges of putting queer youth under the disciplinary microscope of music therapy.
In other words, developing multicultural competencies around LGBTQ issues in music therapy
may be more complex than simply including or incorporating diverse sexual orientation and
gender identity issues into an existing disciplinary framework that has been historically hostile
towards non-normative sexualities and genders (Ahmed, 2012; Epstein, 2007). The challenges of
conducting music therapy with LGBTQ populations within community settings has been
documented in very few sources, and this deficit in music therapy literature inspired this
interdisciplinary framework to think through these challenges. Music therapists have called for
serious consideration of queer theory in music therapy (Hadley, 2013), but at this time, it appears
that such a call has remained unaddressed in the mainstream scholarship of the discipline.
Accordingly, this work attends to a critical area of music therapy research, training, and practice
insomuch as it constructs a distinct paradigm for approaching music therapy with LGBTQ
individuals, and especially youth, in community settings.
Queer theory is an interdisciplinary field that destabilizes sexuality categories and
challenges the concept of normal and fixed identities (Stein & Plummer, 1994; Sullivan, 2003).
At the time of this publication, there were no published articles specifically on queer theory
applied to music therapy with LGBTQ clients. In order to address this dearth of literature on
what might be termed “queer music therapy,” this project investigates queer theory and applies
its theoretical concepts to music therapy interventions. The ideas of foundational queer theorists
Michel Foucault (1978), Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (1990, 2005), and Judith Butler (1993) were
especially influential for this project. Foucault (1978) situates sexuality within historical and
cultural struggles over power and knowledge, and Butler (1993) applies this theory to
heterosexuality, suggesting that a normalized, yet complex matrix of discourses render
heterosexual identity into an unspoken imperative. Sedgwick (1990) argues that the structured
homo/hetero binary opposition is limiting and that language impacts understandings of sexual
identities. These perspectives – among many other emergent concepts in queer theory today –
can advance how music therapists currently approach working with this population and interpret
music therapy experiences with LGBTQ clients. For example, statistics that circulate in the
media nearly uniformly posit LGBTQ youth as a fundamentally at-risk and vulnerable
population; however, queer theoretical perspectives reveal opportunities for empowerment
within a music therapy setting, rather than focusing on their implied vulnerability (Butler, 2004;
Cover, 2012; Erwin, 1993; Grzanka & Mann, 2014; Puar, 2012; Rofes, 1983; Waidzunas, 2012).
Relatively little music therapy research has focused specifically on queer theory (Hadley,
2013), thus the literature for this project is richly interdisciplinary and includes scholarship from
sexuality studies, LGBT psychology, counseling psychology, and the psychology of music, in
addition to formative research in music therapy. We argue here that the theoretical insights of
these diverse fields can be synergized to empower queer youth within a therapeutic environment
that is radically – as opposed to superficially – inclusive. First, we introduce and survey key
developments in queer theory. Second, we explain how queer theory may complement and
challenge recent developments in inclusive and social justice-based music therapy approaches.
Then, we outline several potential therapeutic interventions for use with LGBTQ youth that
reflect queer theory. Finally we discuss the broader implications of queer theory for music
therapy, including both practice and research that might move the field toward a radically
inclusive approach to therapy with LGBTQ clients.
Review of Literature
LGBTQ Lives in Context
Psychological problems can arise from a function of interactions within relationships and
systems, including interpersonal relationships, family, community, society, and culture (Crowe,
2004). This model of viewing psychological issues is the most applicable to LGBTQ issues, as
their mental health and disorder in relationships typically has more to do with society and culture
than biology or epigenetics. Heterosexism refers to the structural disadvantages faced by sexual
minorities, including the assumption that everyone must be heterosexual (Hadley, 2013).
Homonegativity and homophobia refer to prejudicial attitudes or behaviors towards anyone
perceived to be gay, lesbian, or otherwise non-heterosexual (Cerny & Polyson, 1984; Herek,
2004; Morrison & Morrison, 2002). Heterosexual relationships are celebrated and reinforced
while queer relationships are marginalized. Similarly, transphobia denotes prejudicial attitudes
towards transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals. Further, cisgenderism is the
systemic devaluation, pathologization, and delegitimation of individuals who do not identify
with the sex they were assigned at birth (i.e., those who are not “cisgender,” the term used to
denote persons who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth (Schilt & Westbrook,
2009)). Due to these systemic social forces and cultural attitudes, LGBTQ adolescents in the 21st
century United States are particularly vulnerable to mental and physical health issues. Many of
these youth are members of non-accepting families and also experience verbal harassment,
exclusion from activities, fear of being open about their identity, and issues with depression
(Human Rights Campaign, 2013). Research also reveals that LGBTQ youth are at increased risk
of suicidal ideation (Clements-Nolle, Marx & Katz, 2006; Liu & Mustanski, 2012; Silva, Chu,
Monahan, & Joiner, 2015) and homelessness (Durso & Gates, 2012). Thus, despite some
evidence suggesting changing attitudes toward sexuality and gender (McCormack, 2012), openly
identifying as LGBTQ in today’s social and political climate may have social, legal, physical,
and emotional consequences.
For LGBTQ youth, these common struggles may also interfere with identity
development, one of the major tasks of adolescence, if youth are not provided with a support
system and effective coping tools (Fassinger & Arseneau, 2007). Psychologists have determined
that music is a strong influence on today's youth and adolescents use music as a tool to express
and formulate identity (Tarrant, North, & Hargreaves, 2002). Forming musical preferences
during adolescence serves as a method of developing autonomy, as it facilitates the creation of a
generational identity that is independent of parents and teachers, and corresponds with the shift
from family to peer orientation (Hodges & Sebald, 2011). Conclusively, adolescents’ use of
music for impression management helps facilitate the transition to adulthood, as a sense of
personal identity guides interpersonal behavior and signifies optimal psychological health
(Schlenker, 1985; Waterman, 1992). LGBTQ adolescents may turn to listening to music
congruent with their sexual identity for support while growing up. Therefore, music therapy may
be an effective treatment for LGBTQ adolescents who are struggling with intolerance and need
professional support.
Due to the increased amount of research in the past 30 years on stigma against the
LGBTQ population (Sullivan, 1994), there is an increased awareness of LGBTQ youth facing an
array of problems in their respective homes, schools, and communities (e.g., Cianciotto & Cahill,
2012; Gray, 2009; Pascoe, 2007). Knowledge of their issues is critical to provide quality care for
this population. Family acceptance is a critical indicator of positive mental and physical health
for LGBTQ adolescents (Ryan et al., 2010), however, recent survey research revealed one-third
of these adolescents are experiencing family rejection and one-half report that they often hear
negative messages about being LGBTQ at home (Human Rights Campaign, 2013). Many
LGBTQ adolescents – and those who are perceived to be LGBTQ – also report verbal
harassment because of their sexual orientation or the way they express their gender (Cianciotto &
Cahill, 2012; Pascoe, 2007; Watson & Miller, 2012; Robinson, Espelage, & Rivers, 2013).
Recent survey results additionally found that more than half of LGBTQ students experience
some form of cyber-bullying, four out of ten LGBTQ students have been physically harassed at
school, and one of five have been the victim of physical assault at school (Kosciw et al., 2011).
The prevalence of these issues demonstrates that these problems are a social and public health
issue, and those in health and human service professions should receive training on LGBTQ
cultural competence.
