I’ve considered writing more broadly on this subject for a while. Of course the counter argument rings in my ears like if going to a show left me with a hangover:
“We don’t need labels heavy metal brings us together.”
“Shut up and listen to the music.”
“I don’t care if you’re a faggot or not.”
The ironic thing is that when I got into heavy metal in middle school, I thought that it was a place for weirdos like me; people who didn’t go by the names their parents gave them, didn’t wear the shit that was seen as “professional” or “acceptable” or whatever else and didn’t bother trying to appease anybody. I mean one of the first bands I got into was Marilyn Manson. His drag (though I don’t think he ever called it drag) was the only type of drag that I was ever interested in. He looked like if Dr. Frank-N-Furter had sex with the demon from “Black Sabbath” and was raised in a U.S. suburb on a steady diet of depression, disillusionment and angst. Manson’s aesthetic was the queerest thing I’d ever seen being from the backwoods of the U.S. south, and I wanted to emulate it to a T. I was late to Marilyn Manson and committed a purchasing sin by starting by buying his greatest hits CD. His songs were each an anthem and I pumped each one out; at home after my dad left for work and I was left alone, on the bus when the kids would tease me for singing mouth-open-and-tongue-stuck-out and on my walk home when I tried to keep my head down and hoped like hell I’d just be left alone.
It never really bothered me how prevalent words like “Faggot” can be in the lyrics of heavy metal songs. But there is a mentality of creating an us vs. them mentality and you can find that in heavy metal meme culture; it’s homophobic, it’s misogynistic, and it raises a giant middle finger to young people.
There’s a lot of implications here and i’m not even sure how to unpack it all. Are we supposed to be so br00tal that we beat people up for their musical tastes? Are we supposed to beat up our girlfriends if they don’t listen to the same music we do? Are we supposed to beat up our girlfriends over Carnifex? If you do, I hope like hell you aren’t listening to any music in prison for assault or battery.
I really like A Day to Remember, if I tell that to someone, or go to a show wearing a ADTR shirt, am I going to have to risk getting smashed in the face because I didn’t wear my Pantera-Slayer-Megadeth-What-the-Fuck-Ever shirt? Will I get my face smashed because I don’t listen to to the band Death or really any black metal? If all my favorite genres end in -core does that mean that my ass belongs in intensive care?
This one is just inexplicable. I’m so happy that true death metal bands know how to read medical encyclopedias and hire shock rock directors for their music videos. There’s nothing more br00tal, I’m sure, than desecrating a woman’s body for the 10,000th time. Sure, I have no doubt that some of those bands are making a statement and I listen to Dying Fetus and Exhumed when I’m in the mood, but I don’t feel insecure if I’m not listening to whatever the newest most brutal band is. Compared to Cattle Decapitation and Devourment Black Sabbath and Slayer aren’t brutal, but they are metal. Besides, I never listened to heavy metal to scare people. I mean I did listen to heavy metal to protect myself, and to feel at home in my weirdness and to not feel alone, maybe that made some folks feel scared, but that wasn’t my goal any damn way. I think the funniest part of the picture above is that Lamb of God qualified for the top half. Has anyone told Randy yet that he’s a poser? Cause I don’t want that job.
I saved this picture for last because it pisses me off the most. I’ll put aside for a moment words like “misogyny” and “ageism” to get a little more personal.
This song did save my life. Maybe that’s “ironic” if all you know are the lyrics quoted in the meme, but this song did save my life. I was first diagnosed with depression when I was 14 or 15. And I struggled with it throughout high school. When my high school girlfriend and I broke up our last semester of high school, I took it really, really hard (I’d also been kicked out of my father’s house and was sleeping on a mattress on a floor). I’d gotten really into Suicide Silence, Whitechapel and Job For A Cowboy. I had started reading about ‘Deathcore’ and already knew that it was deemed one of those poser -core genres that only Hot Topic-shopping-scene-girls listen to.
These are the lyrics to Suicide Silence’s “No Pity For A Coward” off of their 2007 album The Cleansing released by Century Media Records:
Dry your eyes
Hide your face with your hands
One last breath
Hold it in
Fuck your past
Is in your hands
Just sit back and relax
Put your fucking shades on
Put that gun to your head
You’re a fucking disgrace
Can your god save you now? [6x]
You coward [4x]
In your tears
No one has
Pity for you [4x]
Seconds from the end
What’s it gonna be
Pull the trigger bitch [4x]
It’s ironic that these lyrics are so aggressive after the first few lines, “Drowning yourself in your tears // no one has pity for you!” and yet it still gets mocked. In my head these people doing the mocking are 30 years old or older and they don’t listen to anything but br00tal death metal. Of course I don’t know anything about these meme-making-keyboard-warriors because they’re online making memes on their death metal Facebook page.
So, what’s it like being transgender in the heavy metal community? It’s being told shit like, “Well I don’t care if you’re a faggot,” by people who listen to Exhumed’s “Necro-Transvestite” (released in 2004! I thought it was a 1990’s song) and when they see Buffalo Bill in a Hannibal Lecter movie saying shit like, “If that tranny ever tried to come after one of my women I’d kill him my damn self.”
The fact of the matter is that what people mean when they say they don’t care if you’re a faggot or a tranny is that they don’t care; as long as you don’t act like a faggot or a tranny, as long as you don’t dress like a faggot or a tranny, as long as you don’t want to be treated like a faggot or a tranny, as long as you don’t write songs or blogs or books about being a faggot or a tranny, as long as you don’t vote or protest or demonstrate like a faggot or a tranny. You have metalheads who try to pretend that a difference in politics is ok, but when someone’s difference in politics is violently against your existence, then it’s a little harder to get along.
Being transgender in the heavy metal community means being the only one not writing a think piece praising Cattle Decapitation’s “Forced Gender Reassignment.” And it sure as shit means not feeling comfortable watching the “Forced Gender Reassignment” music video.
Being transgender in the metal community means growing up with an admiration for Marilyn Manson, but then realizing that he isn’t there for you, he’s there for himself. It means that when you paint your nails for the first time, your dad will accuse you of falling in line with shock rockers when in fact you’re trying to express femininity. I’m not some Alice Cooper/Marilyn Manson/Ozzy Osbourne wannabe. I am a woman. But the heavy metal community hasn’t exactly fully addressed its misogyny problem, let alone its transphobia problem.