Queercore (also known as homocore), is a cultural and social movement that began in the mid-1980s as an offshoot of the punk subculture. It is distinguished by its discontent with society in general, and specifically society's disapproval of the LGBTQ community. Queercore expresses itself in a D.I.Y.
Between 1989 and 1983, an LGBT+ subculture “queercore” (or alternately “homocore”) emerged as a combination of aspects of the punk subculture and LGBT+ subculture. Queercore media (such as music, zines, and books) effectively opened what can be termed a queer counter-public sphere in opposition to the institutions of the lesbian and/or gay public sphere already in existence and exemplified by organizations like GLAAD and NGLTF, spaces like established middle-class gay neighborhoods, or events like the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival or Gay Pride marches.
Curran Nault, in his book Queercore: Queer Punk Media Subculture, describes queercore as “a configuration of artistically minded gender/sexual dissidents who annex punk practices and aesthetics to challenge the oppressions of the mainstream and the lifeless sexual politics and assimilationist tendencies of dominant gay and lesbian society.”
Queercore stands against the mainstream gay politics of integration with cishet (cisgender, heterosexual) society and the culture of respectability politics that is common among the majority of people in the LGBTQ+ community. It is not necessarily a movement for gay people, but for every misfit that neither fits into cishet or mainstream gay culture; this includes transgender people, genderqueer/nonbinary people, polysexuals, pansexuals, etc.
Initially instigated by misfit Torontonians G. B. Jones and Bruce LaBruce via the pages of their ideologically seditious fanzine J.D.s, queercore has since evolved into an international phenomenon, partially centered on music, that also encompasses fanzines, film, writing, performance, and visual art. Increasingly dispersed and only loosely affiliated, queercore entities nevertheless share a common goal: to articulate and circulate a set of oppositional identities, mediated meanings and social practices for queers to occupy and engage within subcultural space.
J.D.s makes explicit the role that sex plays within the subculture, going so far as to present pornographic images, including a series of “Naked and Wild!” photographs of punk bands, the tale of a reluctant trip to a family wedding turns into gay sex at a resort pool with a laconic stud, rebel dykes sketched in a Tom of Finland style participate in perverse rituals that read as sadomasochistic seductions, a narrated collection of penises, and a cartoon depiction of young queer alienation and lust ends in a lip lock with a crush. LaBruce went on to direct a series of pornographic films, maintaining the punk aesthetic in their raw style and their forceful opposition to cishet norms. LaBruce’s fixation on pornography can be attributed to the controversiality of the sexual acts he portrays, and he made sure to present aberrant sexual objects such as obviously radical actors.
Queercore media is also known for its portrayal of imagined violence. The zine SCAB provides even evidence of this: “SCAB. Society for the Complete Annihilation of Breeding. Our goal? The absolute obliteration of what is generally regarded as the American nuclear family. Our method? Violence, pornography, abortions, castration, mindless sex, mass murder and the widespread destruction of private and state property.” Further on, SCAB will go on to ironically question whether heterosexuals count as people, advocate for terrorism, and present evidence that heterosexuality might be “just a phase.” Queercore’s imagined violence is not only directed at cishet society, however, but also at mainstream LGBT+ culture. In the same publication, the authors of SCAB state that: Attending the wedding of a sibling or relative, celebrating your birthday, adopting children, going home for Christmas, participating in any sort of religious ritual – even attending “gay” church services – are all examples of traitorous anti-Revolutionary activity. “Any lesbian or gay individuals who even entertain such thoughts are essentially breeders whether they like it or not.”
- Photographs of Pride protests
- Pictures of LGBTQ+ punk rock bands
- Drag queen makeup
- Punk clothing
As a musical genre, it may be distinguished by lyrics exploring themes of prejudice and dealing with issues such as sexual identity, gender identity and the rights of the individual; more generally, queercore bands offer a critique of society endemic to their position within it, sometimes in a light-hearted way, sometimes seriously. Musically, many queercore bands originated in the punk scene but the industrial music culture has been influential as well. Queercore groups encompass many genres such as hardcore punk, electropunk, indie rock, power pop, No Wave, noise, experimental, industrial and others.