Queer and transfeminine DJs often go ignored, but don’t miss these 6, who show tremendous depths of musical knowledge and diversity in their work.
In visual art, dance and music, queer folks have influenced culture for thousands of years with their beautiful contributions and creative visions. But if you pick up a history book, the contributions of women and femmes (especially BIPOC) are often overshadowed by men and masculine folks.
Unfortunately, this also extends to the world of turntables. Women and femme DJs are often expected to play top 40 and not go much deeper. This certainly isn’t the case with these six DJs. From New York to Sydney, Australia, these queer and transfeminine DJs show tremendous depths of musical knowledge and diversity within their work.
1. Jasmine Infiniti
The self-proclaimed Queen of Hell herself, Jasmine Infiniti was born in the Bronx and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. With a name that nods to ballroom roots (House of Infiniti), she brings an important East Coast element to Bay Area queer culture, as seen in her West Oakland-based group, New World Dysorder.
“As a Black trans woman, I feel like I’ve gained a lot of respect DJing. It’s highlighted that I, and we [trans women] as a community, are multifaceted,” she said in a recent interview.
2. Vera Rubin
Named after a famous female astronomer, Portland, Oregon-based DJ Vera Rubin‘s music references international new wave, dance industrial and techno. A staple within the Portland party world, Rubin has been building a queer dance scene for over a decade.
Rubin has always seen themself creating music. “I really can’t imagine doing anything else,” Rubin told The Bottom Forty. “Whether or not it is in a formal club, alone, with a friend, on the radio — this is something I have been doing as a strange child who is now a strange woman. I will be on a hunt for all kinds of music and will be experimenting with music until I am no longer able to do so.”
They’ve got ambitious plans for the future. “Queers historically have created culture and aesthetic, and I am hoping to create a new one in this lineage. Quite simply, I am hoping to institutionalize and advance queer arts and music that builds a night all of us didn’t even know we have been dreaming about and have been hungry for it forever. I want all walks of life there of course, just on queer terms.”
[mixcloud https://www.mixcloud.com/verarubin/salt-water-music/ width=100% height=120 hide_cover=1 light=1]
3. Lady Ryan
LadyRyan is a San Francisco Bay Area staple. With music from breaks to soul, Latin to hip-hop, funk to reggae, Afro-beat to top 40, LadyRyan has kept crowds dancing for more than a decade. She’s a staple in the queer scene, and pops up at EdenSF and many other important LGBTQ events.
The DJ has played with and opened for acts like George Clinton, The Internet, Erykah Badu, Digable Planets, Flying Lotus and more. A founding member of The New Parish’s Soulovely night, LadyRyan has left a lasting impact on the Bay Area’s music scene.
Hardcore DJ and producer Ashe Killbourne is based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Killbourne also plays in NoLa’s grindcore band, Cicada. The artist’s album Sourland is full of “songs [that] explore femmeness, transwomanhood, sexual violence, and medicalizing of queer narratives,” the femme musician explained to Vice’s Thump.
“I love hardcore, and I love it for being unrelenting, for its drama and brutality. (The album) Sourland is an outsider perspective, but I want to embrace that. I love how I have experienced hardcore, gabber, hardstyle, etc., from listening to happyhardcore.com radio in high school to nightcore spirals, from watching festival YouTube footage to actually traveling to Europe to be at Defqon1 and Dominator this summer,” she explains of her influences and love of the genre.
“I resent how the world demands shame from trans women,” Killbourne continues. “We legitimize our identities through medical steps that invalidate whatever life we’ve lived up to that point. I don’t like treating who I was before surgery like a ghost.”
5. Charlie Villas
Sydney, Australia’s, own DJ Charlie Villas keeps the party rolling at Heaps Gay and several other LGBTQ events. A staple within the community, Villas is also big within the wedding and event community and also works as a music consultant for businesses, making music and DJing a full-time gig.
Villas’ obssession with music started in the ’90s when a friend handed her a funk record. From there, she began a massive collection of disco and soul and began DJing it after she saved up for a pair of decks. From there, she began her own radio show on Bondi FM and writing music reviews for various magazines, which opened the doors to Sydney’s club scene.
The DJ has also served as music director at a company called SBA Music for many years, in which she produced tailored music programs for corporate clients. Villas’ consulting talent brought Universal Music Publishing to her door with a position on the sync team, allowing Villas to work alongside ad agencies and music supervisors for film and television, further influencing music and keeping the beats coming in all facets of life.
6. Juliana Huxtable
Juliana Huxtable is a mixed media powerhouse whose art extends far beyond music. A visual artist, DJ and model, Huxtable has become an integral part of NYC’s art scene. Huxtable ended up on the rest of the world’s radar after the 2015 New Museum Triennial, Surround Audience.
Huxtable’s work centers her experience as a trans woman of color while archiving and abstracting representations of art history and the internet, often referencing the Nuwaubian movement. A member of the Queens-based art collective House of Ladosha, Huxtable often works with a network of other talented queer and trans artists and musicians, including Jasmine Infiniti.
A multimedia queen, Huxtable has integrated her own poetry into her DJ mixes. She has walked the runway for designers like Kenzo, Chromat, and DKNY, as well as appearing in the Hercules and Love Affair video for the 2014 song “My Offence.” Huxtable also is in the music videos for “Invitation to a Beheading,” “Seducing The Beast” (2012) and “New No Bra, Candy” (2013).