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date: 21 November 2019

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer musiclocked

  • revised by Philip Brett
  •  and Nadine Hubbs
  • Elizabeth Wood


This article considers the place of same-sex sexualities and deviant genders in US musical activity including creation, performance, reception, and commentary.

A connection between musicality and homosexuality and assumptions that the music profession was rife with homosexuals entered public discourse as an indirect result of sexology, beginning with Ulrich’s work on Uranism in the 1860s and expanded by Krafft-Ebing, Hirschfeld, Moll, and other German sexologists. English studies around the turn of the 20th century advocating a liberal attitude toward the “invert” or “Urning” frequently refer to the German sources. “As to music … this is certainly the art which in its subtlety and tenderness—and perhaps in a certain inclination to indulge in emotion—lies nearest to the Urning nature. There are few in fact of this nature who have not some gift in the direction of music” (Carpenter, 111). Havelock Ellis (p.295) quoted Oppenheim’s statement that “the musical disposition is marked by a great emotional instability, and this instability is a disposition to nervousness,” concluding “the musician has not been rendered nervous by his music, but he owes his nervousness (as also, it may be added, his disposition to homosexuality) to the same disposition to which he owes his musical aptitude.” (...

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