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Queercore

Hello everyone! My name is Midol, and I've been asked to write a queercore column for Oasis. What is queercore, you ask? Well, that's a good question! You may have read something about it in Spin or Rolling Stone, or maybe you saw the MTV News specials about queer punk. They touched on it in the way only major news people can -- briefly, but at least they decided to spotlight something that I think is pretty darn important.

"Queercore" is a term that originated in England a few years ago. A reporter for the New Musical Express there wanted to document the growing queer music scene that was revolving around one particular band, Sister George. One thing about the British tabloid music press is their sensationalism and desperation in "discovering" a new scene or phenomenon. Naturally, the "queercore" idea was perfect for their hype machine. Photo shoots were taken. Kids who never played an instrument in their lives did same-sex smooching for the camera, and claimed to be part of some queercore underground band. So, the name "queercore" stuck.

Meanwhile, in the US and Canada, there was already a healthy queer punk scene centered around a few bands, record labels and fanzines. Prior to the 90's, underground zines like Homocore, JD's, and Chainsaw set the stage for a movement that was yet to happen. Following a few years later, some of those seeds of inspiration began to sprout. Bands like Pansy Division and Tribe 8 were just playing their first shows at parties and tiny clubs in San Francisco in '91, and the Outpunk record label (and fanzine) began to materialize shortly thereafter. Queer punk scenes were popping out of every major US city, each with their own unique ideas, but very common bonds. In Chicago, two people started booking shows under the name "Homocore Chicago", putting on queer shows with punk bands that everyone loved. In NYC, the Riot Grrrl chapter (see next paragraph) also starting doing queer shows, adding new meaning to the idea of "girl love". Bands like Double Zero and God Is My Co-Pilot became staples of a small but growing scene. Bands like Fifth Column (homocore veterans) from Toronto and Cheesecake from Boston always made treks down to check out what was happening in NYC.

It was around this time in early '92 that something called "Riot Grrrl" started to take off. It was a grassroots feminist movement started in the punk scene and personified by leading bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile. Tired of the overwhelming lameness of the sexist punk scene and isolated by the lack of women getting involved in music, Riot Grrrl blasted new territory for a new wave of women getting into punk. As the underground feminist movement gathered steam, the queercore movement started to take notice. Inspired by their courage and the idea that they as individuals were important, queercore participants (both female and male) were just as much into Riot Grrrl music and ideas as their own. It seemed only natural that the two would co-exist together and feed off of each other. This is especially true considering that many popular leaders of the Riot Grrrl movement were also queer.

As this was happening, kids in the middle of nowhere were listening to queer punk and Riot Grrrl music in their bedrooms, ordering fanzines and making their own to trade through the mail. They may not have had a cozy circle of local friends to hang out with and share these ideas, but at least they had what they held in their hands and what they could exchange through the mail and at occasional music shows. This is still true today, where the idea of a queercore movement is at best theoretical to so many kids who just don't have the security or resources to be able to participate the way people in big cities can. Even if queercore chapters aren't in every high school in America, kids can create their own environment by surrounding themselves with its products, to someday be able to realize their true identities. That is just as important as anything you hear about the bands and individuals who get attention in the media. It's a hands-on movement, where you are important. It's not perfect, but at least it's real.

Today, there's a formidable amount of activity that can be lumped into the general term "queercore". Since the queer punk movement has been so successful, many outsiders have taken a cue from its blunt openness and lack of compromise. This has led to a very diverse assortment of music and ideas, mostly welcomed with open arms by the queer punk movement and those on its fringes. What exactly constitutes "queercore" is perhaps up to the individual, but there are many people who believe that it's something that you can just recognize when you see it. Rather than factionalize and define a movement by what it isn't, many people involved embrace the fact that because it's so diverse, it's more interesting and has more potential for growth. Many people opt to use the term "queercore" to get away from the images conjured up by the "punk" association, as a way to include queer punk and anything that mirrors its basic ideals. I suspect that there will always be those who disagree on this point, but so it goes. As larger bands and media take on more and more queer presence, the impetus of queercore gets lost in the perceived acceptance of homosexuality in popular culture. Even as gay people get more attention in general, the queercore movement is more concerned with making great music and spreading new ideas than, say, attending an Ivy League college or appearing in a fitness infomercial.

Queercore in 1996 is a very real presence, encompassing bands like the ones that I mentioned in my opening paragraphs, to newer ones that are gaining large followings. Bands like Team Dresch, Behead the Prophet No Lord Shall Live, Sta-Prest, The Third Sex, The Need, Mouthfull and many others are all exploding with their own unique energy and take on what this whole queercore thing's about. There is also a simultaneous influx of popular bands with openly queer members like Skunk Anansie, Echobelly, the Breeders, Luscious Jackson, and even Hole (drummer Patty Schemel is the dyke presence behind that group). It's becoming "no big deal" to be queer and open about it in music today. Whether or not this will stand the test of time is a topic of discussion, as popular ideas are subject to the trends and whims of the general public. One thing that is for sure is that for the underground queercore scene, it's just a part of life, and something that's just too fun to give up. You can count on queercore to last for some time into the future. It's all quite exciting, really!

Next time I will write more about the main bands I touched on, and give a history of their recorded output that you can buy yourself. I'll include addresses that you can write to and information on how to order queercore fanzines as well. It's just becoming so much to talk about that I couldn't possibly write it all down here and still make it interesting. My attention span is just too short as it is. In following issues of Oasis, I'll finally be able to bring this back to the present, where I'll hopefully review all the new and upcoming music that's happening today. Until then, keep checking back here for a new column, or get a hold of an issue of Outpunk fanzine or the Holy Titclamps Queer Zine Explosion (!).

Thanks everybody!

-Midol (midol@coolbeans.com)


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