(Originally published on January 19, 2017)
The hardest thing about being a human being is finding the balance between ducking prejudice and fully realizing yourself. This is a long post, so take a moment to follow this blog by Joining the Strange Collective at the top of this page, and to see the Strange Life in real time, follow me Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Tumblr.
This is for the baby bats in the room who still think they can't step out of the coffin and into the scene because they don't look like Victoria Lovelace. This is for the goths who try their damnedest every day and have to deal with (daily) bigotry whether online and/or in-person. This is for the transgender and genderqueer, the feminine and the masculine who sacrifice their comfort of expressing themselves to make room for other people's comfort with binary genders. This is for the girls and women of any age and size who feel pressure to be dress like a fetish model and/or play into tourists bringing sexism into goth community for their safety.
So let's chat.
It's been a year since I started going out into the big, scary world of socializing, and a part of that is going to goth clubs and events. There are a couple weekly nights I go to almost every week and sometimes I get asked by people of various ages "Isn't it hard?" It being finding the balance between identities, the problems, and misconceptions associated with those identities, and then having fun.
Just have fun.
I do, as best I can. Pick any night, whether or not I go to a goth club or not, there will be at least four people (usually strangers) who are going to try and touch my natural hair. That number doubles if I pull it back ("You should wear it out, like an afro" and I respond with "pay me"). There will be one guy, most likely middle aged, who tries to give me subtle grief for not wearing less or for not being more feminine. There will be at least one transphobic remark made for me using the name Zakkarrii and that conversation is the MOST draining, as it will follow up with them feeling betrayed as I clearly did all of this *gestures over the half a dozen skirts and over the top makeup* to toy with their emotions. There has been an increasing frequency of "instafamous" white girls who put a strain on my relationships by asking a friend why there are so many people of color (pick a racial group and there's still only a handful of them) and that friend has to figure out whether or not to tell me about it. (Tell me about it, screenshot it, whatever. It makes life easier for me.)
So are goth clubs not safe for people of color, LGBTQ, or women?
There are clubs that are safe for those groups and I don't mean safe in that kind hearted, but sort of oblivious way of "I haven't seen anything personally". I watch every club and its operations like a demanding bitch, specifically their security and only frequent the ones that give a shit. Because you've probably had to question whether or not your concerns were valid when it came to your safety and you're getting a little sick of that song and dance, so you probably don't go out as much as you would like.
Despite all that, those moments that either drain my energy before I go out or tourists at goth clubs, I still have had the best year of my life because of goth. The greatest friends, the most amazing experiences, and support for what I do and try to do more than I could have ever dreamed of.
Can I even express both? My goth identity and my non goth identity?
I feel like that's a weird question to ask because it's a big question. Is there room under the goth umbrella for cultural heritage, is it taking it too seriously to care, what about cultural appropriation? The list of questions goes on.
Simply by being present you change everything. There's room for you to express your other identities, you know the ones you have no choice in the matter of having them (race, gender, sexual orientation) or religion. In terms of expression, there are stylistic choices we make because it is important to the expression of our identity as a whole. As for participating in the Goth lifestyle in a way that satisfies your participation with other aspects of your life that is doable.
To be quite honest, I think it would be a beautiful thing to see and I think other people would like to see it too. Because there are some of us who worry that while we say we're inclusive there is no real way for us to verify without a huge margin of error (because of those pesky societal pressures). So you being proud of who you are totally helps us, whether in speaking up or showing up.
That being said, I'm also aware that it's hard to be one of the people who says "today I'm going to be myself" (i.e. wear clothing that makes me happy, wear something that ties me to parts of my culture, or not dress up a lot today at all ). I have days where it seems like only the bad people seem to want to talk to me today, to tell me I don't belong (when all I want to do is make stuff and be nice to people) and then I get a message like the following:
There are different types of goths and tourists.
And I don't mean the difference between Lolita and Cyber. There are goths that thrive on offensive humor and others who act ridiculously pretentious. There are some who just want to have a drink and others who want to meet new people. Entitled and bratty, sweet and welcoming, the scale is just as varied here as it is in the non goth world. No matter what style you are drawn to there will be people who love it and people who hate it. I do know that there is room for you to express yourself or find yourself, if the case may be.
There's the occasional racist comment, as well as trolls who have launched on full tirades on every Goth of Color they could find in attempts to push them out of creating content. There has been more fetishizing than anything else, and that bothered me greatly, but that all mostly comes from tourists.
It's usually tourists, you have problems with. Not every goth is going to want to be your friend, even if you are the best thing since bat shaped cookie cutters, but they usually aren't rude about it. Tourists, on the other hand, tend to bring a lot of the shit you're looking to avoid, you know, bigotry. A tourist to goth culture looks at it as a freak show and we are the freaks. They can even go as far to harass women or people who are female passing, make transphobic remarks, look for fights under the assumption that all goths are outwardly "loud and proud liberals"and ruin the night for everyone. It doesn't happen often, but oh god when there's a dozen of them in one place, it can be the reason some of us don't go back. There's also pretenders, people who treat goth and alternative style as a costume to gain status and/or entry to harass people in various ways, but the difference between a baby bat and a pretender is the depth of their interest.
So if I go to a goth club for the first time I'm a tourist?
