Straight Edge

sxe x wrenchesFor more than three decades, straight edge has ebbed and flowed through the hardcore scene.  The articles in this section span twenty years’ worth of ideas, feelings, and thoughts about straight edge from a female perspective. Some of these articles were written by girls who are now women (myself included). Our thoughts were raw and unfiltered as teens.  We were (and some of still are) frustrated with the status quo. We are tired of having our voices drowned out. As we have grown and evolved, so have our ideas about what it means to be edge.  These are our stories, our thoughts, our journeys.


Originally Posted on Cadence Leadership“Christopher Horsethief is a research professor and organizational theorist who focuses on the group dynamics of collectively traumatized communities. Spending much of his career (and life) in Indigenous and First Nations communities along the Columbia River Tribes, including the Ktunaxa, Ksanka, Spokane, Colville, and Flathead. Christopher shared just some of his immeasurably deep expertise and experience with us on this episode. We discussed what post-colonization looks like for leaders in the business world, including fostering reconciliation and, of course, Christopher’s experience with punk, hardcore, and straight edge in his community.

Being Straight Edge in the DJ & Night Life

Turning Straightedge – A Personal Choice

This year, I turn 38, making it 20 years since I chose to be drug & alcohol-free. So that means I was only 18 when I made this choice – at this young age I wasn’t exactly a seasoned drinker, but 2 years into trying it all out, I decided it wasn’t the lifestyle for me. I was born in Dublin, Ireland, where the stereotypes are known throughout the entire world – the Irish are drinkers. But if you take stereotypes seriously, were all small and green too, living at the bottom of rainbows. At 15/16 years old, I started to try out drinking, cheap 6 packs of cans in fields with my friends, stashing bottles of vodka in our school bags and sneaking about at weekends, trying our best to creep home without waking our ever-vigilant mothers. I had my fun experimenting, and this was years before I even knew what straightedge was. The soundtrack to my early teenage years was punk; I spent hours in Tower Records searching for obscure American bands, finding Operation Ivy, Black Flag, Rancid & NOFX, then heading off to an independent record shop to find Irish bands like Striknein DC, Runnin’ Riot & Blood or Whiskey. A lot of punk songs reference drinking and even though I like to think I wasn’t influenced by lyrics, with hindsight I can see that I was. I was also hanging out in squats, going to gigs in pubs, as most venues wouldn’t allow under 18’s, and hanging out with older teenagers, all of which impacted my decisions. Although I was never pressured by peers, I see now that it is social pressure, and an expectation within society that I would just start drinking, learn to enjoy it, and carry on with it all through life. Major events are linked with certain drinks; weddings and champagne, festivals and beer etc.  My music tastes were heavily influenced by my older brothers, who were both metal heads, and my skater friends who listened to a lot of pop punk and hip-hop. I found my own tastes with bands like Madball & Sick Of It All, Life of Agony etc., and then discovered Henry Rollins. I listened intently to his lyrics and became a huge fan pretty quickly. The day I decided to stop drinking was when I was out in the city centre one evening and noticed a girl, about my age, passed out in a side street, vodka bottle still in her hand – and I suddenly saw how vulnerable she was. Her friends were nearby in similar states, and just walking past looking at them, I re-evaluated and couldn’t do it anymore. I could allow myself to lose control & self-respect. I decided then and there that I wasn’t going to drink anymore. I lost friends, but I wasn’t that bothered, as they were more drinking buddies that real friends, but I noticed quickly how easy it was to be left out due to the assumption that if you’re not drinking, you won’t be fun. I had started getting tattooed at that time too, having just turned 18, and had a friend who was an apprentice who needed to practice. We drew up some X’s for my calves and without thinking too much about the straightedge connection, I had them done. I still didn’t call myself edge, I hadn’t even heard of Earth Crisis yet! I was never one for putting a label onto anyone, especially not myself, so it took quite a few years for me to realize that I actually was living a straightedge lifestyle – and enjoying it, but most of all, I didn’t mind being labeled this way. It was positive and seen as such, so I began to embrace it. I researched it, to find out the origins of X’ed up hands etc., and in doing this; I discovered the bands associated with the scene. I was now living in London and this brought a whole new way of living for me – I struggled with veganism in Dublin as it was still hugely unheard of, and very unpopular. In London, I found so many more options and it was suddenly a lot easier to live the way I wanted. I saw how others viewed the Irish as drinkers though and this angered me somewhat. I was always met with shock and skepticism when I mentioned being teetotal or edge. “But you’re Irish!” was always the reaction, which was usually met by me rolling my eyes. I made some new friends, started to go looking for shows, and found the London hardcore scene, where I realized I would be welcomed, drinker or not, which was great.  As social media wasn’t quite as heavily used then as it is now, I had to collect flyers to know when gigs were happening, and soon enough I had found my way and finally found my lifestyle choices were not sneered at or questioned, but just accepted. I still have those same friends now, and will always be grateful for them. My taste in music didn’t shift over exclusively to straightedge bands, but I was introduced to so much more variety, and obviously a lot of it resonated with me.  As I’ve gotten older and had children, I can see how important my choice to stop drinking was, I hear from other parents about the guilt of being hungover with small kids about, demanding attention or spending a fortune on cocktails and prosecco. It makes me proud that I can see things from both sides, so when my children hit the teens and start to experiment, I can at least guide or advise them with experience from both sides. 

