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I'm Here. I'm Queer. I'm Punk. Get Used To It.
The victims of the Orlando shootings went to a gay bar to feel safe and included, something us LGBTQIA folk don’t get to experience every day. We create these designated queer-friendly spaces because we have our rights and safety violated on a routine basis. If you care about us, you’ll value our freedom to go about our lives without being attacked in any way. You also won’t get angry with us when we tell you we feel uncomfortable attending shows with homophobic/queer-bashing bands. Many of us don't have it in us to afford the luxury of being able to not take their lyrics personally. Instead of shaming us queers for being wary of supporting homophobic/transphobic bands, blame the bands for dividing your community by being hateful in the first place.
Music scenes are what you make of them. Brooklyn took a stand when it dropped the band Good English from every lineup on their Brooklyn tour. Nobody wanted to associate themselves with the person who wrote the letter that helped a proven rapist get his sentence reduced by 3 months. Multiple venues released statements that they would not tolerate victim-blaming and rape culture. I can only imagine Brooklyn is more than happy with their decision after the horrifying details of Brock Turner’s horrific actions and behaviors emerge. Considering that detectives uncovered pictures Turn took of the victim's breast during the assault, it's clear that his 3-month sentence doesn't serve anywhere near the amount of justice warranted by his "20 minutes of action." Brooklyn made a great decision by taking a stand against rape culture. Learning about this event moved me because I often fall prey to casual homophobia and transphobia at shows. It happens a lot less often than it used to, but it still happens and I got sick of it a while ago. Most importantly, we need to create an atmospheres where queer people can speak out against discrimination and not worry about getting backlash for it.
Last night, I went to see one of my favorite local bands play with a well-known punk band. One of my friends had booked the bands. Because I knew multiple bands on the lineup personally, I also knew my support would mean a lot. I had never heard of the band, so I spent the week getting to know them through their music. I didn't learn about their queer-bashing lyrics until a couple of hours before the show, so I wasn't sure if going would be a good decision. Unlike Bad Brains, they aren’t the least bit sorry about it, so I was concerned about whether or not I should go to the show.
When I learned this, I expressed my concerns to my guyfriend in a non-preachy way. When I did this, I never once shamed him for going because I was worried about being a buzzkill, but I also didn’t want to leave him in the dark if I decided against going. I never implied he was a bigot for attending the show, nor did I attempt to make any of our friends feel bad about going. I simply stated that I might not go because I wouldn’t feel comfortable. His response?
“Whatever. Just don’t ruin my night.”
In the end, I decided to go because I knew the venue owners and the show-booker, but the crowd was full of friendly and familiar faces. I'm all too familiar with this sort of experience. It's one that I have all of the time. I'd like to say I'm grateful to not have to worry about getting beaten up at shows anymore, but that would make not being assaulted seem like some sort of privilege compared to getting called stuck-up for not being cool about queer-bashing. Once again, despite my efforts to be everything except abrasive about my opinion, I still found myself getting shamed for not being more tolerant of homophobia and transphobia. My friend implied that my legitimate gripe wasn’t as important as his good time. I didn’t want to be a buzzkill, but I didn’t want to stay silent about the issue. I vowed to spank the lead singer who authored the song for being a bad boy and promoting homophobia. But looking back, I’m glad I didn’t. Homophobia doesn’t deserve a kinky spanking. It deserves as many smacks in the face it can get.
At first, I was going to leave the show before they headlined. But the lineup changed at the last minute and the band I came to see wound up playing last. So while I did see some of their performance, I had much more fun ditching the band to chill with my friend. During the span of their performance’s midway and my friend’s band, we talked about why I was looking for reasons to leave and described how our mutual friend’s behaved towards me. It was a nice break that helped me get pumped for the band I actually came to see.
After the show, my friend called me “so disrespectful” for leaving during the headlining band’s packed performance. He also went on a rant about PC culture, treating my concern for my personal safety and comfort as though it were about me wanting punk rock to become sanitized. He sure didn’t have anything impassioned to say about the “disrespectful” crowd that thinned before our friend’s lesser-known band started performing afterwards. I was drunk and happy when it happened, but my heart sank as I blocked out the thought of someone agreeing with what he said about my personal decision that affected him in no way.
The harsh reality didn’t hit me until I was sober and serious the next day. Right after an attempt to sleep off my hangover, I woke up to read about the worst mass-shooting in history happening at a gay bar. Shortly afterwards, I found out the friend I ditched the show with hadn't a queer, disabled relative in Orlando who frequented LGBTQIA events. Now, I’m hearing stories about friends who know queer people in Orlando they haven’t heard back from.
Why can’t LGBTQIA feel safe in their own spaces? Because we aren’t safe anywhere else. It’s not some grand coincidence that Omar Mateen chose a gay bar as the site where he committed the biggest atrocity to occur in American since 9/11. The Orlando shooting is more proof that LGBTQIA people can’t even be safe in spaces we create with our community’s comfort in mind. Combatting homophobia is a group effort. It’s a cause that needs all the collective, conscious energy it can get. It’s so important to fight against bigotry in our country. I shouldn’t have to feel degraded for being queer anywhere.
