LGBTQ+ inclusion guide

Sometimes LGBTQ+ people encounter barriers to getting involved in music making, but by making some simple adjustments to your practice you can work towards creating a more inclusive environment where they can thrive in your group.

This guide, written by Dr Kathleen Cronie and Dr Michael Bonshor, is designed to help you understand what the barriers to inclusion in music making activity might be for LGBTQ+ people, and what you can do in your own music making practice to make sure that your group is accessible for your LGBTQ+ members. Everyone can play their part in making sure the group is an inclusive space – musical directors (MD), committee members, participants and supporters can all show allyship and help create a welcoming and inclusive environment. This guide is therefore for everyone involved in your group and gives tips on how they can ensure that LGBTQ+ members can participate fully, and that their LGBTQ+ identity isn’t a barrier to them thriving as a group member. 

Why is LGBTQ+ inclusion important?

Many LGBTQ+ people face discrimination in their day to day lives, and will experience poorer physical and mental health than non-LGBTQ+ people. Some will experience violence or hate crime, and many may also feel the need to hide their LGBTQ+ identity from others in order to feel comfortable in their company. You can offer LGBTQ+ people a space to feel comfortable within your group by actively working to include them in the group’s activities and remove barriers to their participation. 

It is likely that you already have LGBTQ+ members of your group who may or may not have chosen to share their LGBTQ+ identity with you. In addition to ensuring that these musicians are comfortable in your group, the Equality Act 2010 requires any organisation or charity providing a service to ensure that they do not practise unlawful discrimination. Parts of this act relate specifically to discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, or against people who are perceived to be LGBTQ+.

Find out more about how the Equality Act 2010 applies to voluntary and community organisations.

LGBTQ+ and other helpful terms explained

The acronym LGBTQ+ stands for: 

Lesbian: A woman who is attracted to or loves other women. Some non-binary people also use this term to describe themselves. 

Gay: A man who is attracted to or loves other men. Many women also use the term gay to describe themselves if they are attracted to women. Some non-binary people also use this term to describe themselves.

Bisexual/Bi: Someone who is attracted to more than one gender. Some people describe themselves as bisexual whilst others use bisexual as an umbrella term for other identities which encompass being attracted to more than one gender, such as pansexual or queer

Transgender/Trans: Someone whose gender identity does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth, i.e. what people expected of them when they were born.

Questioning: Someone who is exploring their identity. This can refer to sexual orientation, gender identity, or both.  

Queer: The word queer has a long history for LGBTQ+ people. Whilst previously this term was used against the community as a slur, it is increasingly being reclaimed by LGBTQ+ people to positively describe their sexual orientation, gender identity, or both. Its ability to describe both sexual orientation and gender identity has resulted in its increasing use as a term that many people use interchangeably with LGBTQ+ to describe the community or group of identities as a whole. For some LGBTQ+ people however, the word still carries negative connotations and therefore they would not use this word to describe themselves or others. We have chosen to include the use of queer in this guide due to its increasing use within the LGBTQ+ community. 

(plus sign): The + is included to represent the many other identities within the queer community that are not named individually. The + therefore indicates that the LGBTQ+ community includes many people whose gender identity and/or sexual orientation falls within the queer umbrella. 

We have published a glossary of other terms you might come across when discussing LGBTQ+ issues, which you can refer to as you read this guidance. Whilst it’s good practice to become familiar with these terms, you do not need to become a terminology expert to practice inclusively. The most important thing to remember is that if you are not sure how to address someone then you should simply ask them politely, and if you need more information on these terms then you can refer to our glossary or to the further resources at the end of this document. 

What barriers to participation in music groups might LGBTQ+ people face?

LGBTQ+ people might face a number of challenges when joining a music making group. Remember that, even if no one has come out to you, it’s likely that your group has LGBTQ+ people in its membership. Practising inclusively means that these people can be comfortable as part of the group without the need for them to come out if they would prefer not to. 

The following sections of this guide highlight specific issues that LGBTQ+ might face when joining music groups, and suggests ways in which you can respond to these and make your group more inclusive. The suggestions have been separated into three groupings: Things to do before rehearsals start; Things to do at rehearsals/performances; Things to do outside of rehearsals/performances. 

You’ll find that some of the suggestions apply equally to all music making activities, whilst others relate specifically to choirs or singing groups in which LGBTQ+ people may face specific challenges relating to their voice or the repertoire being sung. You will need to choose which pieces of advice will be most useful to your group. Every group is different and not all of our suggestions will be useful to your members! You may also wish to read more about some of the areas we cover in this section. Use the hyperlinks in blue to find additional information and resources. 

