Queer to the Core


By Adam Rathe

Gay punk comes out with a vengeance. An oral history of the movement that changed the world (whether you knew it or not).

Queercore shows became more than just entertainment -- they became places to cruise, to network, to take self-defense lessons.

KAIA WILSON: Adickdid was my first band. In that band, I was like, I gotta play with girls. Eventually I was like, I gotta play with lezzies.

JODY BLEYLE: I had people I was playing music with, and I loved them, but it wasn’t fulfilling me. Then I got asked to join Hazel. After a year, I remember putting my head on a friend’s bosom and saying, “I’m never gonna find any queer girls. How will I find people like me?”

DONNA DRESCH: I needed to play with people like myself. I needed to find girls who understood the music I liked. That’s when Kaia’s band, Adickdid, and Hazel came through town, and I was like, I’ve gotta hang with these girls. I grabbed Jody and Kaia and was like, “We have got to do this.” From then on, we were a band.

LYNN BREEDLOVE: We sucked. We were terrible musicians but had something that never existed before, which was a bunch of dykes getting up and saying, “We are dykes. This music is for you.”

I got one of those $10 dicks -- you know, a dollar an inch, at the porno store -- and I was waving that shit around and singing about rape. It was somewhere in Kentucky, and it was strapped on, and I was waving this giant knife. Everyone was in this swarming pit of fury, yelling, “Cut it off!” I did and threw it into the crowd. That started a tradition of bringing a bag of rubber dicks on tour. The dick-makers in San Francisco, Good Vibrations, would give us their rejects.

JOSHUA PLOEG: One of the things was not to necessarily make queer culture more acceptable, but to make queer people feel like they could do whatever they wanted. It’s not to be more included, but to feel like you’re able to do something, no matter how crazy.

LYNN BREEDLOVE: You can make a dick last a couple of shows. First, you chop off the balls, then you chop off the dick. You had to get a blowjob before you chopped off the dick, because if you had a song about chopping the dick off and then you had the blowjob song, you were fucked because you didn’t have a dick to suck anymore.

It wasn’t always easy -- especially outside the bubble of a major city.

MARTIN SORRENDGUY: I would say stuff on stage about being gay, and it was insane. It wasn’t cool for certain people. You would hear, “I used to love [Los Crudos] until he started talking about faggot shit.” The negativity made me feel more powerful.

RACHEL CARNS: There was the feeling of being at war and not letting the bullshit people were trying to throw at you touch you.

SARA MARCUS: I remember seeing Rachel Carns before a show, drawing in her eyebrows and mustache with a Sharpie in the side-view mirror of their van and saying, “I don’t care if straight people come to our shows. We’re not doing this for them. They don’t have to come, and we don’t need them to feel welcome.”

DONNA DRESCH: It was our second show, and we were playing in Portland. Team Dresch was ready to confront anything, but this was totally unprovoked. We were loading our equipment when some guy started in. He called Jody a “fucking dyke,” and she was like, “Yeah, I am,” and he jumped out of his car and sideswiped her with a punch to the head.

KAIA WILSON: That’s how we started as a band, with a random act of homophobia.

JODY BLEYLE: He wasn’t indicted because the grand jury said I shouldn’t have been out so late.

RACHEL CARNS: The first tour, we brought a gun. How stupid was that? I can't believe we toured the whole country with a gun under the front seat of our pickup truck. We never had to use it, and wouldn't have known how to use it if we had to. There's this whole other part of touring that isn't the shows. It's the truck stops and has stations where you have to stop and eat. Those places were scary.

LUIS ILLADES: A couple times, especially in the Midwest and South, kids wanted to run away with us. One kid ran away from the home of his super-Christian family and came to our show. He had all of his belongings with him, and he came to see Pansy Division because there was nowhere else for him to go. He asked us to give him a ride to wherever we were going next. He was 15, and it was heartbreaking. He had come out to his family, and his father tried to beat him up and kicked him out. He wanted to escape with the gay circus.

KAIA WILSON: I wasn’t able to understand at that point that I was a mentor. That had to happen in hindsight. We were part of something huge. Later, kids would be like, you saved my life. It wasn’t what we set out to do.

Queercore has its brush with the mainstream and commenced a symbiotic, problematic relation-ship with Riot Grrrl.

JON GINOLI: Green Day catapulted to fame. They had been on the same label as Pansy Division, then had gone to Warner Bros. and suddenly were face-to-face with all these people who had no idea what the context of their band was. They decided to take Pansy Division on tour to show what their band stood for.

BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG: I had a feeling Pansy Division would definitely get a mixed reaction. When our crowds were getting more mainstream, we didn’t want to represent the typical Mohawk stereotype. Pansy Division was truly challenging, and their songs are melodic and catchy. I got letters from teenagers saying, after seeing Pansy Division, they had the courage to come out. I saw certain idiots in the crowd yelling “faggots” or throwing shit. But I also saw people dancing and having a good time. Homophobia has no place in the punk scene or the mainstream. I think we share that belief with Pansy Division. Punk rock has been rather queer since the beginning.

MATT WOBENSMITH: There’s a Dyke in the Pit was my first release on Outpunk Records [the first queer punk label]. I had helped with another record called There’s a Faggot in the Pit. The reaction was phenomenal. I was influenced by Riot Grrrl, which energized me.

Tags: Music