The increased dissemination of alarming statistics regarding LGBTQ youth has helped
construct “gay youth” as an at-risk identity category (Waidzunas, 2012). The LGBTQ youth
population is often associated with mental illness and suicide risk, which has made LGBTQ
youth an area of clinical investigation. According to Waidzunas (2012), Cover (2012), and others
(e.g., Essig, 2010) this is potentially problematic for queer youth insomuch as this research may
inadvertently reinforce negative stereotypes, including the longstanding associations between
queer people and mental illness (Foucault, 1978). Further, as Grzanka and Mann (2014) argue,
public discourse on queer youth suicide reveals the perception of suicide as the product of an
individual’s lack of resilience to their social challenges, such as heteronormativity and
homonegativity manifested in bullying and social exclusion. For example, the “It Gets Better”
project was a widely viewed suicide prevention Internet-based campaign that began in 2010 as a
response to the increased media attention of queer youth suicides. The goal of these videos was
to prevent suicides of gay teenagers by telling this population that their lives would improve
(Cover, 2012; Grzanka & Mann, 2014). Overall, “It Gets Better” tries to inspire hope and
encourages queer youth to wait patiently through the challenges of their youth for the “better”
life of adulthood. However, some scholars argue that this campaign narrowly focuses on
individual resilience and does not address sexuality as a system of power and inequality
(Grzanka & Mann, 2014). These queer theory-informed criticisms of advocacy grounded in
spurious statistics and popular psychology have implications for therapeutic interventions with
LGBTQ youth. They suggest a therapeutic orientation that resists undefined ideas of hope in the
face of attributed vulnerability, and instead focus on understanding and negotiating systems of
oppression while providing opportunities for empowerment (cf., Goldstein, 2012; Pascoe, 2013).
Music Therapy with LGBTQ Clients
There is currently a limited amount of research on LGBTQ issues in music therapy, and
much (if not all) of the available research has been published within the last 15 years. A review
of current music therapy literature revealed little exploration of queer theoretical ideas. Though
not directly related to queer theory, the recently published music therapy articles regarding
working with LGBTQ populations demonstrate a trend towards the issues raised by queer theory.
A team of music therapists recently conducted a survey designed to explore the attitudes and
actions of music therapists regarding LGBTQ issues, and they found that over half of the 409
respondents did not have any training regarding LGBTQ issues, and a majority of those who did
have training still reported that they did not feel prepared to work with the LGBTQ community
(Whitehead-Pleaux et al., 2013). Many respondents also reported that they do not use gender-
neutral music or language and that their choices of songs for music therapy interventions were
not at all influenced by a client's sexual orientation. When working with LGBTQ clients, an
examination of a music therapist's attitude towards this population is critical because it has the
potential to provoke a dangerous countertransference. For a straight, cisgender-identified
therapist, one consequence of being a part of the dominant, heteronormative culture is the
extended amount of time it will take to build rapport with a client who identifies differently;
however, Chase (2004) suggests learning more about sexual minorities by researching their
cultures. A team of music therapists recently compiled a list of best practices with LGBTQ
clients that emphasized inclusivity, creation of a safe space, preferred language, knowledge of
LGBTQ culture and music, and affirmative therapy (Whitehead-Pleaux et al., 2012). The current
literature reveals that music therapy approaches when working with the LGBTQ community are
progressing, but it also demonstrates a need for a queer theoretical framework in music therapy.
Queer music therapy would extend beyond the scope of current methods and further recognize
the complexities of sexuality and gender identity and consider LGBTQ individuals as more than
a special or niche population to be folded into business-as-usual psychotherapy. Indeed, queer
theory may suggest a sustained interrogation of the very categories and terms on which the social
science of sexual orientation and gender diversity rests (Fassinger & Arseneau, 2007; Seidman,
1997; Stein & Plummer, 1994).
What is Queer Theory?
Given the heterogeneous ways in which queer theory has been articulated, including
distinct disciplinary origins, methodological proclivities, and even political goals (Sullivan,
2003), it is important to define various queer theoretical perspectives as opposed to representing
queer theory as a monolith. Queer theory loosely refers to a field of critical theory that
challenges heteronomative ideologies by arguing that sexual identities are fluid rather than fixed.
This field encompasses numerous critical inquiries, including the queer of color critique
(Ferguson, 2003; Muñoz, 1999), studies of performativity (Butler 1990, 1993), and transgender
studies (Stryker & Aizura, 2013). These bodies of knowledge are so diverse that the field of
queer theory necessarily resists synthesis (Sullivan, 2003; Warner, 2012). “Queer” is a
historically stigmatized word that has been reclaimed by the LGBTQ community as a political
term denoting those who do not conform to traditional notions of gender and sexual identity. A
robust critique of power relationships as opposed to individual psychologies links the work of
foundational queer theorists such as Foucault (1978), Sedgwick (1990, 2005), and Butler (1993).
Expanding on the notion that sexuality is produced in unequal relations of power, the “queer of
color” critique investigates the inseparable intersections of sexuality with race, gender, and class
(Johnson & Henderson, 2005; Lorde, 1984). Queer of color scholarship has posited that Black
and Latina/o bodies have historically been viewed as not only racially but sexually deviant in the
contexts of colonialism and in the legacy of White supremacy (Ferguson, 2003). Another
expansion of queer theory includes contemporary trans criticism. Trans is an umbrella term that
includes all non-cisgender gender identities, including transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, etc.
Trans studies have illuminated how representations of the transgendered body in media, science,
and everyday life reinforce cisgenderism and heteronormativity by framing gender and sexuality
in binary terms and using gender pronouns to mislabel and describe transgender individuals
(Ansara & Hegarty, 2012; Bryant, 2006; Sloop, 2004). Butler (1993) likewise challenges the idea
of “natural” gendered behavior in her theory of gender performativity, asserting that the gendered
body is characterized by public or shared repetitive acts; to Butler, gender is not a choice per se,
but produced by the social imperative to “do” gender in terms of sociohistorical precedent. In
other words, to Butler (1993), gender performance is a kind of citational practice whereby
individuals “cite” gender norms by doing gender, even when they attempt to subvert or
undermine heteronormativity (see also Butler, 1990). These modes of discourse foreground how
queer communities have embraced an ethic of radical inclusivity, in which structures are
critiqued for how they subtly reinforce oppression so as to make environments safe and
accepting of human cultural diversity. This approach contrasts with the kinds of superficial
inclusivity and diversity that seeks to incorporate different people and bodies into dominant
organizations and institutional settings that lack critical reflexivity (Ahmed, 2012). Radical
inclusivity has implications for how music therapists might provide a safe and inclusive space for
transgender individuals and queer people of color within a therapeutic setting.
In order to provide therapy for sexual minorities dealing with mental health issues related
to their identities, it is critical to examine how the foundations of LGBTQ oppression are actually
linked to psychological institutions and discourses. Queer theorists explore and critique how the
medicalization and pathologization of sexuality operates as a system of power. The history of
sexuality reveals that homosexuality and heterosexuality are recent culturally constructed social
classifications of particular bodies rather than universal, “natural,” or transhistorical categories
(Hacking, 1986; Somerville, 1994). The modern concept of homosexuality, for example, evolved
from deviant or criminalized sexual behaviors (e.g., sodomy) into a form of identity (Foucault,
1978). Once seen as merely crimes or aberrations, homosexual behavior began to be observed as
an inextricable expression of a person’s identity in the late 19th and early 20th century. Categorical
conceptions of sexuality were firmly dichotomous, consisting of heterosexuality and
homosexuality (Sullivan, 2003), creating what queer theorists today conceptualize as a pervasive
system of oppression that organizes virtually all aspects of social life, including education,
medicine, the law, etc.
The discipline of sexology, or the academic study and classification of sexual bodies,
emerged in the late 19th century and relocated sexual concerns from the church’s authority
towards the domain of medicine (Bland & Doan, 1998; Foucault, 1978). Science and medicine
began investigating the “cause” of homosexuality, which was initially viewed as sexual
inversion, or a hereditary degenerative condition constituting homosexuals as “unfinished”
specimens (Terry, 1999). Scientists later posited that both nature and nurture play a role in the
development of homosexuality, an idea that continues to exist today in some psychological
interventions that aim to change sexual orientation (Liddle, 2007; Sullivan, 2003; Whitehead-
Pleaux et al., 2012). The psychiatric investigation of non-heterosexual sexualities established
non-normative sexuality as a medicalized object; in the context of science and medicine, this
creates a framework, according to Foucault (1978), of the observer (e.g., the psychologist) and
the observed (e.g., the patient). Thus, working with LGBTQ adolescents in a therapeutic setting
may perpetuate oppression if the history of medicalized sexuality is not carefully considered.
