Queer as punk
A new book out on the collision of punk rock and LGBTIQ* ac-tivism published in June by PM Press in the United States links queer histories, as well as has a number of connections to Berlin
By Dan Borden
Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution is a new oral history documenting the transgressive queer art and music move-ment that emerged in the late 1980s. A companion to Yony Leyser’s 2017 documentary of the same name, the book compiles reams of interviews the film couldn’t squeeze in alongside never-before-seen photos.
The book casts the1969 Stonewall riots as the spark that, 20 years later, inspires queer misfits in Toronto, Los Angeles and San Francisco to carve out an artistic niche layering punk confrontation over gender play and unapologet-ic same-sex eroticism. Key players like filmmaker Bruce LaBruce, musician/filmmaker G.B. Jones and performance artist Vaginal Davis recount the scene’s birth, while queer icons such as John Waters provide often-hilarious historic context.
The revolution in the book’s title is a bit of an overreach. Against the backdrop of earth-shaking events like the end of the Cold War and September 11, queercore’s cocky provo-cateurs were barely a cultural blip. The book’s more expan-sive view illustrates how the movement was a critical link in a continuum of transgressive queerness stretching back through Kenneth Anger and Jean Genet to Weimar Germa-ny. Equally crucial is queercore’s relation to the existential threat then posed by AIDS and the activism it inspired. Still, the book’s most powerful moments come as participants de-scribe their first queercore event and the often tearful free-dom their young, outcast selves felt discovering their clan. Though birthed in North America, queercore has made Ber-lin its home of sorts. Vaginal Davis and Peaches settled here, Bruce LaBruce is here often enough he may as well have, while the annual Pornfilmfestival founded by film producer Jürgen Brüning keeps its spirit alive. Two of the book’s edi-tors, director Leyser and SIEGESSÄULE’s own Walter Crass-hole, are also based here.