Punk is Gay
Perhaps it is ironic to celebrate one’s 21st birthday by going to an all-ages punk club. To little straight-edge me, however, it made perfect sense. So it was that we found ourselves (“we” being my partner, my friend Nina, and me) at 924 Gilman a couple weeks ago.
The band we went to see was the headliner, if a headliner could be said to exist. At the very least, it was coming on late. We took in several other acts before it did, mostly with pleasure. In between sets, we browsed through band merch. I found myself a bootleg DVD of The Decline Of Western Civilization, a movie which is a minor obsession of mine. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better birthday present.
Mid-way through the evening, a group from Los Angeles came on, comprised of four or five well-fed middle-aged white males, who I read as cis and probably straight. “We’re a bunch of old fucks who’ve been playing punk rock since before you homos were abortions,” the front man sneered affectedly into the mic.
My initial reaction was to roll my eyes and try not to care. Glossing over shit like that isn’t really my style, but it was my birthday, god damn it. I wanted to hear some good music. And there was nothing wrong with the music these guys played. But after the second “homo” reference made between songs, I started to feel strange.
Gilman has a “no homophobia” policy, which the front man himself gigglingly referred to: “Ooh, we’re gonna get 86’d.” But it wasn’t even the club’s failure to enforce the rules that bothered me. After all, it is volunteer-run, and “security” that night consisted of a bunch of untrained teenagers. No, what bothered me was that the mostly male crowd was really getting into this band. The pit was teeming, heads were nodding to the beat. The general sentiment seemed to be “hell yeah.” With every passing moment, Gilman felt less to me like a punk club and more like a frat party. It looked like my friends and I were the only queers there. Certainly nobody but us seemed to care about the word “homo” being tossed around as a negative.
Sentiment runs high quickly in a venue like Gilman. Already adrenaline high from the loud music and the mosh pit, it didn’t take much more to set us off. After another H-bomb dropped by the leering frontman, my S.O. and I found ourselves at the front of the stage, along with one other young guy, screaming at the band, cursing them out and giving them the finger. But in a setting where it’s almost normal to yell “fuck you!” at a band that you like, a genuine “fuck you!” feels a bit diluted. The singer just laughed and laughed at us. Frustrated, I grabbed his mic and threw it off the stage.
In a few minutes, security came over to have words with me. I expressed that I was unhappy with the homophobic performers. The doorman apologized and said he understood. But the band got to finish their set anyway.
When they were packing up their gear, some eleventeen-year-old hopped up on stage, grabbed a mic and lisped, “They didn’t mean it, they did it for the shock value.”
Jeez. Out of the mouths of babes.
The thing is, that kid was onto something.