Tag Archives: belonging

Shitty articles about punk’s “faux-inclusivity”

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.

Save Yourself

"Save Yourself." 11/19/13. Pens and markers. 5x6½".
“Save Yourself.” 11/19/13. Pens and markers. 5×6½”.

After missing five in a row, I’m getting back into the swing of my Tuesday morning NA meeting. Save for an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that I went to once (somewhat unintentionally), it’s the only one I’ve ever been to in Jacksonville. I go because I figure it’s good for me or – at the very least – it’s not bad for me. When the time rolls around each week, I don’t usually want to go but that’s sort of why I do. It’s so rare these days that I have to do anything that I don’t want to; I feel like an NA meeting each week is a good way to stay in practice for the times when something I’m even more averse to comes up. It’s self-discipline of sorts.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t draw while I’m sitting there, but I do it pretty discreetly (on the pages of my text) and I don’t draw anything that requires the kind of concentration that’d prevent me from paying attention to everything being said. Yesterday, I drew this on page 390 of my Narcotics Anonymous book and then added the color later on at home. The title/sentiment is part repetition of “Selfish Program” and part preemptive “fuck off”/”take your own inventory” to anyone who might get it in their head that they’re my unsolicited new sponsor.

The meeting was on the eleventh tradition, which “deals with our relationship to those outside the Fellowship [of Narcotics Anonymous].” Specifically, “we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and film” and “advertisements, circulars, and any literature that may reach the public’s hand.” That was written decades ago and some people think it should be updated to explicitly include the internet; I don’t see how anyone could interpret it as not already including the internet but – either way – I don’t maintain personal anonymity. The first sentence of my Bio has my real name because I think the power of a lot of my disclosure / honesty would be lost if I were using a pseudonym as a mask (and not just ’cause I’m a ridiculous human being). In any case, no one’s supposed to present themselves publicly as a member of Narcotics Anonymous and no one should ever purport to represent Narcotics Anonymous. [By the way, these guidelines are virtually identical in every twelve-step program (those I’m familiar with anyway)].

So I was thinking about that: Do I violate the Eleventh Tradition with (just about) every thing I do?

My answer: Nah. If I were to ask anyone at my regular meeting if I’m a member of NA, they’d say,”Of course!,” and pat me on the back to assuage my doubt. But do I consider myself a member of NA? Not really.

Yeah, I’ve worked the steps, I go to meetings (sometimes), and the way I live is pretty thoroughly in line with the principles and recommendations of the program – but that’s not because they’re the principles and recommendations of the program; we just happen to line up more often than not. And I certainly don’t purport to be a representative of any group/program. Shit – I’m not sure I’ve ever brought up AA or NA [in my writing] without making some kind of distinction between their program and mine.

While I’d recommend a twelve-step program to anyone struggling with anything, none of those programs were the magic bullet for me. The words in their books don’t resonate with me the way they do with others “in the rooms.” A lot of people say, “AA/NA saved my life.” I am not one of those people.

My counselor, Tracy, saved my life. Julie and expressive art therapy saved my life. It was everyone at Tranquil Shores (and everyone that supported me from outside) that saved my life.

And punk rock? Well, if I’m being honest, it didn’t really do SHIT in the life saving department but – without it – who would even wanna live?

“Icepick” by Tenement

This Might Be Bullshit

"This Might Be Bullshit." 1/11/13. Pen. 8½x11".
“This Might Be Bullshit.” 1/11/13. Pen. 8½x11″.

I was still inpatient when I made this. It was the product of the my first episode after “No Accident.” A full month had passed since then, which was longer than I could remember having gone without an emotional breakdown of one kind or another but I was still pretty disappointed with myself. If December 12th (the day I made “No Accident”) was my “emotional sobriety date,” this was most definitely my emotional relapse. I picked right back up with the kind of negative self-talk that had ruled my brain for most of my life. The body of the text reads:

I thought I found a place where I belonged. I wasn’t wrong. At the time. But time has passed and I don’t fit in here anymore. I can’t stall. I can’t adapt. I have to move on. Ready or not.

I’m already dead.

I don’t measure up. It’s who I am. It’s not sad. It just is. Nothing lasts forever and we can’t all be astronauts.

I’m not exactly sure what I meant with that last word. I’m sure it was an allusion to something I had heard (or something that had happened) recently. The rest of the text in the piece appears in bits and pieces, scattered throughout.

  • Outsider art.
  • It’s time for me to go home. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
  • Please break my hands and kick my fucking teeth in.
  • [I’m] tired of me taking up space and time.
  • Fuck my stupid fucking life.
  • No amount of any anything from me could ever be enough.


Tonight was the opening reception for my first art show. My emotional reaction to it was very much in tune with the painting I’m working on right now, so I’ll probably work it into that and share more about it once the painting is done.

In a few words though, the response tonight was such that it could very easily be interpreted as having implications that are either wildly positive and encouraging or terribly crushing and depressing. I’m working to get to a place of strictly gratitude though (and I’m almost there). To the people that did come out, I can’t thank you enough. Not just for showing up, but for really showing up. It means a lot to me. It’s keeping me going.