The word “disappointed” does not even begin to describe how I felt tonight upon finishing the book Homocore: The loud and raucous rise of queer rock by David Ciminelli and Ken Knox. The fact that this book blows is probably old news to some of you, but to those queercore fans who don’t know, let me tell you so you can avoid my mistake.
Homocore posits itself as a comprehensive review of the history of the queercore movement. The back cover lists already renowned queercore bands (Pansy Division, Team Dresch, the Skinjobs), as well as some I haven’t heard of (Extra Fancy, Super 8 Cum Shot), and says that it was written by a “queer music insider” (Ciminelli) and a freelance journalist. I was pretty stoked to come across this book–I don’t know how I had missed it for the past four years–since it sounded like EXACTLY what I wanted to read.
It turned out to be anything but.
Let’s list the ways in which this book sucks, shall we?
- The authors have no understanding of what the queercore movement actually is. Apparently, to make queercore music, all you have to do is be a gay musician. At least, that’s what the heaps of interviews with gay musicians (who don’t make music about being queer, nor identify with the queercore movement) in Homocore would lead you to believe.
Well, that’s just plain wrong. As Wikipedia explains, “Queercore is a cultural and social movement that began in the mid-1980s as an offshoot of punk. It is distinguished by a discontent with society in general and a complete disapproval of the gay and lesbian community and its ‘oppressive agenda.'” Being “part of the movement” and being politically invested in being lgbtq–that is, singing about it, talking about it with the press, making it an important part of your band’s identity–is central to being “queercore.” As is being anti-assimilation, anti-corporation (a surprising amount of the musicians interviewed were once signed to major labels, or were actively seeking major label contracts), anti-sexism/racism/etc, and pro-DIY and social justice. Yet, the book never makes that clear; it’s my guess that it’s because the authors themselves never knew exactly what queercore means.
- The rich history of the queercore movement is, for the most part, ignored. It’s no secret that the origins of queercore contain equal parts riot grrrl and ACT-UP. This fact is inescapable. It’s present in the queercore zines that circulated alongside riot grrrl zines, and in the pamphlets and posters that advertised queercore concerts next to flyers for ACT-UP zaps.
However, if you didn’t already know this, you would have no way of learning it by reading Homocore. Instead, you’d be inclined to think that the queercore movement just materialized out of thin air in the mid-90’s, inspired to manifest itself simply because some gays didn’t dig disco. You wouldn’t understand how the queercore movement came out of the urgency of the AIDS crisis and the realization of many lgbtq youth that mainstream gay rights activists didn’t speak for them. You wouldn’t understand how young queer punks rebelled against the assimilationist agenda that existed (and still exists) within the lgbtq community at large. You wouldn’t know about the important art that came along with the queercore movement, and the importance that zines had in communicating across state and country lines the experiences of queers in small towns and big, gay cities alike. You wouldn’t know how queercore inspired youths in other subcultures to make “the personal, political”; queer skinheads, metalheads, hip-hop heads (and so on and so forth) were inspired to turn the tables on their larger, homophobic communities and claim a space for themselves (and others) because of the queercore movement. You’d have no idea who our foremothers and -fathers were (see Point #3 for more about that), and how they changed both the lgbtq and larger, mainstream communities forever through their art and activism. And that’s just sad.
- Important queercore bands and individuals are also ignored (or, at the very least, not given the attention they deserve). Let’s review just a handful of the bands who were left out of Homocore: Limp Wrist, Behead the Prophet, No Lord Shall Live, The Dicks, Sleater-Kinney, Gravy Train!!!!, The Haggard, Big Boys, The Need, The Gossip, Tammy Rae Carland, Mukilteo Fairies, Joshua Ploeg, Larry-bob, The Moves, Tribe 8, Fagatron and Le Tigre. (To name just a few.)
Other bands, individuals, and labels that were mentioned but barely got more than a paragraph: Bruce LaBruce + GB Jones (ORIGINATORS of the queercore movement, for fuck’s sake), Matt Wobensmith of Outpunk, Vaginal Creme Davis, Mr. Lady Records, Heartcore Records, Allison Wolfe, Mike Bullshit of GO!, and Tracy + the Plastics. (Again, just to name a few.)
- The book wasn’t researched. Or fact-checked. At all. Now, I don’t know this for sure, but based on Points 2 and 3, and taking into account random misinformation sprinkled liberally throughout the text (such as the assertion that Kathleen Hanna is an openly gay woman–tell that to Ad-Rock), I’m guessing that they outsourced their fact-checking duties. They then wiped their asses with the results, fed them to their dogs, then ran the dogs’ shit through a shredder, then read the splatter of results like tea leaves. Again, it’s just a guess…but it would make the egregious amount of omissions and errors make a bit more sense.
- Male musicians are given preference over female musicians. Most of the male musicians featured in the book are given pages upon pages to describe the most mundane details of “how they came to be a rock n roller”–the authors include just about everything but what color their turds are–and that same level of attention is not given to most female musicians included in Homocore. That’s especially sad, because I know lots of womyn who’d be psyched to know what color Kaia Wilson‘s poop is. Just sayin’.
But seriously–when I know more about the daily life of Brian Grillo than I do about the basic musicianship of, say, Amy Ray or Kaia Wilson (two women who are given the most time in the book), that’s a sad statement on the authors’ commitment to documenting all aspects of queercore (and not just those aspects with nice abs).
- There’s no attention paid to the influence that the queercore movement had beyond music. No talk of art (Sex Workers’ Art Show, Wynne Greenwood, K8 Hardy), pornography (NoFauxxx, Pink and White Productions, the rise of “dyke” porn), politics (Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Gay Shame), or literature (Michelle Tea, Lynn Breedlove).
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, though, since there’s no context given to the movement in historical terms, either.
To be fair, let’s also talk about what the authors did right:
I think you get the point.
There’s obviously a lot wrong with Homocore. And unfortunately there’s not anything that can be done, since the book’s already out there, spreading misinformation to heaps of curious teens and lazy journalists.
So, I’m going to do my part to fill in this the gaps in information that Ciminelli and Knox couldn’t. I’m going to write my little heart out about at least some of the bands and zines that I post, so that at least the information is out there. Because these artists, all of whom have been integral to the current state of lgbtq culture, need to be remembered. And you can’t leave that to The Man (or, The Men), apparently.
I hope you’ll bear with me, my ponies.