I just read another article (this one from The Guardian, penned by a member of Ramshackle Glory) condemning punk rock as being some club for straight white boys. The author, a white trans woman, laments that white males ” get to be their whole authentic selves on stage and off” while other punks like her are stuck feeling like they’re “being given permission to play along.”
I’m not gonna laundry list women who play a major role in this scene in order to counter the author’s argument that “men run the scene, men are the scene, and men always have been and probably always will be at the center of the scene.” What I am gonna do is explain why I find these articles so frustrating.
I am white, straight, and (for all intents and purposes) male. I qualify that last one ’cause I was the kind of kid who grew up getting called a “pussy” and a “faggot.” I wear tight low-waisted jeans and crop tops. In other words, I’m not the most masculine guy around. I still refer to myself as a “kid” not because I have delusions about my age (29) but because the word “man” makes me uncomfortable.
Anyway, I’ve played in punk bands, written for punk zines, and I used to run a punk record label. I have more friends in punk rock than I can count and – by any outsider’s estimation – it’s almost certainly inarguable that I have been accepted by (and my contributions have been valued by) the punk community. And you know what? I still don’t feel like I belong. I still feel anxious at shows, I still don’t ever feel secure, I still feel like I exist on the fringe of the community and like I’ve somehow snuck past the guard and tricked the others into thinking that I belong here. Do you know why? Because I’m a weirdo, an emotional fucking basketcase, and a perpetual outsider. In other words, I’m a punk.
My problem with these articles has nothing to do with race, gender, or anything like that. My problem is that the authors always assume that these feelings of alienation and discomfort are something that they have a monopoly on. They don’t. We’re all fucked up and we’re all broken; that’s why we came to punk rock in the first place. That’s why we were fucking born into punk rock. Because there’s something that’s not quite right about all of us. And that sensation of not belonging has a lot more to do with our own fractured psyches than gender, orientation, or anything that we can blame punk for. This scene bends over backward to make sure that we all feel like we’re welcome. I know because I’ve seen it and because – despite my own sense that I’m some kind of outsider or intruder – I still fake the role of ambassador and make those efforts to try and help others feel comfortable, welcome, and wanted in this scene.
If you feel like you can’t be your “whole authentic self” in this community, I’ve got some advice for you: DO IT ANYWAY. Instead of writing editorials bad mouthing this scene (that, for all its flaws, has given us all more than we could ever hope to give back to it) why don’t you brave up and fucking be yourself? I can’t promise you that you won’t still feel like a fucking weirdo. In fact, you’re probably still gonna feel like you don’t quite belong. Just like the rest of us.
And that’s okay. It’s why we’re here.