OP-ED: Take Back the Microphone

How do we transform our miasma music community? This question is one that weaves around my regular anxieties like a concertgoer weaving their way around a packed house in order to get to the front row. Our music community is taking advantage of its own and corrupting the innocent young folks who clamor for some sort of family. We’re dropping the ball. We’re not being the positive influencers we need to be. And yet, many of us still stand idly by as the few spew rape culture-denying, sexuality-erasing, transphobic-endorsing rhetoric—either directly or veiled behind countless exhausted excuses and agonizing inaction. It’s infuriating.

I constantly have to remind myself that (a) change is slow and (b) those who I view as having sordid views are potentially future allies of the community I love. But it’s the truth: change is slow (painfully slow) and where others might see a bigot, we must see a student. That semantic variance is not trivial. Think about it: you don’t try to sell a car to someone who just bought a car. But realistically, this is much easier said than done.

It pissed me off when I heard about the Deafheaven member who, uh, let his homophobic flag fly. Do I think he’s an evil dude? I haven’t met him, but I doubt it though. What we see is a direct example of spreading bigotry and denouncing inclusion (McCoy’s tweets) and an indirect example of acceptance of said bigotry and denouncement (the lack of any statement from Deafheaven disparaging McCoy’s past Twitter rant) which leads to the corruption of their fan base (and the irrevocable harm done to their queer fans). This is an all-too-familiar plot.

The issues our music community face today are not new nor are they the products of infrequent incidents. The issues our music community face are products of decades of inaction and dithering on the part of the overwhelming majority. We often hear, especially from some of our political leaders, that bad things are inevitably going to happen; bad people exist in our society, and will always exist in our society. I don’t disagree. This is true if we dive deeper and focus on just our music community as well. There will always be those who, for one reason or another, lack the ability to empathize and who act on their ignorance in shitty ways. We shouldn’t dedicate our entire effort to addressing these individuals. Rather, we need to do a better job of empowering the majority to stand up and be the trendsetters.

I guess what I’m getting at is that we need to use our community’s malleability to our advantage. Believe me when I say, we are the majority. The overwhelming majority, in fact. So let’s positively influence our community’s members. How can we accomplish this? It starts with opening our mouths and calling out bullshit behavior when it happens. We can’t let words get in the way of positive progress. We need to stop cannibalizing our own when we share the same goals but differ on the means to accomplish these goals. And we need to stop feeding the beast by ceasing our promotion of those who do not represent the best our community has to offer.

I am confident in our ability to create meaningful change. I’m bullish on our music community’s future. Our youthfulness is an asset; our microphones are unique tools. We just have to start pushing forward. We need to take back the microphone.

Michael McCarron is the Founder and Creative Director of Punk Out, a Philadelphia-based non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT+ musicians and fans. Follow Punk Out on Facebook and Twitter.

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