Things to do before rehearsals start

What’s the problem? What can we do about it?

The risk of homophobia, biphobia, or transphobia may put people off joining a group in the first place.

Homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia are prejudice against people for being gay, bisexual or trans.

Aim to create an inclusive, welcoming environment where homophobia, biphobia and transphobia will not be tolerated, and state this clearly so that all members are aware of this commitment before they join the group. You might:

  • Discuss with your committee the addition of a policy or commitment in your membership pack that expects members of the group to respect everyone’s identity. This should also state that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia will not be tolerated within the group.
  • Address any instances of discriminatory behaviour that you witness and ensure that they are dealt with swiftly. It is important that everyone takes responsibility for this, not just group leaders. If you are not confident doing this then there are LGBTQ+ charities and other professionals that can offer training to help you.
  • Your group can engage with LGBTQ+ cultural events (such as Pride, IDAHOBIT, or Trans Day of Remembrance) to show support for your LGBTQ+ members and the community.
  • Share a statement on a website, pinned on your social media pages or in any information packs you produce for your group which signals to LGBTQ+ people that they will be safe and supported. You will need to tailor this statement to suit your group however it is important that you are specific – make sure you mention LGBTQ+ people. A general message that you are inclusive of all people will not be as effective as one which states that people of all sexual orientations and of all and no genders are welcome, and that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are not tolerated. This should be the final step you take - statements of support without practical action to safeguard these participants will not create an inclusive environment.

Singers who are transitioning or who have transitioned might find the traditional voice sections in a choir restrictive and difficult to find their place in. A few reasons for this include:

  • Ongoing changes in their voice (see Working with transgender singers for more detail)
  • Traditionally gendered voice sections can be uncomfortable for some trans singers due to the stereotypical expectations of who will sing in each section of the choir

Although many of the alterations suggested in this section are likely to have most impact for trans members of your group, many cisgender singers will also benefit from these actions.


You can loosen the restrictiveness of traditionally gendered voice sections within a choir by:

  • Allowing anyone to join any section that suits their voice
  • Not being prescriptive about people of a particular gender singing in a particular section.

Some transitioning singers’ voices may have changed since they last sang in a choir, and their voices may continue changing while they sing in your choir. More generally, some singers may be unsure of which section to join. You might therefore offer individual range check meetings to anyone who is looking for guidance on which section to sing in. At these meetings:

  • Do not make any prejudgements about which section a person will join based on their appearance, name or other expressions of gender.
  • Allow the person to tell you as much or as little about their identity and/or transition as they wish to, but it is not appropriate to ask personal questions about their identity or body. You could ask whether or not they have sung in a choir before, if they have an idea of what voice section they think they will be joining, or if there is anything about their voice they think you should know.
  • If someone discloses that they are transitioning or have transitioned then you can thank them for letting you know and first of all check whether or not this information is to be kept confidential. You can then ask them whether or not they believe that any aspect of their transition will affect their singing voice.
  • They may tell you about hormonal treatments or body-shaping garments which could affect their voice. If this happens, you can ask if there are any adjustments that could be made to help with this, for example, by not insisting that they sustain long exhalations, offering the possibility of using 'staggered breathing', and being thoughtful about any restrictions when including movement in a performance.

Check out Working with transgender singers for more information about the ways in which transitioning might affect singers.

Some people (both trans and cisgender) will find that as time passes their voice changes. Allow singers flexibility to change sections to suit their voice. This may sometimes be difficult due to the need to balance the number of singers across sections but the following strategies are suggested:

  • You can hold waiting lists for sections if it is not feasible to allow people to move freely within your group.
  • You should not require someone to continue singing in a section that is not suitable for them and could offer them other ways to support the group as they wait for a suitable space to become available.
  • Instead of labelling sections as Soprano/Alto/Tenor/Bass, try repertoire for Upper voices/Middle Voices/Lower Voices or give the sections a number instead of a voice type label. You might also programme repertoire written for equal voices and divide your group differently each week so that no one is assigned a fixed part according to their voice type.

Some trans people may feel anxious about using the toilet or changing facility which aligns with their gender identity due to past negative experiences, or fear of discrimination in these spaces. In addition to this, non-binary people may feel excluded if forced to choose between two binary options, i.e. women’s toilets and men’s toilets.

