Why I Give: Justin Tranter


Being queer is my favorite thing about myself. It informs my art, my heart, and my activism.

Of the songs I’ve written, I think Centuries by Fall Out Boy is the one that speaks most strongly about the LGBTQ community. I came up with the main lyric “you’ll remember me for centuries” while I was watching online interviews about Marsha P. Johnson, the late trans activist who was instrumental in the Stonewall riots. The song went on to be certified platinum five times over, became a theme song for ESPN college football, and was even heard during the Super Bowl. Now, every time it’s played, I like to think that Marsha was singing for all of them.

The first time I came to the Los Angeles LGBT Center was the day after the shocking 2016 election. I read online that U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff and the Center’s CEO Lorri L. Jean were going to speak in the courtyard of The Village at Ed Gould Plaza. I made my way there with 10 friends, and it gave me a sense of exactly what I needed: community and hope.

Earlier this year, I toured the Center to learn about the services it offers. One of my tour hosts mentioned that the Youth Center had launched The Music Fellowship, an initiative designed to connect youth with established musicians to discover pathways into music. I decided to collaborate with the Fellowship by teaching a songwriting workshop because I truly believe everyone has a responsibility to pay it forward, and because I like to put my money and my experience where my mouth is whenever I possibly can. I’m honored to share my experience and make music with LGBTQ youth. I wish someone in the music industry who identifies as queer would have been a loud and proud example for me when I was young. I always assumed the only way to succeed in music was to be a superstar, but I’ve realized there are so many ways to thrive in this magical business.

The most rewarding aspect of working with the Center’s youth members is experiencing their talent. These young folks are good! Watching them slowly come out of their shells and freestyle some crazy melodies or flawless lyrics is beyond beautiful.

If there’s one message I can convey to our community and allies, it’s that we have to do everything we possibly can to make our LGBTQ youth feel safe. When I came out at 14 years old in 1994, I felt so safe at home that I had no fear about flaunting my femme personality out into the world. No matter how badly I was bullied, I felt fearless because I had the privilege of safety at home. But safety should not be a privilege. It should be a right.

The midterm elections will take place in November. One way to ensure young people’s security is to vote for candidates who are our allies and will fight for us in Sacramento or in D.C. If you don’t vote, you don’t care. That’s the truth. With the most aggressive anti-LGBTQ federal administration in modern history, we have to do everything we can to vote in these midterms to balance the power and make sure we don’t take one step backwards.

Undoubtedly, Marsha would have wanted us to do this.

Activist and Grammy Award-nominated songwriter Tranter has written numerous hits for music artists, including Justin Bieber, Kelly Clarkson, Britney Spears, Imagine Dragons, and Gwen Stefani. He also serves as a board member of GLAAD.

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