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Queercore is a cultural and social movement which arose in the mid 1980s. It is distinguished by discontent with society in general and a disavowal of the mainstream gay and lesbian community in particular, expressing itself through zines, music, writing, art and film.


The early years

J.D.s, created by G.B. Jones and Bruce LaBruce, is widely acknowledged as being the zine which launched the movement. At first the editors of J.D.s had chosen the appellation "homocore" to describe the movement but replaced the word homo with queer to better reflect the diversity of the scene as well as to position themselves firmly outside of gay and lesbian orthodoxy. The first issue was released in 1985, with a manifesto entitled "Don't Be Gay" published in the fanzine Maximum RocknRoll following soon after; inspiring, among many other zines, Holy Titclamps, edited by Larry-bob, Homocore by Tom Jennings and Deke Nihilson, Donna Dresch's Chainsaw, and Outpunk by Matt Wobensmith, these last two later functioning as music labels. These zines, and the movement, are characterized by sexual and gender diversity; dissatisfaction with a consumerist culture, proposing a DIY ethos in its place; and opposition to religious and political repression.


In 1990, the J.D.s editors released the first queercore compilation, J.D.s Top Ten Homocore Hit Parade Tape, a cassette which included bands from Canada, such as Fifth Column; Nikki Parasite and Bomb from the U.S.; from England, The Apostles, Academy 23 and No Brain Cells; and, from New Zealand, Gorse. During this period of queercore, during the late 1980s to the early 1990s, many of the punk rock bands involved were not necessarily queer but their ethics were motivation for supporting this movement. Other bands, such as Los Crudos, had one queer and outspoken member. The sexuality of band members has never been an issue in the choice to align oneself with the Queercore movement or not. Other early queercore bands included Anti-Scrunti Faction, who appeared in J.D.s and Comrades In Arms, Homocore editor Deke Nihilson's band. Shortly after the release of the tape J.D.s ceased publication and a new crop of zines arose, such as Jane and Frankie by Klaus and Jena von Brücker, Shrimp by Vaginal Davis and Fanorama by REB. The first queer zine gathering occurred at this time; "Spew", held in Chicago in 1991, offered an opportunity for all those involved in the scene to meet. Although organizer Steve LaFreniere was stabbed outside the venue at the end of the night, he quickly recovered and the event was deemed a success. The next Spew took place in Los Angeles in 1992, and Spew III in Toronto in 1993. These Spew events also included musical performances by queercore bands.

Among the better known bands from the early 1990s are Fifth Column, God Is My Co-Pilot, Pansy Division, Sister George, Team Dresch, Tribe 8 and Mukilteo Fairies. During this time, there were dozens of zines being produced as awareness of the movement grew worldwide; The Burning Times from Australia, Speeddemon from Italy, and Brazilian e-zine Queercore, to offer just a few examples. In Miami, Marilyn Medusa, a zine by Gregory Gajus, was one of the early attempts to merge queercore with a pagan sensibility.

In Chicago, Mark Freitas and Joanna Brown organized a monthly "Homocore" night that featured queercore bands performing live, offering a stable venue for the scene to proliferate; most of the bands mentioned played at Homocore Chicago. As well, as Amy Spencer notes in DIY: The Rise of Lo-Fi Culture, "Through Homocore events, they aimed to create a space for men and women to be together, as opposed to the sense of gender segregation which was the norm in mainstream gay culture - They attacked the idea that due to your sexuality you should be offered only one choice of social scene..."

It was in the early 1990s that Matt Wobensmith's zine Outpunk also became a record label, and began to release its own queercore compilations, singles, and albums, and was crucial to the development of queercore. The first recordings by Tribe 8 and Pansy Division were released by the label. Some of the bands appearing later in the mid-1990s on the label include Sta-Prest, Cypher In The Snow and Behead The Prophet, No Lord Shall Live.

It was also at this time in the early 1990's that Riot Grrrl emerged and, as queercore was one of its inspirations, some of the zines, participants and bands like Excuse 17 were involved in both movements.

Independent record labels such as Alternative Tentacles, K Records, Kill Rock Stars and Lookout! Records supported and released material by queercore artists also, but in the late 1990's, after Outpunk had ceased, several other small labels sprung up solely devoted to queercore. Chainsaw Records, which had begun in the mid-90's, now began to release many recordings of newer bands such as The Need, The Third Sex and Longstocking. Heartcore Records is another label, whose bands have included The Little Deaths, Addicted2Fiction, Crowns On 45 and Ninja Death Squad. These bands, many of whom are no longer together, constituted the 'second wave' of queercore bands which also included Subtonix, Best Revenge and Fagatron. Both labels are still active and are still releasing new material.

As a musical genre, it may be distinguished by lyrics exploring themes of prejudice and dealing with issues such as sexual identity, gender identity and the rights of the individual; more generally bands offer a critique of society endemic to their position within it, sometimes in a light-hearted way, sometimes seriously. Musically, many queercore bands originated in the punk scene but the industrial music culture has been influential as well. Queercore groups encompass many genres such as hardcore punk, synthpunk, indie rock, power pop, no wave, noise, experimental, industrial and others.

In 1996 in San Francisco, the Dirtybird 96 Queercore Festival presaged other queer music gatherings which occurred in the following decade.