People should be free to use the facility that they feel comfortable using, without 'policing' of the entrance to these areas. You might also consider some or all of the following steps:

  • Consider labelling the space, not who can access it. You might choose to rent a space which has gender neutral toilets and changing rooms or you might choose to relabel the facilities during your rehearsal time. To do this you can bring pre-printed signs with you to the rehearsal venue. As an example you might choose to relabel the toilets as 'Toilets with cubicles', 'Toilets with urinals' and 'Accessible toilet'.
  • If you need to provide changing rooms for performers then consider a mixed space for sitting, warming up and leaving belongings, and private individual cubicles/loos for changing as opposed to segregating women/men and leaving no space for non-binary members of the group.
  • If you are performing in venues outside of your regular rehearsal venue then think ahead of time about access to changing rooms and toilets. Check ahead with venue owner/managers and consider relabelling of spaces if possible and appropriate for your group.

Some choral repertoire contains lyrics which exclude LGBTQ+ identities by reinforcing gender stereotypes, celebrating only traditional heterosexual relationships, or in other ways position heterosexual or cisgender experiences as more important or 'normal' than queer ones.

Reflect on how diverse a range of themes and composers are represented within your set list and aim to include a broad range in your next set. You might also consider some of the following steps:

  • Involve singers in the repertoire selection process to allow them to suggest songs which resonate more strongly with them as individuals. Singers could input into a suggestion box, or could form a choir’s music team who would work with the MD to choose suitable repertoire for the choir.
  • When choosing repertoire, pay careful attention to the themes/lyrics in the chosen set. Do they all represent heterosexual and/or cisgender experiences, or are LGBTQ+ perspectives also represented? Could you alter the lyrics to some of the pieces chosen to represent your group more fully?
  • Do you require all singers to participate in all songs in the programme? Could you give singers a rehearsal schedule ahead of time, allowing them to opt out of a song if it feels particularly difficult for them to participate in?
  • Do you ever commission new material for your choir? Consider working with an LGBTQ+ musician to create a piece specifically for your group. Remember however that you should always compensate musicians appropriately for their labour if you are asking them to create work for you.

Things to do at rehearsals/performances

What’s the problem? What can we do about it?

Some of the language and practices used during rehearsals can be unnecessarily gendered which can result in misgendering or excluding LGBTQ+ people from participating in the group.

When beginning a rehearsal or performance, you might habitually address the group by welcoming 'Ladies and gentlemen'. Consider these alternatives: welcoming 'Everyone', saying 'Good evening folks' or 'Hello all'.

Sometimes it’s necessary to divide the group into smaller sections. Instead of asking women and men to form separate groups, consider dividing the group by:

  • Grouping those with a birthday in certain months together. For example, to form four groups you could divide your participants into those born in Summer, Spring, Winter and Autumn.
  • Directing everyone standing on one or other side of the room to form a group.
  • Simply asking for participants to form groups of equal numbers, perhaps encouraging them to stand next to someone they don’t know well to get to know them.

If you work with a choir, when referring to sections of your group, you should use accurate terms e.g. instead of turning to the sopranos and saying 'Ladies, let’s start at bar five', you should address the section, e.g. 'Sopranos, let’s start at bar five' or you could address 'Upper voices' to refer to multiple sections together.

It is important for everyone to be addressed in a way that is comfortable for them. For LGBTQ+ people in particular, being addressed accurately can be an important way of affirming that they are welcome and that their identity is respected within the group.

In order to ensure that everyone is addressed in the way they wish, facilitate ways of members getting to know each other. You could:

  • Invite members to introduce themselves and share their pronouns when new members join the group. You could also provide name/pronoun badges for members to wear during the first few weeks each term so that everyone has a chance to introduce themselves.
  • Ask your MD, committee and other choir representatives to add their name and pronouns to their signature on any letters, emails or other communications that are sent to the group, and could also invite members to add their names and pronouns to any social media spaces shared by the group.
  • If you do invite members to share their pronouns, ensure that this is an invitation and that no one is forced to do so. Some members may feel uncomfortable sharing this information with others. Be sensitive to this and allow members to opt out of this if they choose to do so.
  • Also remember that some members may change their chosen pronouns over time. Allow them space to do so by repeating introductions at regular intervals, perhaps once a term or when you have new members joining the group.

Prescriptive uniform or clothing instructions may make some LGBTQ+ members of your group feel uncomfortable in participating.

