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June 2024
Vol. 23, No. 9

Talkin’ Craft

Pride and Prolificity 

by Lindsay WhiteJune 2024

Has anyone else been lookie-looing at the unofficial internet roast of Jojo Siwa? I shudder to think about the level of embarrassment I could ascend to if I was a whole-ass brand at that age, so I won’t be punching down here today. I bring it up only because it made me think about the different ways in which LGBTQ+ artists express themselves and their queerness through music.

Siwa spent her childhood drenched in dance moms and department stores; I can objectively understand how someone in her position would come out of the closet with a wet-dog shake. My journey was more like a skin-sloughing snake. I was raised in a house, church, and town where gay=sin was punishable by eternal hellfire, so it didn’t even dawn on my people-and-god-pleasing self that I was a lover of ladies til after I was married to a man. As I grappled with the knowledge that the decisions required to keep myself semi-sane would cause perma-pain to people I loved most, songwriting was my one true confidant.

I wrote fractured fairy tales in thinly veiled metaphors until finally mustering the courage to get divorced and come out. As I grew more confident in my queerness, my writing transitioned to a critique of the ideological prisons that rob so many children of their parents. (I experienced this with my mother, and my family continues to experience it with my wife’s parents.) Of course, there are also your run-of-the mill love songs and break-up ballads—but any cis-y straight-o can write those.

Fifteen years later, I’m still sloughing away skin after skin through music, getting deeper to the heart of not only my own identity as a now-long standing member of the LGBTQ+ and local music community, but also to the heart of what it means and takes to be truly free. What I’ve learned is I’m not til you are til we all are, and that it’s on all of us to get there together. Artists are deeply influential in this regard, so if you’re an artist (LGBTQ+ or not), this is a call to action to use your creativity to write, sing, dance, paint, sculpt a world without prisons (ideological or otherwise). Karma is indeed a bitch, but we can’t count on whoever writes JoJo Siwa’s songs to do all the heavy artistic lifting for humanity.

Alrighty, let’s get this Pride Party started and let me tell you about the fabulous artists who will be featured at this month’s Songwriter Sanctuary on Friday, June 28.

Ben Parks

Ben Parks is a San Diego based indie pop singer-songwriter. Originally a pastor’s kid from the south, he developed his roots in Gospel music, honing in on a mastery of intimate piano melodies and hauntingly passionate vocals. Over the past few years, Ben has wandered new territory and established an attractive alt pop/rock sound bordering on the likes of Phil Collins, MUNA, The 1975, and Maggie Rogers.

According to Parks: “I think chosen family is a big value for the LGBTQ+ community, and it often brings a lot of nuance and gray space for where relationships can exist. As a writer, I feel compelled to bring my own language and experience to those kinds of relationships through songs.”

He does just that with his latest single “Why Does Everybody Leave?”, which simultaneously invokes reflection and release for its listeners, adding Ben’s name to a list of “sad gay pop” artists that know how to make you feel.


Virr also found his musical beginnings in a church setting, singing in choirs across his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. Initially influenced by artists like Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, and Coldplay, Virr went onto join the Navy in 2009, where he was exposed to an even broader range of music from around the world. Since 2014, Virr has been based in San Diego and has performed his music across the country.

Virr utilizes his LGBTQ+ identity as a tool for connection in his music: “It allows me to express myself with honesty and rizz (charisma) while simultaneously providing me the opportunity to reach people who can’t yet see themselves or their potential, a reflection of work in progress.”

(I had the chance to share a Sofar Sounds bill with Virr last year, and can attest that the rizz is off the charts. Don’t believe me? Check out his Youtube channel—dare ya not to dance!).

Last Thoughts

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to connect with our third act, RhythMx, but we’re friends from the way way back, and I know you’re going to love him! This is an amazing series in a beautiful space; come help us kick off Pride season with lots of extra love for our local LGBTQ+ artists!


Thanks for Talkin’ Craft with me!
Ben Parks Photo Credit: Gabriel Conover
Virr photo: Provided by Virr

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