She’s a Punk- The Straight Edge Episode

Have you checked out She’s a Punk? She’s a Punk, hosted by Siobhan Woodrow and her mission is to tell the stories of radical women who are guided by a punk rock ethos. Take a listen to The Straight Edge Episode Sibohan speaks with some really interesting ladies, and although, we don’t all agree, it’s really interesting to hear their personal relationships to straight edge and their experiences.

How I Found Activism Through Claiming Edge

My sobriety has been like getting to know a friend of a friend. You know the one, you go out with a close friend, and they bring someone who’s name you’ve seen on Facebook. You know their face and some details of their life, but they are in no way someone you’re familiar with.

A Prescription for Judgment

Priorities of abstinence may differ for each of us. There are those that believe vegetarian/vegan diets should be a staple of an edge lifestyle, while others feel promiscuous sex need not be a part of the discussion. To each their own, one might say. I try to limit my judgments when it comes to the choices of others in the community, even if I feel strongly in another direction

Supporting Young People in the sXe Community

I had just gotten three x’s tattooed on my back. I started calling myself straight edge at 16, I got the idea to get a tattoo at 19. I was less than pleased that my commitment was being treated as a joke, a phase that I would grow out of, instead of being recognized for the conviction and belief in my own choices that I had already made.

Raising Kids in a Not so sXe World

Bundled up in handmade hats and mittens we met up with another family at our town’s tree lighting. My middle school daughter ran arm in arm with her girlfriend giggling and talking about the future. I wasn’t paying too much attention until I heard “when we turn twenty-one we can have our first alcoholic drink together”. The kids laughed. I cringed.


Nothing is more isolating then hearing the awkward silence that follows opening a gift at a Yankee swap and seeing that it’s wine. There are the initial crickets, then a hurried apology, someone offers to trade with you and the whole time you try to act like you’re not uncomfortable, and that it’s not a problem and it’s okay.

sXe for Life

I’ve been Straight Edge for literally forever. Well, I like to be honest. In high school, I had 1 sip of vodka by itself and another sip mixed with root beer (I don’t even like root beer) in my friend’s house. Once behind an elementary school, I had 1 sip of Mike’s Hard Lemonade. That’s it. My life has been drug-free for 33 years.

Sober Friendship

I knew getting sober would change my life, but I didn’t know my friends would act like it changed theirs, too. The longer I’ve been a part of the Straight Edge lifestyle, the more confident I’ve become. Back in the beginning when my friends would want to go out for a drink I’d come up with an excuse because I was afraid of what they’d think. I didn’t want them to think I felt like I was better than them for their decision I didn’t want to lose them as friends.

Self-Love, Sobriety and sXe

During my second year of graduate school for Sociology & Social Justice, I took Quantitative Analysis with a professor, who insisted we call him “Rich.” Rich was not only a great professor but awesome in his demeanor. He was covered in tattoos and we joked that he looked like a bouncer at a club. In one of our classes, Rich told us how he was part of the Straight Edge Community. He explained “ I do not drink alcohol, consume drugs, smoke cigarettes or engage in promiscuous sex.”

What is sXe?

In the late seventies and early eighties, fueled by the club/party/rock and roll scenes, drug use (abuse) evolved from the dirty hippy stereotype to Hollywood chic.   Drug use was seen as glamorous. The seventies saw artists like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison all pass away due to overdoses. The New York Punk scene was ravaged by heroin.  

The country was still reeling from the Watergate Scandal.  President Regan was ushering in a new brand of conservatism.  Unreset was brewing in the DC Punk/Hardcore Scene.   

Forty-six seconds, a kid with radical ideas about drugs and alcohol, and a punk rock band was all it took to convince young people from around the world to espouse a life free of drugs and alcohol.    

Minor Threat, fronted by Ian Mackaye dropped the track Straight Edge on their 1981  7” Minor Threat.  

I’m a person just like you

But I’ve got better things to do

Than sit around and fuck my head

Hang out with the living dead.

From that moment straight edge took on a life of its own, inspiring countless hardcore bands, artists, and individuals the world over.    

At a high level, the guidelines are pretty simple. Don’t’ drink, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs.  There are debates thought out the community about the definition of what a drug is. Some people abstain from over the counter pain relievers, caffeine, and prescription drugs. Adherents that take straight edge to this extreme are dubbed hardliners.   Most agree that straight edge is not a commitment to be taken lightly, in fact, many adherents are lifers.