This historical context illustrates the potential risks of putting LGBTQ adolescents under the
disciplinary microscope of music therapy. However, since queer theory challenges
heteronormative discourse and emphasizes the fluidity of sexuality, queer theoretical
perspectives provide a lens to think through these challenges and highlight therapeutic methods
focused on empowerment.
LGBTQ Identity Development
The growing multidisciplinary literature addressing the ways in which sexual orientation
develops through childhood and adolescence is pertinent to working with LGBTQ adolescents.
Many of these youth struggle through this complicated process. Furthermore, the coming out
process is also fraught with potential challenges to mental health, not the least of which is the
process of transitioning from a majority identity to a minority identity. Queer theorists advocate a
rethinking of sexual and gender nonconformity in order to challenge the concept of “normal”
itself (Stein & Plummer, 1994). Within the field of queer theory, most scholars conceptualize
gender and sexuality as continuous and fluid, rather than as a static binary (Butler, 1993;
Foucault, 1978; Sullivan, 2003). Heterosexism may hinder sexual orientation identity
development because it forces clients into the role of the "other," but foregrounding queer
theorists' ideas when working with LGBTQ adolescents can minimize heterosexist assumptions
(Brown, 1996; Garnets et al. 1991; Matthews, 2007; Reynolds, 2003).
Queer theories of sexual orientation identity development provide a framework for
assessments and treatment planning. Assessing sexual orientation identity development is
important for understanding the influence of an individual's sexual orientation on their presenting
problems (Haldeman, 2007; Matthews, 2007). Accordingly, the amount of influence of sexuality
on self-perceived identities varies between individuals (Sedgwick, 2005). LGBTQ sexual
identity development models typically include the following common themes: identity confusion
and questioning, finding and creating identity labels, acceptance of identity, and resolution and
maintenance of identity (Bradford, 2004; Brown, 2002; Collins, 2000; Potoczniak, 2007;
Weinberg, Williams, & Pryor, 1994). Socialization facilitates this developmental process;
however, queer youth may not have access to community-building tools if they are still in school
or living at home (Liddle, 2007; Oswald & Culton, 2003). This highlights the importance of
using techniques that positively impact interpersonal relationships, because positive group
experiences can counteract the negative social pressures that may be contributing to identity
confusion. When the development of a positive sexual orientation identity is interrupted, queer
theory can help direct attention toward structural barriers (i.e., heterosexism) rather than
individual differences or psychopathologies. Accordingly, this focus on structural power
dynamics makes queer theory a potentially efficacious paradigm for helping adolescents through
this developmental process.
Where Music Therapy and Queer Theory Meet
Although there is very little music therapy literature specifically addressing queer theory,
the recent literature on anti-oppressive music therapy practice provides implications for a queer
music therapy paradigm, because it attends to music’s capacity to connect individuals with
stigmatized identities. Anti-oppressive practice emphasizes that societal power imbalances, (e.g.,
sexism, heterosexism, racism) and personal struggles are inextricably connected (Baines,
2013). Although anti-oppressive music therapy practice is still nascent, music therapists have
started exploring how this paradigm can promote social justice by using music to encourage
positive relationships and supportive social networks among stigmatized groups (Baines,
2013; Crowe, 2004). Another suggestion for anti-oppressive music therapy practice is to be
aware that music has social functions that can unconsciously perpetuate oppression (Adrienna,
2006). To illustrate anti-oppressive practice in relation to music, Bennett (2000) suggests that
music can act as a vehicle for oppressed youth to collectively communicate hegemonic struggle.
For example Beadle (1993) argues that rap music empowers African-American youth to assert
anger, pride, self-worth, and their African-American identity. Thus, music may likewise enable
queer youth to also express their unique internal and external conflicts.
Feminism and Queer Theory
There is a strong link between queer theory and feminist theory (Brown, 2004; Hahna,
2013), because both address the nature of power imbalances and oppression based on gender or
sexual identity. Exploring feminist perspectives in music therapy has revealed that some music
therapists have various methods of addressing power imbalances. Adrienna (2006) asserts that
music therapy processes and relationship dynamics are not free from cultural constructions and
that music used in therapy may inadvertently reinforce oppressive ideologies. Her feminist music
therapy principles can complement a queer theoretical framework by challenging not only
sexism, but also challenging heteronormativity and the gender binary in music. Awareness of
social inequalities is critical in music therapy because eliding social relations in music therapy
repertoire may contribute to harmful power systems by reconfirming a client's label, stigma, and
social position within the musical experience. O’Grady & McFerran (2006) emphasize a feminist
approach in community music therapy because it emphasizes therapy as something clients "do,"
as opposed to therapy being done "to" them or "for" them. In this framework, roles are
reconfigured so that therapy is conceptualized as mutual empowerment between client and
therapist (Jordan & Hartling, 2002). This paradigm does not imply that the power balance is
equal or nonexistent, as queer theorists assert that power relations are everywhere (Foucault,
1978), but it advocates a therapeutic relationship based on mutual empathy, emotional
authenticity, openness to change and difference, and a connection that can be constructed
regardless of abilities, or in this case, sexual or gender identity (Rolvsjord, 2006a; Sprague &
Hayes, 2000).
Some music therapists have started critiquing traditional dominant structures in music
therapy, and as a result, there is currently a resurgence of the Community Music Therapy model
(Aigen, 2005; Baines, 2013; Rolvsjold, 2006b). Many music therapists are starting to move
beyond work on individual problems and instead are working towards strengthening entire
communities (Ruud, 2004; Vaillancourt, 2012). Because this approach promotes social justice,
Community Music Therapy may have implications for a queer music therapy paradigm.
However, some queer theorists have critiqued the notion of community as problematic for queer
individuals because it emphasizes commonality and an idealized sense of harmony (Nancy,
1991; Phelan, 1994; Sullivan, 2003; Young, 1986). Instead, they advocate for a queer community
model that supports productive differences and diversity (Secomb, 1997), rather than superficial
inclusion or tolerance (Ahmed, 2006, 2012; Epstein, 2007). An acknowledgement of mutual
(nondominant) differences can act as forces for social change, and notions of community do not
have to ignore differences (Lorde, 1984). Consequently, “queering” the Community Music
Therapy model would entail using music to simultaneously build relationships and recognize
diverse, fluid, and individual identities. Vaillancourt (2012) advocates for a community music
therapy model that promotes social justice by focusing on themes of acceptance and emphasizing
inclusiveness, interdependence, and equal participation. These guidelines have implications for
LGBTQ adolescents because these youth commonly experience exclusion from peers (Human
Rights Campaign, 2013). Accordingly, an analysis of both queer critiques of "community" and
social justice-focused community music therapy may provide the foundation for music therapy
approaches with LGBTQ adolescents.
Queering Music Therapy
Theoretical Orientation
Music is highly influential during adolescence and is also used as a medium to construct
identity (Tarrant, North, & Hargreaves, 2002). Therefore, an anti-oppressive music therapy
informed by queer theory may be efficacious for working with LGBTQ youth, a population that
faces marginalization and discrimination in personal interactions and society at large. This
oppression may lead to issues with social and personal identity development, as well as other
psychological problems, including internalized oppression. For this reason, there are many
existing support groups in school systems and communities for youth who have conflicts with
their parents or have developed mental health issues. Not all youth who identify as LGBTQ
require therapeutic remediation, especially if they have familial or other social support. However,
research indicates that many LGBTQ individuals currently need therapeutic support due to
experiences of prejudice and internalized heterosexism (Carter, Mollen, & Smith, 2014).
