By Shannon Carter
Not everyone thinks you need to consume media aligned directly with your ideals, and I agree; diversity of views is very important to the public discourse. However, when you’re part of a marginalized community it is common that popular media either doesn’t respect or doesn’t understand your identity. The LGBT+ community has recently gained more respect in general, but I’ve found that there’s a fundamental lack of understanding in much of the representation. Not every bit of media you consume needs to represent you, but just having it available means a lot, especially in punk.
Representation is important.
Punk, hardcore, and associated “alternative genres” have traditionally been places where people search for a home - where youth feel empowered to be themselves and stand against injustice.
There’s this trope, aptly named “Armored Closet Gay” by TV Tropes. Whether or not you’re familiar with the name, you’ve almost certainly been exposed to the concept. It is the homophobic bigot that only vocally hates the LGBT+ community because they hate who they are themselves. The "Armored Closet Gay" trope's widespread presence in popular media reflects a similarly widespread presence in our social community. Internalized homophobia is a real and damaging phenomena.
The punk and hardcore music scenes seem to be filled, at times, with homophobia. What started as a genre against injustice (this is debatable), and evolved even further to fulfill this role (think: the Riot Grrrl movement) sometimes seems to be degenerating to a macho fest of undirected anger. Seems is the operative word here. I don’t think this is the reality, though. It is certainly there, lurking in dark corners, but open-minded people and LGBT+ people make up a significant portion of the scene. That’s not to say we can be complacent - there’s plenty of work to be done.
Historically, the punk scene has been aggressive, only really differing in where the aggression is aimed. I understand that the scene itself is made of many voices, often contradicting each other - it is not one entity. Having someone like Nielsen to be a voice to those of us who have fucked up, but are working every day to be better, is immensely important.
As a high-schooler, insecure with my own sexuality, I found myself falling into the “Armored Gay” trope occasionally. As much as I asserted that I was okay with LGBT+ people, my homophobia, stemming from an unwillingness to accept myself, often peeked through. I’d often find myself saying things such as, “I’m okay with gay people but, I don’t want anyone to think I am one,” as a way to vocally support the group, but still assure my peers that I wasn’t like them. They were “other." Straight was the norm to me. The default. Anything else was a deviation.
Recently, Buddy Nielsen posted an Instagram photo of a tweet he had made six years ago stating, “The music that Fox has for the World Series is soooo fucking gay.” He accompanied it with an explanation of how proud he was to have changed, how he’s not perfect and how he was part of the problem by perpetuating this.
I, too, found myself calling things “gay” because I disliked them, and however subtle that transgression seems, at its core sits the underlying idea that gay equals bad. This subtle but pervasive thinking prevented me from coming out for way too long. I had to think deeply about the words and what they meant to me for years before I revisited this deep rooted concept with enough of a critical eye that I was able to accept myself and others. My insecurities aren’t over, but I’m comfortable enough with myself to accept my identity. I still feel a deep guilt about not realizing this sooner.
It’s refreshing to have someone like Nielsen own up to their prior transgressions and admit that we’re allowed to change. Ignorance is a direct result of an unwillingness to learn, but we’re not born with an innate acceptance of everyone, and if we are, we’re not always brought up in a social environment conducive to it. Nobody is going to change if they’re called, as Nielsen mentions in his extensive caption, “frauds” for doing so.
We’re only human and the social culture around LGBT+ people is complex and confusing. Many voices are saying many different things. It’s hard to know what’s “right.”
I’d like to take a moment to thank Buddy Nielsen for playing this role with such grace and insight, while still remaining undeniably human. He’s a role model that’s accessible but remarkably self-aware.
We’ve got room to improve, but with role models like Nielsen, and many others, we can work towards a deeper respect and understanding of the LGBT+ community as a cultural group.
Shannon Carter is a student of Public Health at Southern Connecticut State University and is passionate about sexual and mental health. She’s idolized punk as a form as activism since she was a child and is working every day to make that version of herself a reality. A new writer, Punk Out is the first place that Carter's work has been posted aside from her blog. Follow Carter on Twitter.
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed on our Artist Corner and Blog are exclusively of the author and do not reflect the views and opinions of Punk Out as an organization.