Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for ABA
Billie Eilish performs onstage during "Hit Me Hard And Soft" album release listening party at Barclays Center on May 15 in New York City.

Editor’s Note: Allison Hope is a writer whose work has been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Slate and elsewhere. The views expressed here are her own. Read more opinion on CNN.

CNN  — 

Billie Eilish’s new song, “Lunch” is the definitive queer anthem of 2024.

At the beginning of Pride Month and in the throes of yet another exhaustive legislative season with LGBTQ people under attack, the paradox of queer celebration and terror dance in the shadows of the ferociously sexy and affirmative “Lunch.”

c/o Allison Hope
Allison Hope

From her new album, “Hit Me Hard and Soft,” Eilish serves up an unequivocally queer-centered sexuality that does not mince words as she describes how she wants to perform oral sex on her female lover.

“Lunch” is bold, provocative, confrontational. It sounds like trans activist Marsha P. Johnson on the frontlines at Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village; like Billy Porter unapologetically rocking a dress on the red carpet at the 2020 Oscars; like every woman who has ever kissed a woman in broad daylight, no matter the consequences.

Eilish’s evolution as an out and proud member of the LGBTQ community, as reflected in her album and related interviews, mirrors how far society has come in allowing celebrities to reflect their true selves.

At just 22, Eilish has already tasted more fame than most could ever hope to achieve. She’s won numerous Grammys, including Record of the Year, Billboard music awardsMTV and People’s Choice Awards, as well as two Academy Awards for best original songs with “What Was I Made For?” from the “Barbie” movie last year and “No Time to Die,” from the film of the same name in 2021. Many of these awards she accepted alongside her brother and co-writer and producer, Finneas O’Connell. Yet, she is still so young and just coming into understanding herself and her sexuality.

In addition to her accolades, the lyrical explicitness in Eilish’s “Lunch” evidences the strides our community has made in authentic and overt LGBTQ content and marks a tangible moment in which to celebrate our progress.

Throughout history, LGBTQ creators and private citizens alike, have had to hide, to suppress our desires, to cloak our true selves in heteronormative veneers, whether through sham marriages or encoded literature, or subtle references in scripts and lyrics. We’ve been the strange aunts who live in the city, the curious college students going through a phase, or the confused housewives needing a respite.

Artists including late singer Whitney Houstonk.d. Lang and Tracy Chapman are part of a long list of performers who have had to tuck their true identities away in a closet for part of or all of their career in order to “make it.” Actors such as Jodie Foster and Elliot Page were in the closet for years before they felt secure enough in their careers to come out.

Eilish’s “Lunch” symbolizes the seismic evolution in queer women expression in music. It eats Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” well, for lunch.

It’s just the recent song lyrics that inspire the LGBTQ imagination. Eilish’s tomboy grunge-meets-artiste look transcends the binary gender norms for women A-listers. Oversized t-shirts and sneakers take the place of ball gowns and heels, offering a respite for any listener who has not quite fit into societal standards of gender or sexuality.

As queer people and as women, communities that have long been socialized to silence our sexuality; to subjugate ourselves into the object of the male gaze if our beauty permits, or else mute ourselves in the background as undesirable. The double whammy of being women who also love other women, has rendered us yet more invisible, though it has, conversely, also gifted us the opportunity to rewrite the script, or the lyrics, as it turns out.

Eilish’s “Lunch” is a brilliant reinvention of our freedom of queer expression, and it comes at a most desperate time.

In states across the country and countries around the world, anti-LGBTQ hate is alive and well, underscoring the need to create a counternarrative that leans into love and queer joy. More than 500 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the US. And other countries that were already hostile to LGBTQ people have escalated their attacks targeting our community, including Russia, which enacted a law that makes LGBTQ expression illegal, Ghana, which passed a law on February that punishes LGBTQ relationships and even supporting the community with jail and Uganda, which imposes up to 20 years in prison for identifying as LGBTQ and even death penalty for some crimes.

In Italy, which elected a far-right leader in 2022, efforts are underway to make gestational surrogacy a crime, claiming the practice is “inhuman” and, if passed, would disproportionately prevent some LGBTQ people from becoming parents.

Earlier this month, the US State Department issued a travel warning for LGBTQ people visiting other countries for Pride events, citing a heightened threat without naming specific jurisdictions. The warning came on the heels of an FBI and Department of Homeland Security announcement a week earlier alerting travelers of potential violence targeting LGBTQ events.

Four lesbians were set on fire this month in Buenos Aires and at least three have died. The death of nonbinary teen Nex Benedict on March made national news and its circumstances  remain hazy and suspect. The killing of Black transgender woman Starr Brown last month in Memphis is one of the at least 14 killings of transgender and gender-expansive people in the US reported this year. And these are just a few of many examples of LGBTQ people killed this year alone that point to the broader trend of a sociopolitical climate in which LGBTQ people are less safe.

These statistics have names, families, potential that was snuffed out far too soon.

The Trevor Project, an anti-bullying and suicide prevention organization, recently published a report that quantifies the harm the negative environment is having on our LGBTQ young people. Ninety percent of LGBTQ young people said their wellbeing was negatively impacted due to recent politics and half have experienced bullying in the past year. We are failing our children and at grave risk of losing all that we have gained over the past generation in terms of equal rights and psychological and physical safety.

It’s due time our leaders pay attention to the state of distress and danger they are putting their most vulnerable constituents in by peddling lies and disinformation that LGBTQ people are somehow a threat to the social order. Around the world, LGBTQ people are contributing to societies and helping to evolve and expand our understanding of love and human expression.

If only we lay down our swords and open our hearts and minds. If only we tune into Eilish’s song and to its inherent humanity — carnal, raw, authentic — and recognize in it our own hidden desires that we should face with the same openness she does.

Eilish’s unashamed lyrics and vocal omnipotence create emotional air cover. When millions of adoring fans, LGBTQ and allies alike, raise their fists into the air in support of her same-sex love and desire laid bare, it beats back, even if just a tiny bit, against the homophobic and transphobic epithets that right-wing officials and armchair activists sling our way.

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In a world where LGBTQ people are still forced to shove these most intense and beautiful parts of ourselves and our self-expression into whispers, to swallow our desires for fear of familial or societal rejection, or worse, the power of being bold and explicit cannot be understated. Eilish’s top 40 hit screams from the rooftops that it’s OK for a woman to want another woman and to make those desires known.

Eilish isn’t an anomaly when it comes to out celebrities. Stars such as Lily TomlinRosie O’DonnellEllen DeGeneresMelissa Etheridge and others paved the way for the proliferation of out, queer entertainers. What Eilish has achieved, though, with her latest album and particularly with the song, “Lunch,” is to raise the bar on the unabashed expression of queer and women’s sexual desire. This Pride Month, she’s going to get her lunch and eat it, too. The rest of us are going to turn the volume up when that song comes on and hopefully get a bit closer to our own truth.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health matters, please call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 to connect with a trained counselor, or visit the 988 Lifeline website.