Artist News Awards

Brian May says Queen would be “forced” to have a trans member if they formed today

By | Published on Friday 26 November 2021

Brian May

Queen guitarist Brian May says that the BRIT Awards dropping gendered categories next year is a “frightening”, “dangerous” and “ill-thought out” decision that could have “long-term consequences”. He is also “sure” that if Queen formed in 2021, they would be “forced” the change their line-up to include “people of different colours and different sexes and a trans [person]”.

May’s comments were made at ITV’s Palooza industry event earlier this week, and reported on by The Sun. “I feel very uncomfortable about some of the decisions that are being made, often out of fear”, he said. “Because people are so afraid of being called out. It is a horrible atmosphere”.

“I get so sick of people trying to change things without thinking of the long-term consequences”, he went on. “Some of these things are improvements and some are not. Some of them are depriving people. I would like to see a lot more care taken to make sure we don’t just jump on people and accuse them of this and that”.

The decision to drop the BRIT Awards’ gendered categories was announced earlier this week, with BRITs Chair Tom March saying: “It is important that The BRITs continue to evolve and aim to be as inclusive as possible. It feels completely the right time to celebrate the achievements of artists for the music that they create, and the work that they do, irrespective of gender”.

This follows years of campaigning and internal discussion by organisers, with arguments that women should be considered as equals to men rather than having their own categories, and that the awards needed to allow the growing number of musicians who do not identify on binary gender lines to be included.

One of the reasons it has taken so long – and there has been so much consideration before making the change – is that there are potential negative consequences. A particular concern is that women will not receive so many nominations under the new system.

Speaking earlier this week, UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said that she felt dropped gender-specific categories was “quite a sad decision”, adding: “If you wanted to look at who used to win awards for novels and many things in the past, then men always dominated. My concern would be that women weren’t fairly represented moving forward”.

Those concerns are entirely legitimate. If we look at the categories that were already not split along gender lines at the BRITs – such as Best Group – there have indeed been many years where no female musician has received a nomination.

Although, saying that women need to have their own special group in order to get prizes doesn’t really seem like a proper solution to a wider music industry problem: which is, of course, the sexism within the industry that has traditionally made non-gendered award lists male skewed.

Queen have had several BRITs nominations during their long career and several wins. Though, as a group, never in a gender-specific category. They also picked up Outstanding Contribution To Music in 1990. Would it have been better if they’d won Male Outstanding Contribution To Music?

“I honestly don’t know if it disadvantages one group but it’s a decision that has been made without a lot of thought”, May claimed of the awards changes. “I don’t know what the long-term consequences are. A lot of things work quite well and can be left alone. I think some things need to go back”.

“What matters is justice and equality of opportunity, no matter who you are”, May continued, which you’d think would actually be a reason to support the changes at the BRIT Awards. “[But] that is actually not happening at the moment as everyone is jumping to conclusions and everyone is scared of doing the wrong thing. I do find it very uncomfortable. I don’t think things are going very well, I have to say”.

“I want to see people start to understand each other in the new year and recognise the differences there are between us”, he added. “Between our colour, between our sex and between our talents and celebrate the differences”.

This does happen already, of course. But while any of those things might bring a different perspective to music-making, someone’s gender doesn’t really have any sway on their ability to make music. And if May really wants to celebrate these differences, surely he should be calling on the BRITs to split every award into numerous categories based on gender, race and sexual orientation.

Queen, of course, formed at a time when diversity and inclusion weren’t really part of the conversation. Although, with a frontman born to Indian parents who, while not always openly gay, didn’t exactly hide it either, it could be argued that the band were trailblazers, paving the way for today’s more open culture. That’s not how May sees it though. In fact, he said, Freddie Mercury would find it “difficult” to make it in music today.

“Freddie came from Zanzibar, he wasn’t British, he wasn’t white as such – nobody cares, nobody ever, ever discussed it”, he said, according to The Mirror. “He was a musician, he was our friend, he was our brother. We didn’t have to stop and think: ‘Ooh, now, should we work with him? Is he the right colour? Is he the right sexual proclivity?’ None of that happened, and now I find it frightening that you have to be so calculating about everything”.

I’m not sure if he thinks that BRIT Awards will now only be given to non-binary artists, or something.

“I am sure if Queen started now we would be forced to have people of different colours and different sexes and a trans [person], but life doesn’t have to be like that”, he says. “We can be separate and different”.

Again, none of this is an argument against getting rid of gendered categories, it’s an argument for adding loads of new categories and forcing everyone to state all sorts of personal information about themselves before being considered for a prize. None of which would have anything to do with their talent for making music.

Plus, the BRIT Awards is adding several new genre-based awards in place of the gendered categories that it is removing. And you could argue that these will do a better job of celebrating differences between artists.

Anyway, we’ll see how quickly the 2022 edition of the BRIT Awards destroys civilisation as we know it when it takes place on 8 Feb.