Agendered and Going On a Bender: Punk Created by a Non-binary Fan PT.2

Photo courtesy of Milo Paul

Photo courtesy of Milo Paul

Milo Paul, Web Staffer

If there’s any shared consensus between the disputing voices in my head, it’s that I grew up lost. In a lot of ways I felt as though I had been born lost because answers weren’t ever immediately accessible. The inherent problem that comes with being non-binary is that I wasn’t even given this mode of existence as an answer to be accessed at all, I was denied it; mostly subliminally, occasionally aggressively, almost always constantly. It’s not even the fault of those who reared me since this treatment was and is thought to be an unquestionably appropriate, entirely plausible route for raising a child. Minding that, if I could possibly speak for my generation and especially those who consider themselves non-binary— “thank you for the genes, parents! Now, help me as I continue forward with this.”

Music was never about fun with me, not at first. My father got me my first drum-kit freshman year of high school, and in a particularly snug corner of our house’s basement I found a great deal of comfort fucking up at an instrument I barely knew how to play. My elementary school teachings did not apply to this beast. I started from chicken-shit scratch and just went from there. The ability to learn at my own leisured pace really was gift all of its own and wasn’t something I was used to.

So I upped the challenge the following year. I signed up for my school’s guitar class and, to be completely frank on the matter, I stopped paying attention about when I had learned at least 4 chords, A F C G. I am a very hands-on person, and the speed in which my teacher was going didn’t appeal to me. Neither did my heterosexuality.

It was around this time that I started accepting I wasn’t straight. This was terrifying. I was called “faggot” all throughout my grade school years and into middle school without entirely knowing what it had meant and, now that I did know, the reality that I could actually be what my bullies had called me felt incredibly invasive. They must have known what I was or could read my mind, because GOD knows how many hours I spent staring out school bus windows thinking “Mitch C. is really cute but I’m not gay. Gay people are fine but I can’t be them” just to perpetuate my personal denial as a routine, BUT I would certainly NEVER think these things out loud. It was all really maddening. This stress wasn’t helped when I admitted this to my mother, who recoiled with a burst about how bisexual men didn’t exist. I then gave her a website link literally dedicated to that, and the conversation just kinda ended. I don’t really blame my mother for responding the way she did because she was raised that way, and she ultimately didn’t know any better up until that point. That’s when I realized what the monster was I was messing with— learned prejudice.

At its bare minimum, punk is a genre dedicated to being different, and that makes it an excellent host for misfits who just want to dance to something. Some are right wing blowhards who consider their morally abhorrent personal beliefs that have been supported for centuries as evidence to their being “misfits”, but shit is as shit does. Regardless, punk has always felt welcoming to me, a genre waving its hand in a gesture that so bluntly reads “come get weird over here, yo”, no matter who you are. Punk was indiscriminate, or at least tried its best to be so. Punk didn’t care if I wore a skirt and (mostly) didn’t care about how experimental I tended to be. In fact, these things made someone extra punk.

My current music taste developed into itself the same winter I came out as agender, and that’s when my style of songwriting blossomed. Trevor made way for Milo, Bob Dylan left room for Pat the Bunny. After an outing as a black metal drummer, I started my first band. “Turb” had its origins in my meeting Angeline King, the president of my school’s GSA who shared my interest in garage punk. When she graduated, I replaced her as president. “Turb” wouldn’t exist today if I didn’t come out of the closet, and doing so gave me the incentive to explore myself creatively as well as internally. While I was starting to date other non-binary people, so did I discover that barre chords weren’t the end-all, be-all for me musically. “Cocky”, one the best songs I’ve written thus far for Turb, doesn’t have a single chord in its structure that I know the name for. I started wearing make-up. I wrote songs longer than 2 minutes. These sides of life were feeding into each other in ways I couldn’t fathom, acting like a perpetual motion machine of inspired life-choices and musical decisions.

With that in mind, I didn’t write my first anything about being queer until two years had passed after writing my first serious song. It seemed like a subject that was too taboo, too personal, to boot that I honestly had no clue on how to write a song about it. And that’s also a lie. I did know, and I just wouldn’t let myself attempt it. I was afraid that one of these projects I was in would have such a song catapult it into fame, where I’d then be begged to play this song over and over, live and in front of a countless number of strangers. I didn’t want my audience to know me that intimately, or to think that they did. It wasn’t the time for that yet. I wasn’t ready to have my creative and personal lives spill into one another in that way. Next time, I’ll explain how that eventually did come to be the case.