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Words: De Kwok

Rock’n’roll has always been filled with queers—some closeted, some out and proud. If the history of music is filled with degenerates, misfits and weirdos, then you will surely find creative homos at the forefront. From the jazz era to the current wave of rock’n’rollers, music has always been a source of inspiration and creativity for gay men and women. When disco exploded onto the scene and topped billboard charts, gay men and women were there to create the noise, the fashion and the subculture. For me, growing up as an ‘80s kid, punk was the noise that made me aware that being different and queer was something that was dangerous and messy.

When punk music came into my life, it was with a bang. Hearing X-Ray Spex for the first time spoke to me much more eloquently than any fluffy disco tracks. Here was a subculture that embraced humor (however black), politics and an acceptance of the strange and the alienated. What more could a burgeoning gay boy ask for? Through punk, I met other alienated, fucked-up kids, went to shows and found groups of like-minded individuals with the same political slant and social awareness. But sexuality, despite punk’s radical ideals and seeming approval of what mainstream society despised, was still very much a closeted state. Gays were tolerated, but, except for a few notable performers like Wayne County, were relegated to the background. There were punkers who were queer but for whatever reason chose to remain tight-lipped behind their instruments.

In the late ‘80s, queercore became a truly memorable movement. Fanzines were being produced that allowed gay punks to network with each other and shows were booked with queer bands proudly performing under the banner of being gay. Tagging along with the Riot Grrrl movement, queercore musicians were as volatile and outspoken as their straight punk counterparts. Bands such as Tribe 8, Huggy Bear, Sister George and Fifth Column brought a decidedly queer theme to their music. Now, queer punks did not have to become disco bunnies nor hide their lust for their fellow punks. Kids were able to embrace the noise and make no apologies for liking someone of the same gender. Gay boys and girls wrote songs for and about other gay boys and girls. Taking the spirit of punk to heart, many of these bands had only the basic idea about how to play their instruments. But what they lacked in musical finesse, they more than made up for in their enthusiasm and their heart. Although the queercore scene has created some memorable music and shows, bands seemed to implode and many notable forerunners have come and gone.

But the legacy of the ‘90s Riot Grrl movement and queercore has paved the way for some great current bands. Currently, the rise of the bands like Scissor Sisters and Sleater-Kinney who have crossed over to both straight and gay rockers gives hope that queer musicians will find a wider audience. In the book, “Homocore: the Loud and Raucous Rise of Queer Rock,” David Ciminelli and Ken Knox do a fine job in documenting the US queer rock scene. From Pansy Division to lesser-known bands like Best Revenge and I Am Loved, it’s a great starter kit for any young gay boy or girl interested in gay punk bands. It will be interesting to see if the homocore movement can regain the momentum that it had in the ‘90s. Even if it doesn’t and has to retreat back to the underground, I for one am excited to hear the noise and clamor the new crop of queer punk boys and girls will make.

De Kwok is a writer and photographer living in Seattle.

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