Since the mid-’80s, an enigmatic force has pulled curious people underground into the queer, hardcore pleasures of punk. They’ve been unable to resist the force of its allure, gripped by its primitive rhythms and latex-bearing idols, dedicating themselves to its cheeky political rabble-rousing. Nearly four decades before Pride Month became an opportunity for brands (and some bands, let’s be real) to pretend they care about the well-being of the LGBTQIA+ community, queercore (homocore, if you’re nasty) salvaged punk, taking a nihilistic genre and making it smart and fun again. And punk, we should point out, has always been gay as hell, from the very beginning of the four-letter word. “Losers, freaks, and deviants started this movement,” says Penny Arcade in the 2017 documentary Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution.
As a subgenre, however, queercore added more fodder to the already established laundry list of gripes of nonconservative, non-jerks. Rightfully so; take a look around at how the world has been since the start. But just as punk’s original meaning was derogatory, signifying a “criminal” or “hoodlum,” old definitions of queer have the same air, intimating a “weirdness” about a person and making them “deserving” of exclusion. Both terms defy societal myopia, both have been embraced by the communities they’re meant to reject, both advocate for a new world. In a sense, punk and queerness are a match made in hell—it’s a lot more fun than heaven, anyway.
But the ways in which punk has been written, historically, are mad privileged. Joe Strummer’s dad attained the rank of second secretary in the foreign service. And for some of these fools who didn’t benefit from incredible class privilege, they certainly benefited from their whiteness, their cis het identities. Queercore, and its many intersectional marginalizations, offer an insider’s perspective to being an outsider; it is punk, but, like, more punk. And here’s how it happened.