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).

JODY BLEYLE: The queer bands were filled with feminists, and so was the Riot Grrrl scene. There was an enormous amount of overlap. Team Dresch never considered itself a Riot Grrrl band; it was a Queercore band. When people think of feminism in the ’90s, they think of Riot Grrrl, but because Riot Grrrl doesn’t include Queercore, it usurps it. It erases it. You don’t want queer history to get erased, and that’s what happens when you don’t scream about it.

DONNA DRESCH: Riot Grrrl gets talked about more, but we didn’t identify with that because it was mostly a straight movement. We were allies, but we were on separate paths.

Not long after, the scene began to wither, partially exhausted by years of burning hot, the mainstreaming of alternative culture, and the Internet, which made finding a world that accepted young gay people easier.

MATT WOBENSMITH: It was at its apex. We came up with [the festival] Dirty Bird. I think it signaled the beginning of the end.

ED VARGA: When Homo A Go Go [festival] started in September, 2002, I felt like, Wow, we can have a whole queer music festival. People came from all over; they called it a gay-cation.

SCOTT TRELEAVEN: I was invited to Dirty Bird and thought, I’m going to get laid left, right, and center at this big gay punk thing. The dykes wasted no time hooking up. Most of the boys were organizing zine swaps and symposiums on passive resistance, but no one was fucking. I was with hundreds of cute gay punks, and no one seemed to be making a move. Vaginal Davis performed, and I was flirting with this hippie boy who ended up inviting me to a Radical Faerie gathering. I got thoroughly laid there.

MATT WOBENSMITH: We had achieved everything we wanted to do. For me, it was no longer a challenge just to have homo rock.

DONNA DRESCH: In the 2000s it started fizzling out.

G.B. JONES: Now it’s time for people to begin to address the issue of how so much of the work we did has been, and is being, appropriated.

MARK FREITAS: My one misgiving with all this is that we’re in such a nostalgic time now. It’s not just that I’m old—there is nothing culturally right now that feels new and exciting to me.

BRUCE LABRUCE: It’s too bad it got so acrimonious, but perhaps that’s a testament to how intense and brilliant the whole thing was.

DONNA DRESCH: I can’t tell you how many letters I got from people saying they would have killed themselves if they hadn’t heard the band. I’m blown away we had that impact on people. We’re just four dykes who make music.

LYNN BREEDLOVE: As long as we’re not shutting up, we’re still pressing the queer punk ethos. We’re still spreading inspiration for everyone else to create something that expresses who they are, whether it’s in a band or one person standing alone in a spotlight, standing up for it and helping everyone else out there.

Tags: Music