Therefore, music therapists working in mental health settings are likely to encounter LGBTQ
individuals in their practice, or social justice-oriented music therapists may seek out
opportunities to support LGBTQ youth in school or community settings.
To advance anti-oppressive music therapy approaches with this population, the theoretical
orientation of this project is grounded in queer theory literature. Based on findings from the
interdisciplinary literature review, a queer music therapy would:
1) combat heteronormativity by emphasizing the complexity and fluidity of sexual
2) support expression of unique personal and social conflicts due to oppression,
3) empower queer individuals to find strength in differences by freely expressing and
performing their gender and sexual identity,
4) positively impact interpersonal relationships to counteract negative social pressures
5) emphasize common cause rather than commonality of identity
Because music is a means of communication (Peters, 1987; Sears, 1968), it can construct
knowledge of sexuality within music therapy experiences. This implies that music can potentially
be oppressive to LGBTQ populations because some music reinforces heterosexism and the
gender binary. However, a music therapy program using a queer theory paradigm to frame
interventions can combat heteronormativity by changing the language of music to consider the
complexity and fluidity of sexual orientation. As an example, a music therapy intervention can
allow flexibility of language to match clients’ gender or sexual identity.
Music can also be used as a purely nonverbal form of communication (Peters, 1987).
Music-making techniques can be implemented to allow LGBTQ clients to nonverbally express
emotions towards societal discrimination, safely express their identity, and receive validation
from the therapist or others in a music therapy group. Further, an expansion of Butler’s (1993)
assertion that the gendered body is performative suggests music is a potential medium for
performing gender and sexual identity. According to Ruud (1998), performing, listening to, and
talking about music are all methods of performing personal identity. Thus, participating in music
therapy can affirm an individual’s identity by allowing a client to: determine the language of
their music, talk critically about LGBTQ music, and perform music in a manner that affirms their
identity. Queer theory emphasizes the deconstruction of language, and applying this concept to
music therapy prompts a deconstruction of music itself. However, to further advance this idea for
the broader goal of promoting social justice and health among LGBTQ youth, music therapy
within a queer theoretical framework may facilitate a reconstruction of language and the
initiation of community programs focused on a common cause – rather than commonality
(Lorde, 1984) – with others who experience sexual and gender stigmatization. Accordingly, this
paradigm emphasizes affirmation and empowerment around issues specific to LGBTQ
Goals and Considerations
When working with queer youth who are in the process of developing their identity, it is
critical to affirm all dimensions of their social identities throughout therapy, including their
sexual orientation and gender identity. A music therapist can achieve this by using appropriate
terminology (including preferred gender pronouns) and demonstrating cultural sensitivity during
interventions. In addition to using appropriate gender terminology during therapy, it is critical to
use preferred gender pronouns in clinical documentation, as opposed to misgendering clients
with the sex they were assigned at birth. This demonstrates a commitment to rethinking the
dominant ideologies of gender and supports clients’ differences (Ansara & Hegarty, 2012; Sloop,
2004). A music therapist can also create a safe space by: not tolerating bullying, hate speech, or
sexual-gender microaggressions and by naming and challenging such behaviors where they
inevitably occur; avoiding assumptions about client’s sexual orientation and/or gender expression
while simultaneously recognizing that we all – regardless of our sexual or gender identities –
carry these assumptions as part of our acculturation into a heterosexist, cisgenderist society;
respecting a client’s right to privacy (and whether or not they are “out” about their identity); and
demonstrating an open and affirming attitude (Whitehead-Pleaux et al., 2012). The musical
experience itself also facilitates a safe therapeutic environment, because the wordless meanings
of music help emotional expression when words alone have failed (Gaston, 1968). The most
important consideration of working with LGBTQ youth is to create a safe space for all clients
while acknowledging that many LGBTQ youth may have learned that few such spaces exist for
Based on the theoretical framework developed in the literature review, the following
goals may be appropriate for this population: support gender identity and expression, improve
self-esteem and self-image, promote a sense of control over life (Carter, Mollen, & Smith, 2014),
affirm differences and celebrate diversity, combat heteronormativity and cisgenderism, improve
group cohesion, facilitate emotional expression and identity expression, and promote
Music Therapy Interventions
To provide queer theory-informed music therapy, a variety of music therapy interventions
can be facilitated. These interventions using the above theoretical orientation can promote self-
esteem, coping skills, and empowerment for LGBTQ youth experiencing issues related to their
identity, including: musical autobiographies, songwriting, lyric analysis, music and creative arts,
and group anthem-writing. Each of these interventions is discussed below.
Musical Autobiography Assessment
For initial assessments with LGBTQ youth music therapy clients, it is important to assess
musical interests and preferences, psychosocial functioning, emotions (American Music Therapy
Association, 2013; Hanser, 1999) and where clients are in their sexual orientation and gender
identity development. Adolescents, in particular, often use music as a tool to express and
formulate identity (Tarrant, North, & Hargreaves, 2002), which highlights why it is especially
important to assess musical interests and preferences during assessment. Assessing musical
preferences is also critical for the development of an intervention plan because it provides
implications for song choices.
A musical autobiography intervention is an effective method to gain a holistic picture of a
client’s needs in music therapy. In this therapeutic process, clients are prompted to brainstorm
songs representative of their past, present, and expected future. Then, clients are asked to share
the tracks on their list, select one song to listen to, and process the experience with the music
therapist and group. This intervention allows music therapists to record musical interests and
preferences, evaluate psychosocial functioning based on self-report and social behaviors, and
document indicators of emotional functioning. Particular psychosocial areas that should be
evaluated are self-awareness, self-concept, self-esteem, participation, and interpersonal skills.
Emotional functioning should also be evaluated, including affect, feelings, and emotional
awareness. For LGBTQ adolescents, assessing sexual orientation and gender identity
development is critical because it is indicative of need areas for this population (Matthews,
To “queer” this intervention and affirm LGBTQ adolescents’ identities, a music therapist
should prompt clients to consider their sexual orientation and gender identity in their musical
autobiographies. This will provide an opportunity for clients to rethink gender and sexual
identity nonconformity and for the music therapist to acknowledge the fluidity of identity
expressed in the language or musical elements of their song choices (Stein & Plummer, 1994).
By emphasizing sexual orientation and gender identity in this assessment, LGBTQ adolescents’
song choices may reflect how they are experiencing stigma and oppression – and the different
ways these clients negotiate and cope with discrimination and prejudice in their everyday lives. A
music therapist should also acknowledge the differences between the identities of each client and
be careful to recognize the tremendous diversity among sexual minorities and gender
nonconforming individuals, who (as a group) are just as heterogeneous as cisgender
heterosexuals (Secomb, 1997; Sullivan, 2003; Lorde, 1984; Vaillancourt, 2012). A “queer”
version of a musical autobiography can provide opportunities for assessment, emotional
processing, identity affirmation, and empowerment in ways that resist rather than reinforce
Gender Bender Song Parodies and Performance
In music therapy, songwriting functions as an expressive outlet for clients to explore
underlying issues (Wigram & Baker, 2005). As an introduction to the songwriting process, music
therapists may facilitate a basic songwriting exercise called a song parody (Cassity & Cassity,
1998). Song parody interventions involve rewriting lyrics of songs based on therapeutic themes,
and using an existing song helps a client feel safer when sharing their lyrical ideas. These
exercises typically involve listening to a song with its original lyrics, and then instructing clients
to write their own words on “fill-in-the-blank” lyric sheets. Once they fill in their own lyrics, the
new version, or song parody, is performed. Clients should also be encouraged to sing along if
they are comfortable. Used within this context, a music therapist can help clients process the
relationship of the product (the re-written song) to their identity. LGBTQ clients may benefit
from writing a parody with the assistance of a music therapist because they have the freedom to
change gender pronouns in their own preferred music and sing lyrics reflecting either their
gender or sexual identity. In this sense, a music parody exercise may enable LGBTQ youth to
engage in subtle acts of political empowerment and resistance of heteronormativity through a
classic form of queer theory-informed politics – what Stein and Plummer (1994) call the politics
of camp and carnival. Another “gender-bender” intervention could involve teaching a client one
of their preferred songs that is originally sung by someone of a different gender.
