Tom Rasmussen on the evolution of queer pop and the simple way everyone can support trans people

Non-binary, trans singer Tom Rasmussen wears a black vest and tartan shorts against a beige background.

Tom Rasmussen’s debut record Body Building is, on paper, a very straightforward concept album. There are no alter egos or glossy pop pretensions.

“I was trying to narrate just a very simple experience of leaving my front door and getting home again, and narrate the experience of just what it’s like to be alive as a non-binary person, as a queer person,” says the singer, who is also known as their former drag character Crystal.

Body Building is a recounting of a violent attack Rasmussen experienced outside their home, but it’s more than a reflection on the incident itself. It’s an exploration of what it means to be a visibly queer person in the UK today (in tracks “Street Violence” and “Not Over It”) and a love letter to liberation (“Look At Me”).

It’s also a collaboration with Rasmussen’s loved ones and some of the UK’s biggest queer change-makers, including artist Travis Alabanza and author Shon Faye. It’s part of an increasing trend, where queer artists are revelling in working with one another – think Sam Smith and Kim Petras, boygenius or The Aces

In Rasmussen’s eyes, the trend symbolises a move away from “simple visibility” to celebrating “the actual artistry of queer people”.

They add: “In my experience putting the record out, the people it’s connected with first are the people with whom I work or the people with whom I love,” they tell PinkNews. “You just make work for the queers, I guess. And if it goes any further, who cares?”

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Rasmussen thinks the motivations of LGBTQ+ pop stars are changing. For the past few decades, queer artists breaking, and assimilating, into the mainstream was to be commended, because it happened so rarely.

But, gone are the days where queer musicians feel they have to make work for a straight audience, Rasmussen says. These are the times where “gay pop stars or queer pop stars or trans pop stars are making work about that experience, or just making work from that perspective… It’s really amazing to watch artists step into the truth of it”, they add. “I feel it.”

Barely three months have passed since the release of Body Building, so album number two is definitely not on the cards in the immediate future. Rasmussen does, however, have a dream collaboration list, with trans rapper Mykki Blanco and legendary British duo Pet Shop Boys top of the list.

Eurovision winner Loreen, with her enchanting nails and enigmatic stage presence, is a firm favourite right now, too.

Plus, there are other things going on that Rasmussen and the wider LGBTQ+ community need to focus on.

The community, and particularly trans people, are under attack from politicians worldwide, with the UK prime minister Rishi Sunak recently recorded mocking trans women.

With Pride month just ended, Rasmussen has been thinking about how to make the world a different, better place.

“Pride is where it always was, which is a protest. Pride has never ever existed with corporations. I’ve always thought this. We have to be asking some increasingly tough questions as time goes on,” they say. 

Non-binary, trans singer Tom Rasmussen wears a yellow sweater while standing in front of a green background
Non-binary singer Tom Rasmussen. (Thurstan Redding)

As trans and non-binary people bear the brunt of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, there are ways for other queer people and allies to support the most marginalised in the community.

“What that looks like is often something quite simple,” Rasmussen says. “Like treating people with respect, or just going somewhere and using your physical body to show up in a space.”

That could include paying to see a trans performer or radical drag artist, or using your physical presence at Trans Pride. If you can, it could also include “f*****g [putting] your hands in your pockets” and supporting grassroots LGBTQ+ causes.

“It’s the classic, but if conservatives or wider society is attacking transness [and] trans femininity, it is a millimetre away from attacking you,” Rasmussen warns. 

Things feel bleak for the LGBTQ+ community right now, thanks to right-wing, anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, but there are things we can do.

Firstly, “abolish the Tories,” Rasmussen says. Then, “it’s just about knowing that it’s not hopeless. Gathering and community is hopeful.”

Body Building is out now.

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