The first real punk group that really spoke to me was Pansy Division, I was turned on to them in college one summer in the early 1990s. It was the closing of a school year where I had been dealing with my sexuality and experienced a first real lover. His name was Kevin and he was the first real person that I could honestly identify as counter culture and part of the LGBT community. Meeting Kevin led to a whirlwind of emotions from our chats to a briefly lived hook up. He introduced me to Pansy Division and their music helped me deal with a lot of what I was going through at the time. From listening to them and searching for other bands like them, I got turned on to Queercore. However, it has taken many more years for that subculture to have a bigger impact on me, socially.
According to the Wikipedia page “Queercore(or homocore), is a cultural and social movement that began in the mid-1980s as an offshoot of the punk subculture. It is distinguished by its discontent with society in general, and specifically society’s disapproval of the LGBTQ community. Queercore expresses itself in a D.I.Y. style through magazines, music, writing and film.” Following in true punk style, Queercore bands tend to speak about societal critiques with emphasis on gender identity, sexual identity, and the rights of the individual. Queercore can be a bit more blurred in the music scene as they also tend to draw influence from indie rock, hardcore punk, and industrial genres. Queercore can find its roots dating back to the early 80s with strong connections to the British Punk scene. Members like Gary Floyd of the Dicks, and Randy Turner of the Big Boys were the most notable and outspoken of the scene. These groups had already been writing gay theme lyrics before groups like Pansy Division came into the forefront.
The Queercore culture is still in existence, thanks in large part to the UK recording labels like Tuff Enuff Records, Pussy Whipped, and Queer Riot. Some of the bands that are out there now still embody that punk mentality in new ways. Cruising is a four-piece band from Ireland that‘s named after the 1980 Al Pacino movie with the same name. Check out the video below for the track You Made Me Do That. You can find them on SoundCloud here to listen to some of their music. Skinny Girl Diet is the femme fatale group that many of us needed when we were younger. Their performative femininity brings camp back to the punk world, they are known for being hyper girly and often latex clad. The lead singer Ursula Holliday describes their band as “The Women You Don’t Fuck With!” Check out their song Fix Me,below
Queercore doesn’t stop with music, in fact it was the zine J.D.s that pushed Queercore into the existence. J.D.s changed their vision of homocore to queer to fully embrace the diversity of those they wanted to represent. This subculture was already blurring the lines of gender nonconformity before it ever hit mainstream. And as such, they separated themselves from what was considered the modern Gay and Lesbian movement, at the time. They published their first edition in 1985 with the manifesto, “Don’t Be Gay.” “These zines, and the movement, are characterized by an alternative to the self-imposed ghettoization of orthodox gay men and lesbians; sexual and gender diversity in opposition to the segregation practiced by the mainstream gay community; a dissatisfaction with a consumerist culture, proposing a DIY ethos in its place in order to create a culture of its own; and opposition to oppressive religious tenets and political repression.” – Wikipedia– This mindset allowed many of the punk bands of the 80s and 90s to stand with the Queercore bands, because their causes were similar. It was a culture that stood together for advancement through verbal and physical activism fueled by the rage of constantly being trod upon by mainstream culture and media.
So, it’s no surprise that this lead over into film and inspired directors like John Waters and Bruce LaBruce and the movie studio Troma Entertainment. These directors gave a voice to an otherwise unmentioned segment of the population. Thanks to John Waters, we have the most noted movie drag queen, later singer of all time, Divine. Movies like Pink Flamingo gave an avenue for queer actors to be on screen and watched by large fan bases, as well as giving directors a vehicle for speaking out against mainstream ideas and social trappings.
Queercore became the place for those who felt they did not belong to any segment of the LGBTQ community a place to live and thrive. They did not fight for acceptance and instead focused on being the outsiders. It was felt that the activism of the time was going to lead to normalization and assimilation into the mainstream and thusly capitalism. This was everything the punk culture was against. They were more about creating safe zones where you could simply be who you are without any stereotypes to bind you.
Perhaps it is time that we focus more on being who we are, at our very core, instead of what other groups tell us to be. Time is shaping how our future will play out and if we sit idly by and let the normalization of our very being be decided by those that aren’t us or don’t understand us, then we stand to lose all that we are. Grab some Pany Division, Skinny Girl Diet, or even some old Patti Smith from your favorite streaming app, forget the gender roles and dress and live life as we are, different than the mainstream.