If your group wears specific clothing for rehearsals or performance then you should ensure that everyone is able to wear something that they are comfortable in. Offer flexibility within the range of options available to group members. You could:

  • Select a colour for the choir to wear, but not specify which items should be worn, e.g. ask your group to wear smart, black clothing.
  • Select a number of items such as skirts, trousers, shirts, blouses, dresses or t-shirts from which the group members can choose to wear.
  • Avoid prescribing certain items of clothing for particular sections of your group or requiring certain items of clothing to be worn by people of a specific gender.

Things to do outside of rehearsals/performances

What’s the problem? What can we do about it?

Some LGBTQ+ people will not feel comfortable or even safe to share their LGBTQ+ identity with those outside a small, trusted group of people. Sharing their LGBTQ+ status with you or other members of the group may leave someone vulnerable to being 'outed' without their permission.

If someone chooses to share their LGBTQ+ status with you then it is important that you understand whether or not they are happy for this to be shared more widely, or whether you are to keep this information confidential. Make sure you are clear in your understanding with the person to avoid mistakes. You might consider asking:

  • Whether the name/pronouns the person uses at your music making group are the ones they wish to be called if you meet them elsewhere.
  • Whether or not the person gives consent to appear in photos/videos of them participating in group events.

Many LGBTQ+ people experience microaggressions in their day to day lives. A microaggression is a more subtle form of hostility than bullying or explicit discrimination, and may be intentional or unintentional. Examples of this might include intrusive questioning, misgendering, deadnaming, being excluded socially, or being the subject of derogatory comments or negative stereotypical representations. The risk of suffering further microaggressions may put LGBTQ+ people off attending groups.

Ensure that LGBTQ+ people have opportunities to flag behaviours and practices to the group which are exclusive:

  • Provide ways of group members feeding back to those running the group if they feel they are being excluded or mistreated as an LGBTQ+ person in the group. This feedback could go either directly to group leaders, or to volunteer representatives within the group if the member would prefer to feedback anonymously.
  • If your LGBTQ+ members feedback that they don’t feel comfortable within the group or that they are experiencing hostility or inappropriate behaviour, you might want to hold an LGBTQ+ awareness session for your group. As microagressions are often unintended behaviours, there may be much value for all members participating in these sessions to learn more. There are many experienced practitioners and LGBTQ+ organisations who can offer workshops or training sessions for your group (see Further resources below).

LGBTQ+ people are very often the ones who have to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues, and have to educate others on how best to support and safeguard LGBTQ+ people. Whilst it’s important that people with lived experience are involved in creating safe spaces, it can be exhausting for these people to have to do this work, very often as volunteers.

Ensure that you are aware of the difficulties and prejudices LGBTQ+ may face, and become an ally to the community. This will involve keeping your knowledge up-to-date, ensuring that you are not a bystander to prejudicial behaviour, and actively advocating for the LGBTQ+ community. You might:

  • Engage in regular CPD, finding opportunities to refresh your knowledge, share practice with other music group leaders and ensure that you’re following best practice in including LGBTQ+ music makers.
  • Get in contact with LGBTQ+ organisations, support their work and engage in any training sessions they offer.
  • Engage with LGBTQ+ choirs and music groups by setting up shared events such as performances, come and sing/come and play days, or shared rehearsals.
  • Maintain an awareness of current issues within the LGBTQ+ community by keeping an eye on the media and looking out for reports, resources and newsletters shared by LGBTQ+ organisations.

Making Music LGBTQ+ resources

Further resources

We have selected these external websites because they contain relevant information as of October 2023. Although we do our best to regularly review and update the links in our resources, they may need additional updating from time to time. Please get in touch if you have any suggestions.


  • Dr Kathleen Cronie is a choral conductor and has previously worked as a voice teacher, singer and choral researcher. She is currently the MD for Loud & Proud, Scotland’s first LGBTQ+ choir, and is experienced in working with LGBTQ+ singers as individual students. Her PhD research explored what singers need from their conductors to fully participate in choral singing, and she now offers support and coaching to choirs and MDs to run rehearsals and performances that are designed to set a shared vision for the group and look after singers’ needs as a priority. She has also undertaken training in working with transgender singers and recently led the 'Life in Scotland for LGBT Young People' research project.  
  • Dr Michael Bonshor is a music psychologist with a background as a professional singer, voice teacher, accompanist and conductor. He is the course director for the University of Sheffield’s MA Music Psychology in Education, Performance and Wellbeing, and lectures on courses at Leeds Conservatoire, University College London and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. He has longstanding experience of teaching individual transgender singers, and leading practical voice workshops to help trans people to use their voices in a way which reflects their gender identity.  

We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.