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Pansy Division

Photo by Lauren Bilanko, courtesy of the band
Definition: While gender roles were most famously addressed in the punk scene in the '90s with the Riot Grrrl movement by bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and Heavens to Betsy, it wasn't the first punk movement of its kind. That denotation rests with the queercore movement, that was spawned in the '80s. Devoted to addressing homophobia in society in general and specifically within the punk scene, queercore revolved around a handful of punk bands with openly gay members.

The Beginning of Queercore

In the early'80s, many hardcore punk bands had begun addressing gay issues, with bands like 7 Seconds. From 1985's Walk Together, Rock Together (Compare Prices) came the song "Regress No Way," which pulled no punches with the band's stance:

Okay, the fact that someone's gay, some say,
"how could they live that way?",
To me, it all comes down to choice, why fight?
It's just a waste of time,
Get hip, there's nothin' you can do,
Why should that bother you,
For decency, you fight,
But who is really right?
- 7 Seconds - "Regress No Way" (Listen/Download)

Around the same time, Austin, TX was seeing the early stages of the true queercore movement by The Dicks and Big Boys, two Texas punk bands with openly gay members who weren't afraid to make a statement. While the hardcore scene was struggling with its own vein of homophobic prejudice (and still struggles with it), these bands, along with scenemates MDC were among the first to take a stand against it.

Its Name

Queercore was given its name by the zine J.D.s. Put out by Canadian writers and filmmakers G.B. Jones and Bruce LaBruce, the zine addressed the merging of homosexual and punk rock culture. Within the pages of J.D.s, the movement found its voice. J.D.s lasted for eight issues, with its last published in 1991.

The duo behind J.D.s also published a famous rant entitled Don't Be Gay in the February 1989 issue of Maximumrocknroll which attacked both the punk and gay subcultures. Their intent was to provoke both scenes, and provide an impetus for the scene to emerge (The rant has been republished here).

Queercore and Riot Grrrl

The emergence of the Riot Grrrl movement in the '90s found spirits, as both movements had similar goals - addressing gender and sexuality in the punk scene, and providing bands with a message that did the same. Some bands, like the all-women lesbian punk band Tribe 8 and Riot Grrrl pioneers Bikini Kill, often found themselves lumped in with either scene interchangeably (and both bands appeared on the famous queercore sampler There's a Dyke in the Pit.


While J.D.s gave the movement its name, another zine was much more active in giving it a voice. Outpunk was zine out of San Francisco devoted to the queercore movement that also spawned a record label of the same name.It was responsible for introducing many queercore bands to the public.

Pansy Division

If the movement has a prominent face, it belongs to Pansy Division. This is for a few reasons. One is for their prolific nature (six studio albums, and a ton of compilation and 7"s). Another is for their long run (1991-present). But the biggest reason for their being the queercore band closest to being a household name happened in1994, when they toured as an act opening for Green Day on the Dookie Tour, thus exposing a new group not only to their sound, but to their message. They also teamed up with Tre Cool on the track "Can't Make Love," which appeared on the 1997 copilation Generations 1: A Punk Look at Human Rights. In addition, the band was profiled in the 2008 documentary Pansy Division: Life In A Gay Rock Band.

Queercore Today Today Queercore, like Riot Grrrl, is pretty much a movement that's passed. While bands like Pansy Division are still around, its cohesion as a movement has died out. And while Outpunk records is no longer, another label, Queer Control Records, was spawned by the queercore movement and founded in 2007, to provide a label and a voice for the gay community in general (Visit Their Site)).

Recommended Listening

Big Boys - Wreck Collection (Listen/Download)
Dicks - 1980-1986 (Listen/Download)
Tribe 8 By The Time We Get To Colorado (Listen/Download)
Pansy Division with Tre Cool - "Can't Make Love" (Listen/Download)

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