This intervention supports the goals of improving self-esteem and promoting a sense of
control over life (i.e., locus of control) because it provides an opportunity for self-expression
(Carter, Mollen, & Smith, 2014). The client has the freedom to change gender pronouns in music
to fit their identity, and this is beneficial for them, especially since they may not have the
freedom to express their gender or sexual identity outside of the session. The nature of the
intervention itself combats heteronormativity because a client has the power to choose their
gender pronouns, and their gender is thus not assumed. When a group and/or therapist validate a
client’s self-expressions, it can help support gender identity and affirm identity. Performing the
song after doing a gender-bender can also improve self-esteem by allowing the client to achieve
success in a therapeutic process (Sears, 1968), amid a culture that emphasizes their capacity for
failure (Halberstam, 2011). This intervention ultimately allows clients to reconstruct language in
music to fit their personal identity and allows them to relate to others in a group setting.
Transitions (Music and Creative Arts)
Creative arts interventions permit individuals to express their thoughts and feelings
beyond verbal communication (Robbins & Sibley, 1976). When facilitating this type of
intervention within the context of music therapy, music is played or performed while clients
create art, and the music is chosen to evoke a response from participants. For this intervention,
clients are provided with art materials and instructed to sit at a table. Each client receives 3 blank
sheets of large cardstock paper and are asked to write their name and preferred gender pronoun
on the back of each sheet of paper. This motivates participation because writing their names
artistically “breaks the ice,” and the sheet of paper becomes their own personal canvas. The
clients are told that the canvases represent the past, present, or future, as providing structure
helps motivate participation, especially for adolescents.
For the first canvas, they are told to explore the paths they have encountered in regards to
their LGBTQ identity by listening to the first song and focusing on how the music makes them
feel about their past. A music therapist should emphasize that there is no right or wrong response
in this process, and that they may draw freely or write words in their picture. Clients are asked to
share their artwork after each drawing. For the second canvas, clients are told to let the music
guide them while they complete a second drawing to represent the present. For the third and final
canvas, clients are asked to think about what they want from society, their family, or their
community in the future. As a closer, clients are asked to state one word that describes what they
want in their future. Music combined with creative arts processes provides the opportunity for
clients to reflect and construct personal meanings, and the prompt of considering the past,
present, and future facilitates a critical analysis of the self.
Critical Lyric Analysis
For lyric analysis interventions, music therapists facilitate a dialogue among clients based
upon the lyrical content of the song. This type of intervention can be used to facilitate thematic
music therapy and build therapeutic rapport (Silverman, 2009). Within a queer theoretical
paradigm, a music therapist’s role in this group is to ask questions to prompt a critical analysis of
songs and help clients verbally process how the song relates to their own identity and their
experiences of prejudice and discrimination.
An example of a critical lyric analysis would be a song comparison between Same Love
by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert (Macklemore & Lewis, 2012, track 5),
and Angel Haze’s re-written version of the song (Fambrough, n.d.) (see appendix for lyrics and
dialogue prompts). The critically acclaimed song Same Love has gained a reputation as an
anthem for the LGBTQ movement since its release in 2012. Some sources report that it is
socially relevant and empowering for the movement because it supports equality for the gay
community (Mincher, 2014; Mlynar, 2013). The song has also simultaneously been the subject of
much criticism. Some critics point out that within the song’s lyrics, Macklemore and Lewis
promote mere passive acceptance of the gay community, and focuses on homophobia in a black
community space as opposed to acknowledging the pervasiveness of homophobia everywhere
while not acknowledging his own white, heteronormative privilege (Ambrosino, 2014; Nichols,
2013; Stephens, 2013).
Approximately one year after the song’s release, rapper Angel Haze, who has previously
identified as pansexual (Hoby, 2012), freestyle rapped over Macklemore and Lewis’s Same Love
beat. They rap about their own experiences with prejudice and they quote Andrea Gibson’s poem
titled “Andrew” (Gibson, 2011), which acknowledges the fluidity of sexuality:
No, I'm not gay
No, I'm not straight
And I sure as hell am not bisexual
Damn it I am whoever I am when I am it
Loving whoever you are when the stars shine
And whoever you'll be when the sun rises
In addition to using Same Love as a lyric analysis, a follow-up song-writing intervention can also
be facilitated. Music therapists can assist clients in writing their own versions of the song, using
their own experiences and beliefs about identity to guide their writing. This can also function as a
product-oriented intervention, where clients can perform and record their personal versions of
the song.
Group Anthem Writing
Group process, which refers to the dynamic interactions of a group (Yalom, 1975), is a
critical element of music therapy for LGBTQ adolescents because of their marginalized
position(s) in society. One method of supporting group process is facilitating engagement in a
constructive and supportive intervention focused on enhancing group cohesion. A group
songwriting music therapy intervention facilitates the enhancement of group cohesion, in
addition to increasing emotional expression, decreasing feelings of isolation, and reinforcing
identity and self-concept (Edgerton, 1990). A group of LGBTQ adolescents can benefit from
writing a group anthem and performing the anthem at the beginning of every session. The
anthem should address the differences within the group while still emphasizing inclusiveness. It
can also be geared towards queer identity in general and the goals of the therapy program. The
music therapist should assist the group by helping clients with the aesthetic aspects of the song
and helping the group verbally process what they want to express in the song’s contents. This
provides an opportunity to construct their own image of their group identity, and then perform
their identity using music. Using this song at the beginning of every session also establishes a
structure for the music therapy program. This intervention is both process and product-oriented,
thus providing a sense of accomplishment for the group.
Conclusion: Toward a Radically Inclusive Music Therapy
This theoretically informed praxis outlined above describes “queer music therapy”
practice with LGBTQ adolescent clients. Many LGBTQ adolescents battle pervasive stigma in a
multitude of settings, including mental health institutions, which indicates a need for anti-
oppressive music therapy techniques grounded in queer theoretical perspectives. Evidence of the
strong impact of music on identity development during adolescence provides a rationale for
music therapy with this population, and the theoretical concepts examined in this paper highlight
the efficacy of a music therapy program grounded specifically in queer theoretical perspectives.
Queer theoretical perspectives have been criticized as jargon-laden and unintelligible (Duggan,
1994; Norton, 2002), but the application of these perspectives to music therapy can render these
abstract concepts into tangible reality, including the lived experiences of LGBTQ individuals in a
heterosexist, cissexist society. This type of critical inquiry can be applied to existing and future
popular music focusing on LGBTQ issues. The theoretical ideas developed here establish the
foundations of a music therapy paradigm that is not only geared towards LGBTQ clients, but is
based in anti-heterosexist knowledge and practices. Inspired by generations of queer theorists
and activists, we have proposed not simply a therapy for queer clients, but a queer therapy (Stein
& Plummer, 1994).
This theoretical framework advances a conceptual model of queer music therapy that
emphasizes opportunities for empowerment as opposed to assuming vulnerability and/or “fixing”
LGBTQ individuals. Rather than promoting adjustment to a dysfunctional culture (e.g., a null
environment (Betz, 1989)), the theoretical orientation of these interventions encourages LGBTQ
youth in particular to overpower oppression and discrimination. Deconstructing hegemonic
systems of power within popular music transmits the ability to work through systematic
oppression beyond the music therapy session. Then, with the assistance of a music therapist,
queer youth can further battle the heteronormative patriarchy by writing their own music and
reclaiming their silenced voices. Queer theorists assert that power exists everywhere, and
critically examining how these systems exist within the safety of a music therapy session imparts
youth with the ability to resist and overcome discrimination.