What bothers me the most about this situation is that I did everything a non-queer person would consider “right.” I didn’t preach to anyone or lay out guilt trips, but I did let my some of my friends know my reservations about going along with my intention to spank the lead singer. Other than that, I didn’t make a scene out of it. I never said anything to anyone involved with running the show. I didn’t shame him or any of my friends for associating themselves with the band. I did nothing yet even the act of simply stating my boundaries and reasons was considered a major, “totally not punk rock” party foul at best. My biggest regret was being too heartbroken to say anything in response to it.
We can't escape the hate in our own spaces, let alone in most of the environments we immerse ourselves in every day. The violence experienced by the LGBTQIA community comes in all shapes, sizes, and shades. My friend insulting me for not being into the idea of seeing a known queer-bashing band is a small expression of a big problem. It’s also not the worst harassment I’ve received from other punks. I’ve been called a carpet muncher, a dyke, a tranny-lover (because cis-passing privilege is a thing), and more. In the end, I feel like people see my need to feel safe and secure as more offensive than homophobia. The people who think like this are offended by the fact that I even said something to anyone about it at any point. They’d rather I shut up and go on in silence without burdening their minds with the notion that I’m an actual person who doesn't like to feel insulted or rejected for my sexuality and gender.
Even worse, many fans of these sort of bands accuse other punks of not being able to “take a joke” when they got offended by their favorite band espousing homophobia with a totally straight face. If you look at a list of bands I listen to, you’ll be able to spot very problematic elements in nearly all of them. But I know better than to get all pissy when someone points them out to me, nor do I throw a hissy-fit when someone does the unthinkable and *gasp* asks me to consider not going to an event to protest a band’s douchebaggery. Any time I get an overreaction in response to my personal decisions, it's all the confirmation I need to know that a person feels self-conscious about the fact that yes, they support a band that’s into bashing queer people. Furthermore, their taking offense by me removing myself from the situation is uncalled for, especially when I'm not accusing them of supporting bigotry for going.
I’m repeatedly forced to consider how much queer-bashing I can take from my fellow punks and friends for the sake of supporting my scene and simply having friends. It’s like, “Sure! I’d love to go to your show, but how many times do I have to deal with you dropping F-bombs (read: faggot) all the time?” How many times do I get to hear you use the word “tranny” as an insult or insist my gender doesn’t exist? People don’t understand how painful it is for us to hear that word, nor do they understand how much pride we find ourselves sucking up for the sake of having a good time. I go to shows knowing what I’ll be dealing with because I love punk rock even when it doesn’t conform to my worldview.
The thing is, I’m going to see this person again and again at shows, just like I saw most of the other people who gay-bashed me in the past. I hang out with people who have bigoted opinions because I enjoy their other features, but I can only take so much crap about for so long. As a queer bisexual person, I grew up feeling placeless. At the time, it felt like I hardly fell on the frayed fringes of what society told me “normal” sexuality and gender. Bands like MDC and Dead Kennedys helped me deal with these feelings by validating the fact that it's totally okay to not be alright with being discriminated against.
I know this show will not be the last one I attend where I’ll have to choose between being entertained and estimating the extent to which I’ll have to put my hurt aside to enjoy with a punk show. I’m not saying you should never play with bands who write problematic lyrics. I’m not saying you should guilt trip small bands for playing alongside well-known bands who aren’t sorry about their homophobic lyrics. What I am saying is this: Please don’t brush off our criticisms and discomfort as condescension or “being too sensitive.” Our concerns are legitimate. Better yet, confront the band by asking them what the hell they were thinking when they wrote the lyrics and take it from there. Even if you decide to do nothing but enjoy the show, please stop making our lack of participation all about you instead of about our rights.
I'm tired of being so gentle with the feelings of people who are so reckless with my heart. But what point do I have to stop investing effort into being tolerant towards people who make me feel bad about being gay and queer? At what point do I have to stop censoring myself for the sake of not killing the vibe? At what point does everyone else pick up the slack and start putting actual effort into making the world a less hateful place? The sad thing is, I don't necessarily want to stop being friends with the people who do this stuff. I want to go back to moshing and screaming "Oi!" and drunkenly yell-stomping on the ride home. I want to walk among my fellow punks in solidarity without knowing that they aren't in solidarity with me. I'm just so tired of people expecting me to be totally cool with all the casual hatred being slung my way
The next time someone tells you a band's lyrics make them uncomfortable in a bad way, don't cast them as some uptight fun-murderer. Furthermore, please be sympathetic when we find that queer-bashing or homophobia getting in the way of our good time. Make your local scene a better place: speak out against LGBTQIA discrimination and don't get upset when queer punks don't bite their lips and smile in the face of bigotry. Sure, liking how a band sounds and performs doesn't necessarily mean you support everything that band stands for. Therefore, why get all offended when I feel uncomfortable enough to reconsider giving them my time. money, and energy? Why am I the person who gets blamed for creating division in the scene?
In my opinion, you're placing the blame on the victim's shoulders. Non-queers, we need you to speak out against the people who disrespect us. Please do us a favor and support us rather than making it seem like we're making a big deal out of nothing.
#Real #QueerPunksUnite #ImHere #ImQueer #ImPunk #GetUsedToIt #StandUp #RockAgainstQueerHatred
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