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.

Dallas J. Moore an Introduction

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.  -Dallas

Sex & The Straight Edge

Firstly, I’d like to point out how damn difficult it is to talk about this subject without mentioning Mr MacKaye or THAT song but I’m going to give it a bash anyway.

Drunk Words/ Sober Thoughts

One of the biggest adjustments I had to make when I chose to become sober was to my personality. I was forced to actually have one. When I was a drinker, I was considered a happy drunk. I was always the life of the party, making people laugh and was told that the drunk me was way more outgoing, sociable, and fun to be around than sober me. The belief is that drunk words are sober thoughts. This is true but only to an extent. Alcohol was merely amplifying my personality but that personality was always there. Alcohol was just lowering inhibitions and walls that I had placed up around my personality to protect myself from people’s reactions to me and what people might say or think. One of the biggest adjustments I had to make when I chose to become sober was to my personality. I was forced to actually have one. I thought I needed alcohol to be the life of the party. If I only knew what I know now. Now as the sober version of myself when I’m in social gatherings, shows, parties, BBQs, etc. I have to keep this in mind. I just have to remember to be myself and let the real personality shine through a bit more. I have to work a bit harder to keep the walls down and get out of my quiet comfort zone. Just be yourself regardless of what people think. People will judge you anyway and not everyone will like you everywhere you go but at least if you’re being authentic, the people who do like you will like you for the real you. Also, more people will pick up on you being real and will appreciate and respect you more for it than if they know you’re putting up a front.


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.

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.