Synergizing queer theories with the principles of community music therapy suggests a
therapeutic orientation based on the fluidity of sexuality and gender performance, mutual
empathy, openness to individual differences, and interpersonal connections made across
differences and similarities of gender, sexuality, race, and other dimensions of identity. From this
perspective, music therapy becomes a dynamic process where clients and their music therapist
engage in therapy together as opposed to therapy being done “to” them or “for” them. Queer
music therapy then aims to offer a safe space for clients to musically express their LGBTQ
identities openly, embrace differences (rather than emphasize sameness), acknowledge systemic
oppression (rather than minimize or disregard the reality of LGBTQ marginalization), and
celebrate their individuality and group identities. A queer and social justice-focused community
music therapy model would also welcome the participation of straight allies to foster radical
inclusivity within a community (Grzanka, Adler, & Blazer, 2015).
Even with the deficit of music therapy literature addressing queer theory specifically, this
interdisciplinary survey reveals opportunities for future contributions to queer music therapy
from a multitude of academic fields. Though the scope of this project is currently limited to
theoretical inquiry, the next step is be to produce qualitative data by developing more
interventions grounded in queer theoretical perspectives, facilitating these interventions for
LGBTQ youth, and analyzing the outcomes on the mental health of music therapy clients. Even
though such systematic empirical research remains nascent in other counseling fields
(Mallinckrodt, 2009), this is essential subsequent action because of the emphasis on evidence-
based clinical practice in music therapy (American Music Therapy Association, 2005). There is
currently a trend in music therapy literature toward a focus on LGBTQ issues, which highlights
the value of this kind of critical inquiry and the profound implications it has on the future of
music therapy with this population. Finally, our proposal for a radically inclusive queer music
therapy is a call to action for music therapists currently working with or considering working
with this population – not to mention those therapists who may find themselves unexpectedly
encountering a sexual minority or gender nonconforming client. Future work in this area is not
limited to early-career music therapists, but should be a priority for professionals/clinicians at all
career stages. These professionals can gain the appropriate training by reading pertinent journal
articles and participating in LGBTQ continuing education courses at national and regional
conferences. The flexible nature of music therapy facilitates an intermodal approach to
challenging the concept of normal and fixed identities. By creating a safe space, analyzing
systems of oppression, and using that knowledge to provide opportunities for empowerment,
queer music therapy may become a force of positive change for LGBTQ adolescents.
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“Same Love” by Macklemore “Same Love” (Freestyle) by Angel Haze
Hi Mom
I’m really scared right now, but I have to
(Verse 1)
When I was in the 3rd grade
I thought that I was gay
Cause I could draw, my uncle was
And I kept my room straight
I told my mom, tears rushing down my
She's like, "Ben you've loved girls since
before pre-K"
Trippin', yeah, I guess she had a point,
didn't she
A bunch of stereotypes all in my head
I remember doing the math like
"Yeah, I'm good in little league"
A pre-conceived idea of what it all meant
For those who like the same sex had the
The right-wing conservatives think it's a
And you can be cured with some
treatment and religion, man-made
rewiring of a predisposition
Playing God, ahh nah, here we go
America the brave
Still fears what we don't know
And God loves all His children
And somehow forgotten
But we paraphrase a book written
35 hundred years ago
I don't know
(Verse 1)
At age thirteen, my mom knew I wasn’t
She didn’t understand, but she had so much
to say
She sat me on the couch, looked me straight
in my face
And said you’ll burn in hell or probably die
It’s funny now, but at thirteen it was pain
To be almost sure of who you are and have it
ripped away
And I’m sorry if it’s too real for some of you
to fathom
But hate for who you love is not exactly what
you’d imagine
And I guess it was disastrous
Because everything that happened afterwards
was just madness
Locked away for two years to keep me on the
Because she’d rather see a part of me die
than me thrive
And it’s tougher when it’s something you
can’t deny
And ignorance teaches us it’s something you
You’re driven by your choices, an optical
Here’s to understanding it’s not always
[Hook: Mary Lambert]
And I can't change even if I tried, even if
I wanted to
And I can’t change even if I tried, even if
I wanted to,
My love, my love, my love
[Hook: Mary Lambert]
And I can’t change even if I tried, even if I
wanted to
And I can’t change even if I tried, even if I
wanted to
My love, my love, my love
She keeps me warm, she keeps me warm
She keeps me warm, she keeps me warm
[Verse 2]
If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates
Have you read the YouTube comments
"Man that's gay" gets dropped on the
We've become so numb to what we're
Our culture founded from oppression
Yet we don't have acceptance for 'em
Call each other faggots
Behind the keys of a message board
A word rooted in hate, yet our genre still
ignores it
Gay is synonymous with the lesser
It's the same hate that's caused wars from
Gender to skin color
Complexion of your pigment
The same fight that lead people to walk-
outs and sit-ins
Human rights for everybody
There is no difference
Live on! And be yourself!
When I was in church
They taught me something else
If you preach hate at the service
Those words aren't anointed
And that Holy Water, that you soak in,
Has been poisoned
When everyone else is more comfortable
Remaining voiceless
Rather than fighting for humans
That have had their rights stolen
I might not be the same
But that's not important
No freedom 'til we're equal
She keeps me warm, she keeps me warm
She keeps me warm, she keeps me warm
[Verse 2]
I’ve walked the halls of my school
And I’ve seen kids hide behind walls and
footballs and things like pride
I’ve seen innocent children suffer beneath
Suffer beneath every single hand that
Ignorance, f--k your religion
F--k constitutions, f--k superstitions
There are no lakes of fire; they’re here on
And the only thing to do is put love first
And so I stand for the boy who died by his
To the sound of his father screaming “woman
loves man”
This is Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve
And I stand for the girl with the cuts up her
And the heart in her hand and a chip on her
And I stand for it all until ignorance is over
This is for you, for knowing who you are
For never letting your magic outside of your
Be you, be brave
And understand that things do change
I accept you for you when I don’t understand
And I love you for you cause this is who I am
I accepted you for you when I didn’t
Now love me for me cause this is who I am
Damn right I support it
I don't know
[Hook: Mary Lambert]
And I can't change even if I tried, even if
I wanted to
And I can’t change even if I tried, even if
I wanted to,
My love, my love, my love
She keeps me warm, she keeps me warm
She keeps me warm, she keeps me warm
[Hook: Mary Lambert]
And I can't change even if I tried, even if I
wanted to,
And I can’t change even if I tried, even if I
wanted to,
My love, my love, my love
She keeps me warm, she keeps me warm
She keeps me warm, she keeps me warm
[Verse 3: Macklemore]
We press play
Don't press pause
Progress, march on!
