The harshest critics of what we’re trying to do at Punk Out come from the very community we’re trying to help. That irony is not lost on me. What keeps me up at night though, more than my crippling anxiety (Hey mom! I’m doing just fine.) or the newest ear worm treating me as host (damn you, Hit the Lights! Summer Bones is so on point...) is the reality that, despite all my best intentions, there will always be some who, on principle, find what we’re doing completely reprehensible. I don’t speak for the rest of my team, but there isn’t a skilled-enough therapist who could convince me to let that go. It is what drives me (and drives me into the ground.) I assume this comes with the territory of running a non-profit organization, but that doesn’t help me fall asleep any quicker. Am I doing this right? What is the end game? Is there even an end game?
Can we win a game with no definition for “winning?”
In this business (and to some extent, Punk Out is a business…a business dedicated to helping others and not accepting monetary compensation in order to do so) rejection is part of the game. And to be frank, relying on others is not one of the strengths I list on OkCupid. So with each new, “Sorry, we’d love to help out, but that comes too close to the beginning of our tour,” (Homie, your tour doesn’t start for another 3 months) or, “We totally support what you’re doing, but we’re making a new record,” (Wait, isn’t that your job? Does the rest of your life stop when you’re recording?) I cringe just a tad. Legitimate or not, I consider these (and the hundreds like them) to be rejections. And I take rejection personally. This is a personal problem, one I need to get a grip on. I know this.
There’s this great lyric by the Tennessee pop-punk band On My Honor where Drew Justice sings,
“I never deserve the things I need.”
Isn’t that true? I know that the early success of Punk Out is directly attributed to the outstanding work of the Punk Out team, not me. But it’s that success which I need - or rather, it is that reassurance that what we’re doing, what I’ve put my heart and soul into, is making some impact, however minor, in improving the lives of queer folks. Here’s the crux of it, though: we do make positive impacts. We have received the reassurance from musicians and fans that what we’re doing is important. But it takes just one nasty tweet or one rejection to unleash a tidal wave of insecurity and self-doubt. I preach resiliency, but sidestep the practice.
So this is my open letter to all those who preach equality, inclusion, and representation, but who throw stones at our glass house: What are you doing? Be specific, because if you’re doing something that produces better results than what we’re doing, I’d love to hear, and I’d be the first one at our door to catch the stones you’re throwing.
Punk Out has one goal: to make the lives of LGBTQ musicians and their fans better. We’ll listen to any and all suggestions, and act upon those which are producing better results. But if you’re sitting behind your computer screens and raging about how we use the term “queer” and you’d never allow that because it offends others, but lack any semblance of a better alternative, or if your idea of activism is based on defeating the big, bad rhetoric monster, I’d rather just keep my headphones on and ignore you.
Guess what? I tend to agree that how Punk Out goes about trying to improve the lives of queer people isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I never have been, and never will be, naive enough to assert that we have all the answers to solving the gross questions which confront our communities. But if you’re willing to unleash a torrent of vitriol simply because our means to an end doesn’t jive with your means to an end, I’d urge you to check yourself. How are you forwarding the LGBTQ conversation? What are you doing to curb the widespread misogyny and racism that continues to plague the LGBTQ and alternative music communities? How are you addressing the fact that 40% of homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer? The average life expectancy of a black transgender woman is 35. Are you doing anything to change that? Have you written your congressperson to urge for LGBTQ employment protections? Have you used the power of the monetary vote to send a message to festivals providing a stage for anti-gay, anti-women, and/or anti-diversity bands?
Because if your only claim to fame is bashing my organization, my team, or other organizations who are actually trying to do good things for communities in need, you need to reassess your own lifestyle.
Do you want to do something good? Here’s an opportunity: the Attic Youth Center of Philadelphia takes in homeless LGBTQ youth and provides them with shelter, access to medical care, and food. A pipe burst and destroyed their kitchen. They need your help to fix it. Let’s donate some money to help them rebuild their kitchen. Want to get more involved with LGBTQ politics? Need an organization to support? While Punk Out is not a political organization, why don’t you learn more about the Ally Coalition and get involved with the great things they are doing? Want to see more LGBTQ inclusion on television? Urge HBO to bring back Looking for a third season. Take a stand. Transform yourself into an active activist.
Get out from behind the screen and let us know about how you’re improving the lives of LGBTQ people.
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed on our Blog are exclusively of the author and do not reflect the views and opinions of Punk Out as an organization.