|I get e-mail from this kid I've been writing to in New Hampshire who sez he's going to bus to Boston to attend a Tribe 8 concert. Being a female band, he doesn't know what the audience will be like and he wants to make it clear that he's gay when he goes there because he's still searching for a boyfriend. He was thinking about making a shirt or something and wanted to know what I think.|
I e-mail him, "you don't have to put 'I want a boyfriend' on your t-shirt.
Just smile at the cute guys. If they smile back they probably are open to you
talking to them and are not scared of a cute fag like yourself."|
"Thats a good idea," he e-mails back. "Maybe the causal old-fashion way will work. I am not only open to cute boyfriends, thats too exclusive, my only requirement is that they have to be somewhere in the fifteen year old vacinity. Anyway, thanks!"
It's a lot easier to solve a fifteen-year-old's problems than my own.
But maybe problems solve themselves. Like the time last July when what started out as a vomit-inducing night ended up as our most kick-ass show.
That night Tony's van went down twice on the way to Czar Bar. The only reason we got there at all was because a woman and her five-year-old in a pickup truck were driving by and saw Tony's rainbow flag bumper sticker on back.
It was like a hundred degrees and two songs into our set the lights go out and so we all have to go out and stand outside the club. Everybody was bummed, and then Kyle suddenly comes over to me and goes, "Come on, let's sing something." So we got up on Tony's van and started singing "By The Time I Got To River Phoenix." Surprise, that's a song I wrote, not one of Kyle's. Kyle was really hamming it up, with his arms outstretched and everything, and I followed. Everyone was screaming. I think it was the coolest set we'd ever done. I mean, we sounded like Extra Fancy on steroids. Kyle took off his baggy Bermudas and had a skirt on underneath, and the crowd hooted. I took off my shirt to show my titclamps and the anarchy symbol I painted on my chest. Our hurt-boy vocals that end the chorus never sounded better. It was awesome, like the start of Boys Club getting street cred.
The only thing that spoiled the greatness of that night was that Kyle went home with this guy in a gay Christian cowpunk band. What do they, moo for Jesus or something?
Boys Club is me -- tall, skinny, white -- on bass; my ex-boyfriend Kyle -- also tall, skinny, white -- lead guitar and vocals; and Tony -- short, Filipino, and the manager of a very large warehouse -- on drums. We're pretty much a D.I.Y. band, but so's the whole scene. You get your ass in gear and do it yourself. So far we've played mostly at Czar Bar on the nights when my friend Jane is producing and they've got queer punk, riot grrrl and other cool shows. But who knows, right? One day a major label record company could be wining and dining and sixty-nining us.
The best thing about the scene at Czar Bar is its diversity. It's all ages sometimes, and a really weird mix, a really cool mix. It showed people like Kyle that it's not so yucky to hang out with people of the opposite sex. Back when we were only in the audience, Kyle started catching on to things like if guys are tall like us, maybe we should stand in the back so some shorter people like women could see. (Most of my best friends being dykes, I've never had a woman problem.)
Some people say it's just a small, clique-like party that's into nothing more than gay versions of classic Black Flag-style polka-beat music, but fuck them. I mean, to me cliques are like in high school where there was the cool PC socially aware alternateens, the socially elite preps, the jocks, the stoners, and various shades of rednecks. Back then I got into punk because it wasn't a clique, it was an anarchistic thing which challenges the power structures out there, what you're told to do.
One of the power structures society enforces is heterosexuality. Anarchism doesn't only mean destroying the government. It could also mean destroying the forces dictating how people have to live. It was more acceptable to be out in the punk scene than in mainstream music culture even before you were able to slam around with other boyfags in lingerie. Or pogo with other teendykes in barrettes.
Lucky there isn't a queercore "fashion statement" yet or a queercore "sound." That media stuff is what ruined riot grrrl in my opinion.
Kyle tells me the band can't use this song I wrote, "Harvey Gantt Can't Win," because it's too political and boring.
When I complain about us doing too many Kyle-written Pansy Division-type trite little ditties about dicks, Kyle goes, "People don't SWARM to their shows out of sympathy, you know!"
"Sure, they're funny," I go. "But that's about it. They certainly haven't advanced the cause any. I mean, if anything, they've perpetuated the stereotype of gay men being silly and frivolous." I once heard this other guy say that.
"What's wrong with humor?" Kyle goes, and I know I can't get anywhere with him. When I talk about doing stuff that we could do before straight males like Uranus does, Kyle just goes, "Hello, only their singer is queer." As if that ends the argument.
Talking with Kyle these days, I don't know whether to scream or eat a banana afterwards.
Everything's always got to be Kyle's way. I think that's why I was smitten with him at first, his forcefulness. He got that way back in high school when guys were really violent to him because he'd wear black eyeliner, sort of like a Goth, and shocking pink ladies' bowling shirts and shit. So he got to be a magnet for super-violent assholes. But Kyle would fight back, he got to be a good fighter that way. He broke one guy's nose. And the ironic part was that the other guy got totally suspended from school because he started it for, like, calling Kyle a fag and stuff, but the principal punished Kyle by making his punishment to clean up the boys' locker room. Like, "Whoopee, look -- another jockstrap!" Kyle says he's sure his principal was a dyke.