With a veil over our eyes
We turn our back on the cause
'Till the day
That my uncles can be united by law
Kids are walkin' around the hallway
Plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful
Someone would rather die
Than be who they are
And a certificate on paper
Isn't gonna solve it all
But it's a damn good place to start
No law's gonna change us
We have to change us
Whatever god you believe in
We come from the same one
Strip away the fear
Underneath it's all the same love
About time that we raised up
[Verse 3]
Here’s a message to the people who just
don’t get it
Love is love, there is no difference
Not a medication to fix it, there is no
No rehab to visit, it is not an addiction
It’s love and it’s selfless
It’s yours and everybody else’s
So don’t badger and abuse the solemnly
See us as yourself, there’s no equality in
Until we all get it, we’ll be drowning in the
same blood
Despite orientation, we all feel the same love
We’ll be drowning in the same blood
Despite orientation, we all feel the same love
[Hook: Mary Lambert]
And I can't change even if I tried, even if
I wanted to,
And I can’t change even if I tried, even if
I wanted to,
My love, my love, my love
She keeps me warm, she keeps me warm
She keeps me warm, she keeps me warm
[Hook: Mary Lambert]
And I can't change even if I tried, even if I
wanted to,
And I can’t change even if I tried, even if I
wanted to,
My love, my love, my love
She keeps me warm, she keeps me warm
She keeps me warm, she keeps me warm
[Outro: Mary Lambert]
Love is patient, love is kind
Love is patient (not cryin' on Sundays)
Love is kind (not cryin' on Sundays) [x5]
[Verse 4]
We are boxed in and labeled
Before we're ever able to speak who we
believe we are
Or who we dream we'll become
Like drum beats forever changing their
I am living today as someone I had not yet
become yesterday
And tonight I'll only borrow pieces of who I
am today
To carry with me to tomorrow
No, I'm not gay
No, I'm not straight
And I sure as hell am not bisexual
Damn it I am whoever I am when I am it
Loving whoever you are when the stars shine
And whoever you'll be when the sun rises
So here's to being able
Here's to love
Here's to loving just because
Here’s to acceptance
Here’s to never fearing the fear of rejection
Here’s to love and never neglecting who you
feel you are
Here’s to bullies because beatings cannot last
Here's to the moment you realize things do
get better
Here’s to the parents who will get it when its
too late
Here’s to second chances, here’s to new fate
Here’s to every single moment you’ve ever
had to hide you
Here’s to the single star shining bright inside
you, asking you to guide you
Here’s to who you’ll be when you figure it all
Here’s to momentary doubt
Here’s to feeling, because we all feel it the
Here’s to the moment that things will change
Because we all feel love, we all feel it the
Here’s to love, here’s to change
Dialogue Prompts:
1) What are the stereotypical characteristics of the social constructions of gender and sexual
orientation that Macklemore names?
2) Why do you think Macklemore, as a child, cried when he thought he was gay?
3) Which lines in Macklemore’s version do you agree with? Are there any lines you disagree
4) Macklemore’s song has earned him awards and recognition as a leader of the LGBTQ
rights movement. Do you think this is beneficial or problematic?
5) What are the major differences between Macklemore and Haze’s versions of the song?
6) Why do you think Angel Haze chose to freestyle over the beat of “Same Love” instead of
writing a new, original song?
7) Where in the song does Haze move from anecdote to argument?
8) Are you able to relate any lines in Haze’s version to your own experiences identifying as
... A primary goal of modern trauma-informed practice lies in building clients' agency and resources, an aim that is congruent with a range of music therapy approaches and orientations. The ways in which community music experiences can foster and cultivate individual and collective agency has been explored in a dedicated field of music therapy and musicology scholarship (Ramsey, 2003;DeNora, 2004;Kenny, 2006;O'Grady et al., 2014;Bain, Grzanka and Crowe, 2016;Zarate, 2016). There are two broad music therapy frameworks specifically relevant to critical perspectives on trauma, which divest from pathology and deficit discourses and emphasize the affordances of collective action. ...
... This music therapy scholarship actively challenges the oversimplification of young people into categories of risk and deficit (Thomas, 2020), promotes collaboration (Bolger, 2015), and seeks to actively decenter narratives of victimhood in favor of young people's resources and resilience (Pasiali, 2011;Fairchild and McFerran, 2018). Researchers have demonstrated the unique role that music therapy can play with communities of young people who are marginalized along axes of race and class (Hadley and Yancy, 2012;Leonard, 2020;Thomas, 2020), and as an affirmative, political space for queer and gender diverse young people (Bain et al., 2016). Within this scholarship, there are calls to action to be mindful of the language and discourse surrounding clients' perceived vulnerabilities and risk (Fairchild and Bibb, 2016) and to strengthen our focus on the social conditions that construct and reinforce pathology (Baines, 2013). ...
... There have been calls to bring an explicit light to the presence of colonial structures within trauma practice, as well as in health care, research, and pedagogy more broadly. Public health experts in the Lancet medical journal have proposed that a focus on structural racism offers a material and achievable approach to increasing overall health equity and improving population health (Bailey et al., 2017). The impact of structural racism on health and education outcomes has been demonstrated not only in public health research (Paradies, 2016) but also in recent social and political uprisings against racial injustice taking place globally (Cave et al., 2020). ...
Full-text available
A broad sociocultural perspective defines trauma as the result of an event, a series of events, or a set of circumstances that is experienced as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening, with lasting impacts on an individual’s physical, social, emotional, or spiritual wellbeing. Contexts and practices that aim to be “trauma-informed” strive to attend to the complex impacts of trauma, integrating knowledge into policies and practices, and providing a sanctuary from harm. However, there is a body of critical and decolonial scholarship that challenges the ways in which “trauma-informed” practice prioritizes individualized interventions, reinscribes colonial power relations through its conceptualizations of safety, and obscures the role of systemic injustices. Within music therapy trauma scholarship, research has thus far pointed to the affordances of music in ameliorating symptoms of trauma, bypassing unavailable cognitive processes, and working from a strengths-based orientation. In critiquing the tendency of the dominant trauma paradigm to assign vulnerability and reinforce the individual’s responsibility to develop resilience through adversity, this conceptual analysis outlines potential alternatives within music therapy. Drawing on a case example from a research project with young people in school, I elucidate the ways in which music therapy can respond to power relations as they occur within and beyond “trauma-informed” spaces. I highlight two overarching potentials for music therapy within a shifting trauma paradigm: (1) as a site in which to reframe perceived risk by fostering young people’s resistance and building their political agency and (2) in challenging the assumption of “safe spaces” and instead moving toward practices of “structuring safety.”
... LGBTQ+2 s music therapy needs to be studied such as the articles in the Voices: Special Issue on Queering Music Therapy (2019), Whitehead's chapter (2019), and podcasts like Music Therapy and Queer Folx (2020). Music therapy needs to discontinue using songs and tropes that denigrate the LGBTQI+2 s community (Bain, Grzanka, & Crowe, 2016). Music therapists participating in local and global LGBTQ+2 s sensitivity training and engaging in critical reflection to integrate new knowledge will increase ethicality and social justice in music therapy practice. ...
Research shows that systemic oppression negatively affects health outcomes for marginalized people (Baines, 2016; Williams & Cooper, 2020). Much of music therapy research, pedagogy, and practice has covertly and overtly participated in systemic oppression through embracing Eurocentric traditions that promote white supremacy. Anti-oppressive music therapy (AOMT) is a general theory that offers pathways forward in music therapy to dismantle systemic oppression and celebrate diversity and equity. AOMT is a way of working that requires deep critical reflection to recognize and acknowledge unearned privilege and commitment to address personal resistance to change. AOMT links critical music therapy theories to increase ethical practice and social justice in music therapy theory, education, research, and practice.
While LGBTQIA+ older adults report that they are generally ageing well, past and present adversity, health disparities, and difficulties accessing affirmative care negatively impacts many. There has been increased attention to LGBTQIA+ perspectives in music therapy; nevertheless, LGBTQIA+ older adults have remained largely invisible. Music therapists report feeling unprepared and undereducated in working with LGBTQIA+ older adults, yet are likely to encounter them in aged-related settings, in which up to onethird of practitioners work. This chapter examines the historical contexts that older LGBTQIA+ adults experienced and highlights health disparities and barriers to affirmative care. It explores the role of music and music therapy, considers implications, and suggests methods and techniques for affirmative music therapy practice with this population
This article is a critical reflection on the development of a research approach to explore therapeutic relationships in psychodynamic music therapy with children and young people with complex needs. The article starts by positioning my research project within contemporary music therapy discourse, discussing literature from psychoanalysis, music therapy research and a broad range of related disciplines. This illustrates the development of a socially, culturally and politically contextualised understanding of the theory and practice of music therapy with people with complex needs and outlines the theoretical concepts which support and inform my research approach. Fricker’s Epistemic Injustice paradigm is used to provide a contextualised philosophical concept to explore why and how people with complex needs are frequently excluded from academic research. A critical disability study perspective is used to outline the need for inclusive research practice to develop epistemological frameworks and methodologies to include the voices of those marginalised in society. The article concludes with an outline of my current research project, discussing how the ideas previously described have informed the research approach and been integrated into the project design.