In the 2000s, Queercore club nights and events continued to take place throughout Europe and North America. The festival Queer Panic was organized by Gordon Gordon of the zine Teen Fag in Seattle, Washington in June of 2000. Scutterfest was organized by Rudy Bleu of the zine Scutter in Los Angeles, California in 2000, 2001, and 2003. The Bent Festival was held in Seattle in 2002 and 2003. The festival Homo-a-go-go was held the summers of 2002 and 2004 in Olympia, Washington, featuring queer films, zines, performance and musical groups during the week-long event; another is planned for the summer of 2006. Queeruption, which takes place in a different city each year, has been hosted by Berlin, Rome, New York and London in the past. In 2004 and 2005, a group of queercore bands toured throughout the U.S.; the tour was called Queercore Blitz and was yet another way to connect the like-minded. Queer groups that are flourishing now in the UK are Queers Without Borders, Queer Mutiny North and Cardiff Queer Mutiny.

16 records is a new queercore label that has been releasing albums by such Pacific Northwest bands as Shemo, The Haggard, and Swan Island, as well as the Brazilian band Dominatrix.

Representing a more contemporary breed of hardcore punk are the straight edge band Limp Wrist from the United States. From Germany come Low End Models, an all-women band. Beyond Pink are from Sweden and Kids Like Us out of Norway. Three Dollar Bill from Chicago are more eclectic, ranging from punk to indie rock to metal. Kids On TV, from Toronto, with an industrial background, offer a new, more electronic direction for queercore as do Lesbians On Ecstasy, from Montreal. The Hidden Cameras are an anti-folk band from Toronto. ASSACRE is a one man fantasy metal/spazz noise act from Austin, Texas. With each new band the range of musical genres expands the definition of Queercore.


Influences vary for each musician, zine editor and filmmaker involved, but it is doubtful that queercore would have come into existence without the atmosphere surrounding the early punk years. Performers at that time either conspicuously played with conceptions of gender, such as Wayne County of Wayne County & the Electric Chairs and Phranc from the aptly named Nervous Gender or, like, Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks, Darby Crash of The Germs, members of The Screamers, The Leather Nun, Malaria and other bands, were not interested in hiding their sexuality. In 1979, members of Nervous Gender told Slash magazine,"...people think we're weird cause we're queer." The early punk scene with its connections to artists had an inherent diversity of sexualities; Vivienne Westwood used homoerotic Tom of Finland imagery for her now iconic punk t-shirts and punk style incorporated fetish wear that, while employed to shock, also signalled acceptance to those in the know. Many artists who later came to be known as 'Industrial' such as Throbbing Gristle and Coil, employing similar shock tactics, also had queer members and were equally influential. In the seminal punk film Jubilee, Derek Jarman captured the ambivalent and ambiguous sexuality of punk's early years.

Later, in the U.S. during the eighties when the Hardcore punk scene arose, The Dicks' Gary Floyd was writing queer-themed songs, as were many hardcore bands, except that he, along with Randy Turner of Big Boys were both open about being homosexuals. In England, in the anarcho-punk scene, Andy Martin of The Apostles was equally forthright. Politically motivated bands such as MDC in the U.S. were also introducing anti-homophobia messages into their songs at this time. However, it was the confrontational attitude and shock tactics of the punk and industrial scenes that Queercore employed, rather than activism, or politics, or the mainstream approval and major label deals that gay and lesbian musicians of that time courted, since those involved in the queercore scene weren't seeking the acceptance of society, be it homosexual or heterosexual, but rather to condemn it.

Filmmakers such as Kenneth Anger, Jack Smith, early Andy Warhol and John Waters, Vivienne Dick and the aforementioned Derek Jarman were influential also, with their depictions of queer subcultures. In 1990 the editors of J.D.s began presenting J.D.s movie nights in various cities and, after the demise of J.D.s, each made films exploring the queercore mileau; Bruce LaBruce released No Skin off My Ass in 1991; G.B. Jones The Troublemakers was released in 1990 followed by The Yo-Yo Gang in 1992. In 1996, J.D.s contributor Anonymous Boy completed the first animated queercore film, Green Pubes. Documentary films about Queercore include Lucy Thane's 1996 release She's Real, Worse Than Queer; Queercore: A Punk-u-mentary by Scott Treleaven; Gay Shame '98 by Scott Berry and Tracy Flanagan's Rise Above: The Tribe 8 Documentary released in 2003. All these films impacted the scene and broadened the scope of Queercore to include film as another of its mediums of expression.

As with punk, queercore culture existed outside of the mainstream so zines were crucial to its development. Hundreds of zines formed an intercontinental network that enabled queercore to spread and allow those in smaller, more repressive communities to participate. The DIY attitude of punk was integral to queercore as well. In the 1990s, as the availability of the internet increased, many queercore zines, such as Noise Queen could be found online as well as in print. Even zine distributors such as Xerox Revolutionaries can be found on the internet, making queercore zines easy to find.

All these developments allowed queercore to become a self-sustaining and self-determined subculture, expressing itself through a variety of mediums independent from the straight and gay establishment.


  • Spencer, Amy; DIY: The Rise Of Lo-Fi Culture, Marion Boyars Publishers, London, England, 2005

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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