The 2024 Grammy Awards held on Sunday night (Feb. 4) boasted a wealth of history-making moments: female artists took home trophies in each of the Big Four categories for the third time in just five years; Taylor Swift became the first artist to win album of the year four times; Miley Cyrus won her first-ever Grammy for best pop solo performance with “Flowers.”
But one such historic moment went quietly overlooked on Sunday night — three of the winners in the Big Four categories were queer women. Cyrus’s record of the year win with “Flowers,” Billie Eilish’s song of the year win for “What Was I Made For?” and Victoria Monét’s best new artist win mark the first time in recent memory that three different LGBTQ artists took home trophies in the evening’s main categories.
“It’s huge,” says Anthony Allen Ramos, vice president of communications and talent at LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD. “Seeing LGBTQ women dominate three of the biggest categories is something to be really excited about and proud of, especially today.”
Wins for queer artists weren’t relegated to the evening’s big categories, either — LGBTQ artists earned wins across a multitude of genres. Boygenius, the supergroup made up of queer superstars Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus, took home three trophies for best rock performance, best rock song and best alternative music album; Bridgers, meanwhile, walked away as the most awarded artist of the night with her four wins. Monét nabbed a win for best R&B album with Jaguar II. Americana categories awarded trophies to LGBTQ stars like Allison Russell (best american roots performance for “Eve Was Black”), Brandy Clark and Brandi Carlile (both in best Americana performance for “Dear Insecurity”).
Ramos points out that even in oft-undiscussed categories, LGBTQ artists saw huge wins. “We had Carla Patullo winning for best new age, ambient or chant album,” he tells Billboard. “It felt like we finally had wonderful representation in all genres, and I think that’s really important, because it’s not just about [queer artists] being in pop or dance. I never even thought about having LGBTQ inclusion in the best new age category!”
Representation for LGBTQ talent at the Grammys has steadily risen over the last few years, with the Recording Academy even debuting their new Academy Proud initiative this year to help “support and amplify LGBTQIA+ voices and drive queer representation at the Recording Academy and the music industry at-large.”
These major successes for queer folks at the 2024 Grammys come at a time of upheaval for the LGBTQ+ community at large — nearly 400 bills targeting the community have already been proposed this year in state legislatures around the United States, with more no doubt still to come. While LGBTQ+ artists earning record-high honors at an awards show might seem trivial in the face of direct attacks against queer and trans people around the world, the facts actually show otherwise.
According to data collected by The Trevor Project, 79% of LGBTQ+ youth reported that seeing musicians come out as members of the LGBTQ+ community made them feel better about their own identity. Meanwhile, 71% of respondents said that seeing straight, cisgender celebrities advocate for the LGBTQ+ community improved their own feelings on gender and sexuality.
Kevin Wong, the Trevor Project’s senior vice president of marketing, communications and content, tells Billboard in an emailed statement that representation at awards shows like the Grammys isn’t just about winning more trophies for queer-identifying artists — it’s about providing an example to kids in desperate need of hope in dark times.
“Seeing queer artists celebrated for their contributions to the music industry can make a positive impact on LGBTQ+ young people’s mental health,” he explains, adding that the onslaught of anti-LGBTQ legislation makes that representation “especially meaningful for LGBTQ+ young people.”
Even in the realm of music, Ramos says that queer success only begets more queer success. “The more success and art that they put out into the universe, the more that will resonate and connect with other artists and [help them] feel empowered to be themselves and to tell their authentic stories,” he says. “I was speaking with TJ Osborne, and he said it’s incredible how many times people have come up to him and said, ‘I am part of the community, I never felt like I could be a fan of country music, but you are changing that.’”
While Ramos points to a continued lack of representation for transgender and non-binary artists at the annual ceremony as an “area for improvement,” he makes it clear that the road ahead for LGBTQ+ artists only gets brighter. “This is a moment for everyone to realize that accepting yourself affects the art that you put out in the best way.”