This article presents a diversity of approaches and a heterogeneity of research methods used, where the aim is to contribute to understandings of how musical engagement across the lifecourse may foster health and well being. Multiple perspectives and methodological approaches located in the disciplines of music therapy, community music and music education will be described, including identifying affordances and constraints associated with documenting lifelong and lifewide musical pathways. The research presented examines how lifelong musical engagement in different contexts might contribute to health and well being for different populations. The authors describe and situate their disciplines, present different methodological approaches that might contribute to lifecourse research in music and provide examples of particular projects.
The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the influence of gender on music therapy practice through the experiences and perceptions of gender aware music therapists (GAMTs). Participants (N = 5) included five board-certified music therapists or equivalent who have published scholarly literature on topics related to gender and music therapy. Participants shared their experiences in semistructured individual interviews; interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Six major themes emerged: (a) GAMTs recognize how socialization produces binary music participation, which is often perpetuated in music therapy practice; (b) GAMTs share the belief that gender roles and expectations create exclusive music practices that may restrict and limit musical expression and participation; (c) GAMTs create therapeutic spaces that encourage authentic music engagement by thoughtfully accepting and/or rejecting established gender stereotypes prevalent in music culture; (d) GAMTs suggest that gender is a marker of identity, which may or may not affect how the therapeutic relationship develops between music therapy clients and clinicians; (e) GAMTs utilize theories and therapeutic approaches that influence their music therapy research and practice; and (f) GAMTs recommend that practicing music therapists recognize their personal biases, develop a heightened awareness for how gender influences society, and actively pursue an inclusive practice that does not assume gender. Clinical implications and future research recommendations are discussed.
This meta-narrative review on mental health early intervention support for LGBTQ+ youth aimed to develop a theoretical framework to explain effective mental health support. Using the RAMESES standards for meta-narrative reviews, we identified studies from database searches and citation-tracking. Data extraction and synthesis was conducted through conceptual coding in Atlas.ti. in two stages: 1) conceptual mapping of the meta-narratives; 2) comparing the key concepts across the meta-narratives to produce a theoretical framework. In total, 2951 titles and abstracts were screened and 200 full papers reviewed. 88 studies were included in the final review. Stage 1 synthesis identified three meta-narratives - psychological, psycho-social, and social/youth work. Stage 2 synthesis resulted in a non-pathological theoretical framework for mental health support that acknowledged the intersectional aspects of LGBTQ+ youth lives, and placed youth at the centre of their own mental health care. The study of LGBTQ+ youth mental health has largely occurred independently across a range of disciplines such as psychology, sociology, public health, social work and youth studies. The interdisciplinary theoretical framework produced indicates that effective early intervention mental health support for LGBTQ+ youth must prioritise addressing normative environments that marginalises youth, LGBTQ+ identities and mental health problems.
Introduction Feminist work in music therapy includes a diversity of frameworks, and researchers have explored the theoretical, descriptive, and clinical work rooted in feminism. Music therapists incorporate feminist music therapy in ways that are considerate of their individual contexts, and we believe it is important to communicate clinical processes to serve as a starting place in which new practitioners can integrate feminist music therapy. Method We reviewed feminist music therapy literature to discover how this theoretical position is used in clinical sessions. Sixty-nine articles, dissertations, chapters, and case examples were found, and of these eleven publications met our inclusion criteria of clinical applications of feminist informed music therapy. We overlaid Curtis’s goals for feminist practice which included empowerment, egalitarianism, sociopolitical issues, social change, and the client’s definition of optimal health functioning. Results We found that all of the included publications documented empowerment and discussed egalitarianism. Nine included the client’s voice, and almost all discussed culture or sociopolitical issues. More than half discussed social change, and half included the client’s definition of optimal healthy functioning. We also outlined the various definitions of feminist music therapy practice the authors used. Discussion While this review helps guide feminist informed music therapists in the possibilities for clinical applications of feminist music therapy, the clinical research and case examples pool is still small. We recommend that music therapists consider incorporating more social change in their clinical work. Limitations of our approach and interpretations are discussed.
LGBT youth represent a population in schools at risk to bullying in and by the schools. Evidence does suggest that the practice is widespread and emanates from both peers and professional staff. We have examined some of the causes of maintenance structures for this current climate and forcefully argued for immediate change in policies and activities to protect students. But going a step further, we conclude that true liberation and acceptance cannot be attained by these policies alone. Indeed, from a Freirean perspective, many common and apparently well intentioned practices actually support and extend the misbehaviors directed toward LGBT. But this is unnoticed as separation reduces surface conflict. Perhaps we have seen this phenomenon before in schools and failed to take heed from the outcomes. In many ways the initial civil rights struggles associated with school integration followed similar paths in bullying and the reduction of full humanity. Only when integration in schools began to take hold was an actual dialogue across racial perspectives achieved. In addition, the struggles of LGBT are not dissimilar from the struggle to educate special needs students with others. The current push for inclusion masks the decades of self contained classes and outright denial of services in public schools. There is no doubt special needs students suffered bullying and only with the advent of litigation and legislation has this been reduced as proximity with normal (general education) peers became the norm. Progress in both of these instances followed closely the requirements described by Freire (1970). We find this abbreviated history of previous instances of bullying and harassment distressing, and yet, potentially comforting. It is certainly a distressing event because it seems difference promotes a negative response, including bullying and abuse, and seemingly we have difficulty learning from previous events. But both situations, the integration of students by race and full inclusion for special needs services, have been initiated and continue to evolve. In many places integration, unquestioned acceptance, full acknowledgement of basic rights and privileges are the norm and, as we look forward, will certainly become the norm. Can it be otherwise for LGBT? We think not, and that is, we believe, a comforting precedent.
A Solomon four-group design was used to assess the effect of education on homo-negative attitudes. Half of the college students enrolled in either an introductory psychology (IP) course or in a human sexuality (HS) course completed the Heterosexual Attitudes Toward Homosexuals (HATH) test at both the beginning and end of the course. The other half completed the HATH only at the end of the respective courses. The data show that the HATH has good test-retest reliability and that it is not subject to reactive testing effects. Students in the HS course showed significant decreases in HATH scores at the end of the semester, while students in the IP course showed no significant change in homonegativism. These data provide support for homonegativism as a prejudicial attitude that can be changed through education.
Converging evidence suggests that individuals who identify as lesbian/gay or bisexual are consistently more likely to report suicidal ideation and attempts than heterosexual counterparts, and that these effects may be greater among males. The current study examined sex as a moderator of the relationship between sexual identity and suicidal ideation, and perceived burdensomeness as a mediator of this relationship, controlling for anxiety, and negative and positive affect. Undergraduates (n = 140; mean age, 19.59 years; 71.4% female; 58.6% White; 34.3% lesbian/gay/bisexual) completed measures assessing sexual identity, suicidal ideation and behaviors, anxiety symptom severity, and general negative and positive affect cross-sectionally. Sexual minority undergraduates reported significantly higher levels of perceived burdensomeness, anxiety, and suicidal ideation, attempts, and nonsuicidal self-injury, and lower positive affect, than heterosexual counterparts. Analyses suggested that most of these associations were strongly driven by bisexuals; a notion that was supported by finding a quadratic relationship between the Kinsey Scale and suicidal ideation. A mediated moderation analysis revealed that the relationship between sexual identity and suicidal ideation was only significant among females, and that this relationship was fully mediated by perceived burdensomeness, while controlling for anxiety, and negative and positive affect. Perceived burdensomeness may be an important malleable risk factor for suicide assessment, prevention, and intervention efforts to address, especially among female sexual minority college students. Implications and future directions are discussed. Language: en