I recently had to go up to school to return some library books during what happened to be the nearest city's annual gay pride weekend. Various pro-love, pro-sex, pro-LGBTQ events were scheduled, including a Friday night lesbian dance party at a popular bar. I went, mostly because I sort of knew the dj, and some of my friends were going.
I enjoyed it as much as I usually enjoy events organized around female queerness, which is to say that I didn't enjoy it at all for the whopping five minutes I was there. Despite a superb, friendly (and frankly rather attractive) dj, I just couldn't get into it. I've never liked clubs, because they're too loud and crowded for me, and the music is never good enough to get me to dance.
Whenever I go to something like this, I spend the entire time thinking that I'd rather be at a show, seeing someone like my beloved Zombie Dogs or Death First, and preferably at a DIY space like someone's basement or loft. The people I know at those shows are artists, activists, and feminists, and I feel way more connected to them than I do to strangers at a club who happen to share my sexual orientation. Lesbian events never feel socially active or feminist enough for me, and it just bums me out.
After my failed attempt at specifically lesbian partying, I had a bit of a Carrie Bradshaw moment. Still longing for a good feminist punk show, I couldn't help but wonder: what is punk and hardcore's relationship to the gay community? Is there a disconnect there, or is it just me?
It could very well just be me, considering that there's an entire genre of gay punk, known as Queercore. Queercore developed somewhat in tandem with Riot Grrrl, in the Pacific Northwest of the United States in the early 1990s, where bands of both genres often performed and worked together, putting on shows where show-goers of the female and gay persuasion could feel safe and forge some sense of community.
And even before the the rise of queercore, gender play and homosexuality have been present in rock and its subgenres. People like David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and even Mick Jagger, and bands like The New York Dolls and X-Ray Spex (among others) brought gender-consciousness and some pretty courageously gender-transgressive fashions into their scenes back in the 1970s.
But rather than proving some kind of diversity, I'd argue that much like Riot Grrrl, a movement like Queercore evidences rock and punk's exclusivity. It's not as if Queercore and Riot Grrrl coalesced because punk in the late '80s was just so damned progressive, open, and accepting. Feminist punk girls and gays formed and joined those movements in order to make space for themselves within the historically hostile and straightwhitemale-dominated punk tradition.
The legacy of those brave spacemakers lives on, at least where I come from. I feel incredibly lucky to be involved with a scene where female punks, regardless of their sex lives, are valued as full participants as artists, musicians, and organizers. Every day of my life I feel incredibly lucky that these women, like me, fell in love with bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Team Dresch, and Excuse 17 as teenagers, and that they're committed to continuing those bands' work.
It seems like my town is the exception, though, rather than the rule. Lately, it seems like I have read and heard about so much unmitigated sexism outside of Brooklyn; the B9 Affair and Total Trash's commentary on rape apologism in punk are the first that come to mind. That sort of disrespect for women and assault survivors, not to mention the shameless promotion of patriarchy it indicates, is linked directly to disrespect for other folks who don't fit the straightwhitemale norm and/or people who aren't willing to kneel before the hierarchy. There is visible, open, unabashed hate in our punk communities, and violence, too. It's not just me.
It's been demoralizing for me to face the bigotry that exists within punk. But here's the thing to remember: prejudice isn't insurmountable. We can overcome our differences, we can combat hate and violence, we can change punk, and that's not 'just me' either. Queercore and Riot Grrrl may have revealed punk's biases, but they and the people they've inspired also prove that it's possible to challenge hateful ideas, and to work through punk's issues. We just have to be willing to confront them.