As a reminder: go ahead and look back at my intro to this series before soldiering on!

At this point, we should all know that life doesn’t always fall into one category or the other.

Despite the LGBTQI community having a long history in the punk scene, it is to our own detriment that we’ve bred a culture of (mostly) blissful ignorance, even though we should be the ones to engender nothing but solidarity with those of differing sexual and gender identities. You can point to a couple of key queer figures in the scene — Darby Crash, The Butchies, Pansy Division, Limp Wrist, Black Fag, Gayrilla Biscuits, Otep, Divine — but they seem far too few.

As far as queer role models go, Buddy Neilsen of Senses Fail served as a great one for a time. Never one to shy away from speaking his mind, he came out as openly queer in an op-ed touching on his struggles with his sexual identity and substance abuse. It was definitely noted. Even though it was heralded as brave and poignant and he received a ton of support at the time, it didn’t have a wide ripple effect.

Not until recently, when Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! came out as trans in the pages of Rolling Stone, did a real change start to take place for queer-identifying people in the punk scene. Maybe that’s coincidental and simply a reflection of the time, or maybe it’s not. Even though many queer and trans hands have played vital parts in punk’s history, that act has become a watershed moment for LGBTQI people in punk rock.

Hell, I still remember where I was when I learned that Tom Gabel, the gruff-voiced giant of one of the loudest punk-rock bands around, was nothing more than a shadow of the true human hiding below. I was sitting in bed in my dorm room, and my first thought was, “Oh no.” Not because this change in consciousness was taking place, but because I was afraid of the online reaction to such an announcement from a community that likes to think it’s ahead of the game when it’s actually been slow-moving on real change. I should have had more faith in my scene.

To my chagrin, the Internet was flooded not with hate and confusion but with well-wishes and support from bands and fans from all over the punk world. I recognized the moment for what it was, dug in the annals of message boards of various sites for two-and-a-half hours, and couldn’t find a single unkind word spoken to Ms. Grace. Though I have no illusions that that was universally the case, I could not have been more proud to call myself a punk that day. Such a high-profile musician coming out so publicly was just what us unaware, cis, straight-identifying male troglodytes needed as a wake up call to focus on a wealth of queer musicians.

Against Me! released Transgender Dysphoria Blues (T.D.B.— get it? See how easy this is going to be?) a year or two after that, and it was harsh, angry, catchy, glorious, succinct, and incisive. It was simultaneously deeply personal and general enough to be indicative of a sorely underrepresented and much maligned demographic that has been with us since history began.

Obviously, not all of the included bands below are trans, but all are queer-identifying. The bands on the way up are taking this standard and bearing it defiantly into the future. They’re not only waving, but they’re ready to shove it down the throat of anyone dumb enough to stand in the way of progress. The thing about history is that it marches on, and anyone dumb enough to stand in the way of inexorable progress tends to end up with footprints on their forehead.

G.L.O.S.S

G.L.O.S.S (Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit) is nothing short of remarkable. In a world that has rejected them, beat them down, assaulted them, degraded them, demeaned them, and made them utterly unsafe, they take their unbridled rage and turn it right back around on the world.

Make no mistake — if you are a cis hetero male reading the lyrics or listening to the harsh, throaty screams of these badass girls, you feel deeply uncomfortable. This isn’t cutesy, safe anger that is contained within a simple song. This is the unfettered furor of millions of repressed people who have experienced daily violence due to their identity.

“You feel unsafe?” G.L.O.S.S says, “Good.” And they smile like a knife. They just dropped their second EP, Trans Day of Revenge, and statements don’t come much clearer.

Agoraphobic Nosebleed

AN are amongst the undisputed kings of grind, not to mention one of the originators of a couple subgenres of grindcore, so when they picked up the former lead singer of the crust/drone band Salome, it was an interesting choice. A band known for inhuman speed choosing someone from a band that regularly took the space of a whole AN record just to get out a single coherent scream? Definitely unexpected.