Nope. Are you looking for like minded people and to some extent care about adding to the magic of the event and not just what you can get out of it? Yes, then you're not a tourist. No, and you just want to see women in bondage dress and to hell with the rest of it? Then stay home. I want to hang out with my friends in whatever they feel comfortable, not listen to stories about the "totally original" pick up line you used because you wanted to "fuck the freak".
I'm "x", can I be a goth?
Yes. If you're asking this question then there probably still isn't enough representation in our fair little community for you to feel safe enough to peek your head in, but it is getting better. There are more Goths of color being featured on company's Instagrams, and not as a diversity feature (which I can barely tolerate anymore) but as a part of the actual community. There are more plus size clothing options from those companies being offered with increasing frequency, and there are more transgender and genderqueer people getting representation. Yes, there are even alternative Muslims, Catholics and people of other religious faiths.
One of the reasons for that is because people spoke up and having that dialogue is kind of what goth is all about. We, as a community, consistently push ourselves to explore and engage, to ask questions and seem to hold the idea of "the more, the merrier" pretty high. Not a single designer, artist, photographer, whoever you may admire got to where they are alone and I know true weird kids, more than anyone else, know how important our support for each other really is.
Goths have learned quickly we create the community and the culture and today, right now, there is someone willing to fight for your place at the table.
I, a white/cisgender/heterosexual/male person have a question.
Is it "should I be easier on marginalized people when trying to support them in the scene because their visibility could improve other people's experiences here"? Or is it "how can I be critical of their involvement (because sometimes we do throw shade at each other #realgothtalk) without coming off as a bigot"?
No, I don't think you should be easier on people in the sense you let anyone and everyone into the goth scene with a free pass. But there is a difference between being unnecessarily cruel and critiquing in a way that is more positive than negative to someone you aren't familiar with and conversely, isn't familiar with you and how you like to communicate even if you're joking. I also don't think you should ignore the experiences of some members of the community and how the community can contribute to the marginalization of those people and the tolerance of bigotry. You have to be fair and goth shouldn't come down to appearances and who has the nicest tits and/or the fairest skin or even whether or not they fulfill our expectations and always make us feel good. The question is not how do we change the way we treat people that will satisfy archaic standards, but rather whether or not there is something in the standards that contributes to only certain physical features being rewarded and not idk, actual work or passion. The question is how should we change the standards to be more in line with the inclusivity we believe goth is about?
As for your second question, have you tried to talking to them like a human being and critiquing the work and not attacking the person? Is there not a difference between "I think that point is stupid" and "go kill yourself you stupid fuck"? I don't know, I'm just guessing here. *shrugs* There was a time on Tumblr when sharing pictures of baby bats (obvious newcomers or even people sort of interested in goth) where being shamed mercilessly for "not fitting the aesthetic". They wore t-shirts and jeans because this was before fast fashion decided to design along with the rising goth/alternative trend, so gothic clothing was incredibly expensive for young people. Makeup was chalky or didn't match skin tone perfectly, because we had to use eyeshadow and whatever else we were brave enough to put on our lips in order to achieve some semblance of an otherworldly appearance. Before Spotify, before YouTube was the holy grail of goth that it is now, back when blogging was basically shouting in the void and hoping for anyone to answer back...
Of course, you will always have people who play these high school games of "who's hot and who's not", of course you will always have social hierarchies based on superficial things that will never add anything of value or originality to the conversation (and as consequence, progress and exploring the boundless depth of collaborative imagination will take longer to come to the forefront, so we get even MORE Siouxsie and the Banshees makeup tutorials), and the thing is: it is all necessary.
Goth kids of any background are not defined by how well they adhere to the mold, but how they overcome their frustration not only for themselves but in a way that will inspire the next person. That's how you get the elaborate branches of goth style, despite how loudly some cry out against it. That's how we become aware of new, interesting things, concepts, music, art, events. You will always have people who want the easy way to something, playing on emotions like lust and rage, for a glimmer of self-worth, but the true weird kids, the other of the other of the other, we always want more and sometimes we like to share it.
If that sounds any of this sounds like you, you deserve a place at the table just as much as anyone else.
Last minute questions, GO!
Do I need contacts, fangs, skin bleach, to relax my hair, lie about my age, my gender, my goth status, change my personality, drink blood, wear bondage and fetish gear in order to be goth?
No. What you contribute> stuff you have. If people are pressuring you to lie about who you are maybe you shouldn't be friends with those people, or rather maybe you need to look at yourself and the people you are attracting and figure out if that's what you want to be.
I had a bad experience with a goth person/goth club before. You're all the same.
I promise you, we're not. Take for example there are about five or six goth nights on a Saturday in the Los Angeles area. No two are the same.
I want to get into blogging/YouTube.
What if I make a mistake or I'm not perfect?
No matter what age you are, you are going to make mistakes. Do not let the apprehension of failure dictate your success. Try, enjoy yourself, and learn from your mistakes. Every goth was a baby bat. Every youtuber started with 0 subscribers and Instagoth with 0 followers. If you're anything like me, you also started out with 0 goth friends. TRY. LEARN. BE.
Why do you care so much?
Little me needed a goth to look up to, and damn it, I'm not going to let them down.
Until next time,
Don't be hungry for life. Be ravenous.
Zakkarrii Edison Daniels