Metal Mondays: Transgender artists shape metal music history

Content warning: the following article mentions suicide. Please proceed appropriately.

In recent years, many prominent rock and metal musicians have taken to the internet to spout anti-transgender rhetoric. Paul Stanley of KISS, Alice Cooper and Dee Snider of Twisted Sister— who was slated to perform at San Francisco Pride last year — all have questioned the validity of trans people deciding their gender identity. Stanley and Snider have since taken back their original statements about trans people, but one major problem remains: metal’s forefathers are out of touch with their own genre.

The stances taken by some of heavy music’s most influential voices are hypocritical for several reasons. Snider, Cooper, Stanley and countless other musicians have been defying traditional gender norms for decades. Many of them, like Snider and Stanley, have staked their entire careers on transgressions against what is expected of them as men in the music industry. 

But on top of this hypocrisy is the fact that metal has been uplifted by transgender artists for years. Some of the most influential works in metal’s history have been penned and performed by trans artists.

Take Life of Agony’s Mina Caputo. Although she has a host of her own problematic facets (take a scroll through her Instagram account when you get the chance), she still has been a leading, though flawed, figure of trans representation in metal. 

Caputo has said she has struggled with gender dysphoria since she was a child and she has faced mental health issues and abuse for years. Before her transition, Caputo presented herself in a traditionally masculine way to conform to New York’s hardcore scene, a presentation she became increasingly disillusioned by. Caputo, alongside her other bandmates, channeled this combination of mental health issues into Life of Agony’s legendary debut, “River Runs Red.”

“River Runs Red” is largely considered to be one of the greatest metal albums of all time. The 1993 album tells the story of a high schooler who faces abuse, alcoholism and ultimately suicide. The lyrics do not tell a super coherent story, but all of the songs relate to the struggles Life of Agony’s band members faced, especially Caputo. Her unique baritone soars over a dark guitar, detailing a story of abuse and depression that feels all too real.

In recent years, Caputo has taken a turn toward misinformation and cruel political rhetoric targeting LGBTQIA+ people. I remember the disappointment I felt when I first found her social media accounts. But she was, at least for a time, a very positive role model for young LGBTQIA+ youth in the metal scene. Her past self has inspired several up-and-coming bands, and Caputo has inspired multiple young trans artists.

Modern black metal bands like Liturgy and Feminazgûl are fronted by trans women, leading the charge for young metal groups with genderqueer members in scenes that are traditionally not very accepting of LGBTQIA+ people. Similar to Caputo’s presence in the ‘90s hardcore scene, Liturgy frontwoman Haela Hunt-Hendrix and Feminazgûl singer Margaret Killjoy write brash lyrics and create innovative sounds LGBTQIA+ metalheads can identify with.

Other trans metal artists like Marissa Martinez and Laura Jane Grace have been defining their genres for years. Martinez has pushed the boundaries of heaviness with her band Cretin, a grindcore group formed in the early 1990s. Grace has also led a highly innovative musical career, helming the folk-punk band Against Me! Her powerful vocals and incredible songwriting abilities set Against Me! as one of the most acclaimed punk bands of all time.

As metal continues to become a more diverse genre and new LGBTQIA+ oriented groups form, bands like Olivia Neutered John and Faetooth being some great up-and-comers, it is important to remember the views of people like Stanley and Snider are from a different era of heavy music. Metal is constantly being redefined by the people leading it. Right now a lot of those leaders are trans, and they’re making metal’s future look bright.

Jackson McCoy is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to share your thoughts? Let Jackson know by emailing or tweeting him at or @_jackson_mccoy_.

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