That being said, this year’s Arc is the most accessible (and my personal favorite) of AN’s discography. Katherine Katz’s lyrics are deeply personal, dealing with the attrition and loss of a loved one to cancer, and heartrendingly articulated. Plus, the genre change up to a more doom-style of metallic hardcore is a welcome one that really puts an emphasis on the message over the method. Luckily for all of us, Arc shows it’s not all about drum machines for these guys.

Dyke Drama

I had the pleasure of seeing Dyke Drama open for Beach Slang this year. As far as accessible punk rock goes, these punks got it in spades. Their live shows are raucous, and their record is heartfelt with a kind of self-weary cynicism and awareness.

They turn what could be plucky defiance in choruses (“I wasn’t born to lose”) into jaded and disheartened resigns (“I wasn’t born to lose — it’s the thing I do best”). They are open and straightforward about their lives and outlooks. Their music says it’s been a hellish road, but we’re still singing.

Worriers

Worriers were also a first-string opener for Beach Slang on their last tour, and they put on an entertaining-as-hell show. They sound basically like Lemuria with a little bit more bite. (That’s definitely a good thing. As much as I like a couple of Lemuria’s records, the sweet saccharine act never really worked for me.)

Worriers take it up another notch with killer guitar lines screaming in the background of catchy pop punk. It even reminds me of Fifth Hour Hero at some points, which is a band I dearly miss.

Shopping

Of all the bands on this list, Shopping is the one I am the least familiar with. They play a kind of surfy post-punk that is simultaneously a throwback and a remix. They already have a pair of full-lengths out, and while those records’ delivery is every bit punk, it seems more angled for the dance floor than the pit.

Because of that, Shopping may very well get further than any other band on the list. Their avant-garde, throwback dance jams will certainly appeal to a wider base than someone literally screaming in your face. Since they’re being led, written, and delivered by a QPOC, those jams hold an inherent political power and importance that doesn’t seem lost on Shopping. Instead, they seem to be holding it in reserve.

Sister Crayon

This is the band I am most excited for in the near future. I caught the Sacramento hip-hop act opening for Doomtree a while back, and they knocked me flat on my ass. Lead singer Terra Lopez is fiercely outspoken on social media and very gracious in personal correspondence, even when hit up by a random photographer to hear that the group knocked him on his ass at their show.

Sister Crayon also has a badass DIY attitude that has gotten the attentions of Deftones and The Album Leaf, who have each tapped them as openers on separate tour legs. They have a headlining show at The Echo in late July, and their full-length record, Devoted, is fucking incredible.

The nice thing about punk is that a lot of it is attitude and go-getedness. And while Sister Crayon’s sound definitely leans a lot more towards Nas than NOFX, their attitude, ethic, and associations (in my opinion) clearly put them in our wheelhouse. I really can’t say enough good things about this band.

Allison Weiss

There’s a reason every punk’s heart sings for Tegan and Sara — they are hard-working, catchy-as-hell songwriters who have scrappily fought their way up from DIY roots while writing broken-hearted, honest, open songs. Tegan and Sara may be at the top of their game (despite being at the poppiest of their sound), but a new challenger definitely lies in Allison Weiss.

You want straightforward? Earnest? Broken-hearted? Honest? To the point? Check. Check. Check. Check. Doublecheck. Gender-swap Frank Turner, and you’ve got this singer-songwriter in a nutshell. Her songs are just as pointed and poignant with all of the catchy bombast and lacking only in production.

PWR BTTM

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Hudson’s PWR BTTM. Last year, they put out a full-length album, Ugly Cherries, and it skyrocketed to the top of my must-listen list. Their songs are tight, guitar-laden explosions laced with soaring punk vocals.

The duo is killing it on tour with Pity Sex right now and will be swinging by The Troubadour tomorrow night. For glammed-out, glitter-blasted, stripped-down punk rock, PWR BTTM is simply incredible. I only found out about them recently, but their talent is undeniable.