I heard the term straight edge when I was in college. In high school, I had invested a lot of time and energy listening to and learning about punk music. I loved everything about their anti-establishment values, their ‘forget about the status quo,’ and the ‘live by your own rules’ way of thinking. The drugs and drinking never appealed to me. The self-destruction of bands seemed almost never-ending, so the ability to find a band I enjoyed, then find more from them was about impossible. They seemed to burn the candle at both ends, with a blow torch.
I discovered punk music in middle and high school. I moved from metal to more direct expression of aggression. Punk offered an ability to be unique, raise my fist, and be creative in a minimalist kind of way. I loved the attitude, the message, the speed, and the power behind the whole scene. However, as I grew older I found that I didn’t believe in their ethos. I thought the idea of filling your body with poison didn’t make sense.
Hardcore introduced itself to me just after high school. I was working for a company that promoted concerts in the area. I didn’t get paid, but I got guest list tickets for almost any show that came through. At the time, there were a lot of great bands touring and I was excited to be part of the scene and music. I distinctly remember seeing The Red Chord play with The Black Dahlia Murder and Six Feet Under at a small hole in the wall bar. My friend invited me and I went, not sure what to expect because I only knew of Six Feet Under. The Red Chord took the stage and it changed my life forever. Four guys who looked like they could have been there for the show took the stage. The music was aggressive, fast, angry, and filled with power. I was sold. Many would call The Red Chord more metal core, it was different than the metal I was used to and it offered a great deal of clarity. The Red Chord, however, is not a straight edge band. Their second album opened up another window to the opportunities music can offer. The album, ‘Clients’ was written when the singer spent weeks at a homeless camp listening to stories of the men and women there.. He journaled about the experience and it became my favorite album.
I can remember being out with friends, or at a house with people and doing my “I don’t drink response” when asked if I wanted a beer or whatever was being served. At one point someone asked me if I was straight edge. At the time I didn’t really know anything about it, the message, the bands, the music, and the lifestyle. I do remember it piqued my interest. I looked into it, but as I was busy making plans, life was happening as well.
Once I had an understanding of what hardcore was all about, I went backward. I did research. I watched anything and everything I could, to trace the roots back to where it all started. I discovered Minor Threat in Washington DC back in the early 1980s. I could hear the same veracity as I had when I saw The Red Chord. Again, it changed my life. I learned more about the straight edge culture and found it very appealing; however, in my twenties, I couldn’t commit, because if I was going to, I wanted it to be one and done. Straight edge forever. I was still learning who I was, what that meant, and what the future had in store for me.
I got married. I buried my dad. I moved out of my hometown, and I left my close group of friends that I had bonded with for over fifteen years behind. It was at that time that I was able to identify and label something in my life that had eluded me for my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. I had anxiety. I had depression. I was dealing with grief, loss, and trauma. For a brief time I tried out new friends, new music, and different ways of looking at the world. None of it seemed to stick. In my family, I was a black sheep and I seemed to remain one in society. I have never fit into a social norm of working out at the gym five days a week, driving a fast car, or measuring my penis to compare with other males. That’s just not who I am. I never wanted to be that kind of person anyway. I wanted to have a certain level of self-respect and with it find strength and courage I had never known.
I claimed straight edge a little over two years ago. After being married for ten years, having two kids and now a third, it seemed like the best way to set an example. I never expected to find a deep-seated strength below it all. Being straight edge has allowed me to find a way towards myself. It has given me more reasons to focus on what is important to me, such as writing, poetry, reading, being creative, spending time with my family, and enjoying all that nature has to offer.
I would call myself more posi straight edge. The militant style of straight edge is not something that appeals to me. I can respect it and get behind some of the bands and their messages; however, I am very much a person who believes that everyone has a choice in what they think, feel, and believe. I’m not on this planet to push my agenda on anyone else. I also want to impact people in a positive way and embrace our differences.
I would like to close by saying that being straight edge has saved my life. The culture and bands that surround the vision, and hardcore in general, allowed me to find myself and believe in myself. Over the years I have had to make some difficult decisions and walk away from people who don’t support who I am and what I believe. It has taken some time, but I am at peace with the choices I have made for myself. I hope the community of straight edge continues to stay strong and encourages people of all types to look at our culture. You don’t have to be like everyone else or agree with people for fear of being left out. There is nothing wrong with being who you truly are. Embrace a strong sense of self and grow as a person. You have the ability to impact much more than you could imagine.
Stay safe. Stay straight edge.