Queercore Gets Oral

By: Michael Matson

The involvement of gays and lesbians in the punk rock movement is often overlooked. Sure, any in-depth exploration of the original 1970s counterculture explosion acknowledges the role LGBT people played in the early days of that all-inclusive scene, but also rightly notes that many moved on in the '80s after the scene mutated into something decidedly more testosterone fueled.

At the same time, the community was conforming to new rules of physical perfection. In the 1970s, gay men hit the gym to counter the "sissy" stereotype by adopting more traditionally masculine body types, and continued doing so as a means of looking ‘healthy” once the AIDS crisis reared it’s ugly head. Dance music became the official soundtrack for mainstream gays during this time, which left many queer fans of underground and alternative music feeling alienated from their own subculture.

By 1985, neo-conservatives in the Reagan administration had declared war on gay people, and a defiant new movement fermented among LGBT people. It was known initially as Homocore and eventually as Queercore.

Originally centered around the written word in zines such as Bruce LaBruce’s J.D’s and Johnny Noxzema’s Bimbox, Queercore would quickly mutate into a music-driven scene that produced bands such as Team Dresch, Tribe 8, and Pansy Division, and performers including Vaginal Davis and Justin Vivian Bond.

Along the way, key players, observers, and participants included writer Dennis Cooper, musician Bob Mould, and the band Green Day, who brought Queercore group Pansy Division along as the supporting act for their first major label concert tour. Out magazine editor Adam Rathe talks to these key players and many more in his thorough oral history of the movement in the publication's May issue.

Titled “Queer to the Core,” the feature shines a light on a movement that “changed the world (whether you knew it or not),” and includes many rare photos, fliers, and album artwork from Queercore's heyday. People who experienced the movement will delight in the personal politics revealed in Rathe’s article, while queer youth hungry for information about LGBTQ history will find it a satisfying introductory course.

Read Queer to the Core by Adam Rathe here.