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The “They/Them Write the Songs” panel at Thursday’s inaugural Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter Pride Summit brought together four songwriters behind some of days biggest hits to discuss their unique role as LGBTQ members of the music industry.
Justin Tranter, Shane McAnally, Teddy Geiger and Victoria Monet sat down with Billboard senior editor Joe Lynch, who asked the panelists how being part of the LGBTQ community has impacted their songwriting. “My queer experience informs everything that I do,” said Tranter, the words behind smash hits “Believer” by Imagine Dragons, Julia Michaels’ “Issues” and many more from Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber and Camila Cabello, among others.
“Every single lyric I suggest comes from my queer experience because that’s exactly who I am,” they continued. “We all want to relate to the underdog story. … The queer superpower is understanding the underdog story more than anyone.
Specifically, they brought up Halsey’s “Bad at Love,” and how a “bisexual smash” like that one gives them hope for the future of LGBTQ-centered songs. “When it comes to young people, it almost didn’t even register — in a good way. The kids were like, ‘Halsey’s bi, so why wouldn’t one verse be for girls and one for guys?'”
Victoria Monet, who contributed to Ariana Grande’s chart toppers “thank u, next” and “7 Rings,” mirrored that thought, providing some much-needed representation for black bisexual women. “I’m representing fem energy as a bisexual black female.”
“I was secretly writing about women for so long,” she continued. “And now I feel like I can write for a guy who is straight and I feel like I can openly write better for males because I’ve experienced women too.”
On the topic of reactions to their LGBTQ identity, Shawn Mendes hit-writer Teddy Geiger was “entirely surprised by the support” following her coming out as transgender on Instagram. “I was so scared for so long as to what that would mean and everyone was fine,” she explained. “What is linking LGBTQ because we’re all so different? I think its the ability to hide, and to make the choice to be visible.”
“I think [coming out] changes how I interact with this world and I don’t feel like I have this big secret shadowed with this black cloud of shame.”
McAnally, who is faced with the unique situation of being an LGBTQ member of the country community, expressed some guilt over not speaking up sooner after hearing some questionable expressions in sessions before coming out. “I’m glad I’m on the other side. People have come up to me and apologized, and I think that takes a lot of courage,” he explained. “Nashville, it’s a different world there. I’ve been surprised over and over and over. The main thing that surprises me is that a lot of country artists come from a religious background, and some people being able to separate in their minds that those two things don’t always go together—I’m really proud.”
Tranter said it best when expressing excitement over the increasing number of people music industry feeling comfortable openly being who they are. “”I freaked out with joy,” they exclaimed. “There are so many LGBTQ people killing it in our songwriting work and I didn’t realize because you beautiful people didn’t tell anyone. We run this shit!”
This story first appeared on Billboard.com.
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