For just under $2000 you can grab a pair of Gucci‘s Queercore brogue pumps. Adorned in leather and crystals, snake detailing and a Dionysus inspired buckle, for which Queercore has “lended its name.”
You too can “reflect the spirit” of the aggressively proud, sexual, defiant, anti-capitalist movement that over 30 years ago liberated countless queer people who rejected mainstream culture. All with just a credit card and access to a Gucci store.
Queercore, this is not.
What Gucci seems to have forgotten is that Queercore was greater than studs and leather. It was a moment in queer history that permitted a community to live outside of a world that told them they are wrong.
Power of the Zine
During the 1980s, after the sexual empowerment of the 60s and 70s, the queer community again faced sexual oppression under the AID’s epidemic. The propaganda of the time tricked much of the queer community into two choices; assimilate to a capitalistic gay lifestyle and be trapped, or embrace a queer lifestyle which will lead you to become diseased and die.
Queercore gave so many an escape, somewhere they belonged outside of a materialistic trap.
The movement began as Homocore, before bands encompassing all gender and sexuality identities hit the stage, making way for Queercore. It’s roots lie in Toronto, Canada where amongst the DIY zines of the 80’s punk movement, queer artists Bruce LaBruce and GB Jones published J.D’s, the queer punk zine from which Queercore was born.
Punk fans created the Queercore movement by trading these hand written, copied, cut and stapled zines. Born out of rejection of conformist gay lifestyles, the content was confronting. The overtly queer pornography and often violent stories created a space for queer people more interested in anarchy than the bourgeoise.
In a pre-internet world these zines allowed many distant from Queercore hubs such as San Fransisco or Toronto to learn from and participate in a culture that freed them from heteronormative existences. The culture spread Australia with ‘The Burning Times’ being published in Melbourne in the mid 90s, a zine that covered both local and international bands such a Pansy Division.
Smells Like Queer Spirit
Pansy Division were the first openly gay rock band to serve mainstream audiences, arguably making them the most successful. Formed from frustration at the lack of queer musicians, the band blew the closet doors open in 1991. Singer/songwriter Jon Ginoli and bassist Chris Freeman set out with he intention of creating a gay rock band.
During their intense tour of California, Lookout Records! took notice of the band. Having signed Greenday five years earlier, Pansy Division became their newest act, releasing their first album Undressed on the label.
The music is not only unashamedly queer, but delivers the humour of an Armistead Maupin novel. Releasing an album a year with song titles along the lines of “Fem in a Black Leather Jacket”, “Jack U Off”, and my personal favourite “Big Bottom”.
The daring gay sexuality and humour in the bands songwriting erected a queer punk refuge. In 1994 label mates Greenday gave the band the chance to come out to the world. While in the eye of the storm of Dookie, Greenday invited Pansy Division to tour with them.
Greenday were doing very well for themselves, having sold 20 million copies of Dookie. Meanwhile, Pansy Division were playing nude to try and draw crowds into tiny venues.
With Greenday, they played their horny, euphemism free songs to thousands of teen punks. Shooting their popularity to a realm unseen for a queer act, Pansy Division have sustained a career lasting over a quarter-century. While their 2016 studio album, Quite Contrary may deal with gay sex more mildly, their intelligence and humour proudly stands. They still confront us with the realities of homosexuality, but in a more seasoned fashion.
Pansy Division are special. Queercore is special. The movement broke boundaries on all facets of identity. Queer people can be unapologetically punk, and punk rockers can be unapologetically queer.
In todays commercial climate that continues to idolise capitalism, there’s a lot to be said of the community who were able to reject this for a life in which they felt truly free – and it has nothing to do with Gucci.