“Quaring” the Scene: Negotiating Black Queer Identity in the Punk Community

by Quinci Adams

From the Author:

“Over the course of my four years at Goucher I developed ties to Baltimore’s DIY punk scene. As do most punks who are not cisgender heterosexual white men, I had a complicated relationship with the scene: I loved going to shows and watching my friends perform, but I did not particularly like being called “little missy” or watching set after set with no people of color, no women/queer or gender non-conforming people. As conversations about racial, gender and sexual hierarchies began to overlap between my studies and my social circles, I began to learn more about (and continue to witness firsthand) the hierarchical and oppressive nature of this scene and of punk in general – and was enraged at the hypocrisy of such inequity within in a supposedly politically “progressive” scene. A quantitative research project that I did on racial and gender breakdowns at a series of local shows inspired me to pursue a deeper understanding of these overlapping systematic inequalities. Dr. Mel Lewis’ Black Queer Studies class, which—as the name implies— focused on the intersecting nature of oppressions as they applied to black queer folks, provided a theoretical background with which I could explore the histories of blackness and queerness in punk. This project was a fun and interesting one, as it allowed me to align my academic interests with my personal ones—but that made it equally frustrating, because by being involved in such a scene I was directly implicated in its politics. What I especially appreciated in writing this paper, however, was the ability (and, in many cases, the necessity) to step outside of the academic world and incorporate sources like documentaries, zines, and personal narratives into my research—providing slightly more nuanced perspectives that are reflective of the punk scene itself, and of resistance to it.”

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