By William Archambeault
This book dives deep into the history and ideology behind queercore, the explosive fusion of strong queer identities and fierce punk defiance. This oral history collection draws from the many interviews conducted for Yony Leyser’s 2017 documentary Queercore: How To Punk A Revolution. In doing so, this book allows the figures to speak for themselves and tell their own stories. Although the primary focus is on the mid-80s to mid-90s, there are insights from earlier queer punk pioneers like early trans rocker Jayne County and the infamous filmmaker John Waters. The stories documented in this collection are distinctly pre-internet, bringing readers back to an era where some clever ideas and a photocopier could change the world. Pioneering zines like J.D.s out of Toronto and Homocore out of San Francisco were built on lies. Through careful curation and distribution, these zines paved the way for queercore by painting the illusion of massive revolutionary queer-centric punk scenes that didn’t actually exist at that time. As the old phrase goes, build it and they will come. Members of Bikini Kill took direct inspiration from the way those zines fabricated a scene into existence. They later blew up similar falsehoods to build up the riot grrrl movement seemingly out of nowhere. While the band played alongside groups like Tribe 8, Bikini Kill reached a level of stardom that the mainstream denied their queercore counterparts. One chapter details Pansy Division’s experiences opening for Green Day on the breakout tour for Dookie. It was a moment that unexpectedly took Pansy Division from playing in front of small queer audiences to swarms of straight subburbanites crammed into massive arenas, arguably the peak of queercore’s mainstream exposure. While this book’s primary focus is on musicians and zine makers, it also documents the ways that the queercore movement manifested in art, film, and activism. The authors don’t make any claims for this book to be a definitive history, but it does provide a lot of insight into an underrecognized moment.