Kyle's parents kicked him out and he lived on the streets and in church basements and such and he had to be strong to get through it. So he became, basically, a dictator. You always have to do everything his way or it's No Soup For You. Like with the band's name. Kyle was set on Boys Club right away, and I kept suggesting other names I'd been thinking of for months, like The Qweirdos, and every time I'd come up with another name, Kyle would go, "Boys Club is better." Tony didn't back me up so much, but Tony's very mellow. I think it comes from Tony's having a good job and a steady lover, this really old guy who's like thirty-five. Or maybe it's Tony's being not that brilliant. Anyway, I realized there was no band without Kyle, at least no band I really wanted to be in at the time, so I agreed to be Boys Club.
I didn't bother mentioning the apostrophe even though Boys' Entrance managed to get it right. I knew Kyle would say to fuck the apostrophe.
Sometimes I think what's different about me and Kyle is that Kyle knows he has as much right to use the men's bathroom as any other guy. So we end up singing punk songs like "Be My Vacuum Cleaner," stuff so lightweight it makes Green Day sound like Motorhead.
One night at Czar Bar there's a rumor that Jello Biafra is gonna be in the audience, so everyone is more nervous than usual.
This cutie-pie lesbian bassist from Midas Muff asks me if she can use my instrument tonight because hers got all fucked up in this fight.
"Sure," I go, giving it to her. "Cool shiner," I say, nodding to her black eye.
"Thanks," she goes and punches my shoulder in a friendly way. "You're a pal."
I was really happy seeing her up there playing my bass and singing,
until Kyle comes over and starts giving me attitude about my lending her the instrument. He brings me down immediately, so I just move to where some dykes from hell are having an awesome time. I don't know whether Kyle's problem is that he's a control freak or he doesn't relate to women.
Kyle thinks Midas Muff tossing their used tampons into the audience is sordid. I like it. So do the lesbionic girls around me who are tossing Midas Muff their bras.
Anyway, it took me like half of an hour to change strings, and Kyle was totally pissed. But Jello Biafra never showed that night.
Nobody really bothered me all that much in high school because I would attach myself to the girlfriends of the jocks, who were mostly black in our school, and that protected me. And outside of school, once I discovered the Buzzcocks and shit I was into the punk scene, where being a freak or being a reject from the mainstream was an immediate qualification for membership in "us." Being queer was the ultimate differentness, and except for a few nervous guys who made a point of frequently reminding me that they were incurably hetero, nobody I knew from the punk scene gave a shit that I was a queer.
Besides, gay culture back then was a mirror of everything I hate about the mainstream. It's still that way cuz if you don't fit the Ken doll, gym-rat, Aryan stereotype, then you're an object of inferior quality, and after all, no self-respecting mainstream Tommy Hilfinger-wearing faggot wants to shop at Wal-Mart if there's a Nordstrom's instead. Their idea of music is disco, techno, show tunes.
It's like the fags on cheesy primetime TV, they're all straight-acting, straight-appearing GWMs.
Kyle's ranting again after some guy trashes Boys Club in his zine.
"Most of the kids in this scene have never been to a place where they were really treated like freaks or threatened or assaulted because of their earrings or their hair or their clothes," he tells me and Tony. "They expend more energy worrying about the cows McDonald's is killing than they do worrying about the person standing next to them."
Onstage I stand next to Kyle. Like he spends a lot of time worrying about me.
"Yeah, Kyle," I go. "We know you're punker than anyone else."
"I'm not telling you how much punker I am than anyone else. There are some people in this town who are as punk as fuck and I'm not trying to be them."
"No," I go. "You just want the rest of us to be YOU."
I get so depressed when I think about like when did you last see a queercore band on MTV or hear them get radio play. I love Boys Club for spewing homosexuality, but I think Kyle could be totally ghettoizing us.
It's 2 a.m. and I'm with Jane, who produces the shows. The glare from the xerox machine is giving me a headache. Once these flyers get done we still have to go out and start posting them to telephone poles and lampposts.
I start hinting around that Boys Club could play other dates besides queercore shows.
"It'd be tough," Jane goes, "not like at Czar Bar where everyone is there to have a great time, you know. People are gonna be standing there with their arms crossed and saying 'impress me.' You'll have to deal with the older guys who are club owners and sound men, a lot of them are pretty homophobic, and even they're not as bad as skinheads who'd kick your ass just as soon as look at you."
This brings me even further down. But I go, "We're musicians first, not queers first."
Jane is like, do I think Kyle feels the same way. I sigh, then she sighs.
"I don't know how long I can do this," Jane goes. "There seems to be a widespread belief that five bucks is the cap on what you can charge as a cover, but it costs me more now than it used to, to produce a show. Sound is more expensive, renting a space costs more, postage costs more, xeroxing costs more, everything has gone up. Plus bands want more money."
My headache is really bad.
I turned 22 today. Yay for me.
So I wrote this song:
Kyle probably won't think this is about him.
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