I grew up in the late ‘90s/early 2000s, when pop music was at it’s peak and if a song didn’t use autotune it was considered primal; looking at my CD and tape collection as a child you would hardly have known I was of that era. Initially, it wasn’t that I was a hipster from a young age, seeking ways to defy society’s expectations of me, I was simply very poor. My TV had five channels and not one of them played music; we had a radio which mostly blasted out Classic FM and the occasional local channel. My only other access to music was via my older relatives so if you were to have asked six-year-old AB what their favourite music genre was, they’d have probably told you ‘rock and folk-punk’. By the age of seven my collection of badly recorded tapes and copied CDs was increasing with the addition of my best friend’s access to a CD re-writer. My taste in music was also developing. Kids at school were telling me to listen to the Black Eyed Peas and asking me who my favourite Spice Girl was and I was staring at them with a look of confusion which earned me the nickname ‘weirdo’ (not the most original, but we lived in suburbia and there was little access to creative and insulting vocabulary).
While they were watching MTV on their multi-channel TVs, I was heading to my friend’s house to see what latest music he’d found in his own hand-me-down CD collection. One day, he had a Green Day CD which he had freshly copied for me (I maintain that pirating CDs is legal if you’re poor and nine years old). I had heard Green Day before, via a boombox, blasting from an older relative’s bedroom in my house but I had never really listened. Little did I know, I was even wearing a hand-me-down Kerplunk T-Shirt as pyjamas as a child. Aged eight or nine years old, Green Day had a sudden and huge impact on me. These weren’t songs about ‘hanging with my girlfriend’ or ‘i’m in love with a boy and he doesn’t love me back!’, these were songs about anarchy, anger, sadness and passion. They were songs about isolation and community, about class divide and broken homes. They were about all the feelings and ideas that we were supposed to suppress and I fucking loved it.
A few years later I was still listening to copied Green Day CDs on my walkman portable CD player and then, eventually, an MP3 player (which, yes, you guessed it, was a hand-me-down). I was also realising that I was queer. Retrospectively, I was also experimenting with gender, but I can’t say that I actively knew I was doing that at the time. Punk music had taught me to rebel, it had taught me to question societal expectations and rules. At eleven, when I searched ‘bisexual’ into my AOL browser, frantically checking away from my family computer screen to ensure that nobody was watching me, I once again found Billie-Joe Armstrong. I found a rough quote in which he mentions his own bisexuality and the ‘beauty’ and ‘nature’ of bisexuality. Once again, punk, and, specifically Green Day, was a source of validation in my life. Without the influence of the accepting yet anarchistic punk scene, I don’t know that I would have accepted myself at such a young age with such a limited, suburban and christian background. For me, punk is inherently tied to queerness. It represents and teaches activism through anarchy and fighting for ideals outside of the social norm.
Stay tuned for a future post on punk style and queerness. What was your music taste as a child? Has it changed much or played a big part in your identity? I’d love to hear more in comments or in your own post.- AB
Here’s a pretty cool article on queer+ people in the punk scene.
featured image not owned by me, no copyright infringement intended