Grymm Kitty2Back in May, Cynic founders Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert publicly came out as gay during an interview with the LA Times. Given the climate of being open about your sexual orientation in the field of metal music, they made the decision to come out knowing the potential backlash they could receive. Thankfully, the response has been mostly that of what I call “positive apathy.” In other words, people were incredibly supportive, but also didn’t really give a shit about their orientation. Still, the fact that metalheads are overlooking such a thing is nothing short of amazing and empowering. Oddly enough, though, some of the biggest critics against Masvidal and Reinert (or any openly gay metal musician, for that matter), as I’ve seen online in my various social media circles, are other gay men. Snarky comments, bitchy attitudes, and comments ranging from “Too bad they’re not relevant or popular” to “Oh grrrls, we knew and really, make a hit song to matter” were thrown about constantly.

And quite frankly, this is exactly what pushes any gay person back into the proverbial closet. Including me.

When you come out to friends, family, and the people around you about who you are, there’s always a risk of societal excommunication, termination of employment, or much, much worse. I’m thankful that I have a very understanding and loving family who were very accepting of me. When I came out to my metalhead friends (and I have a slew of them), all of them accepted me.  All  of them. I am one of the lucky ones who didn’t get thrown out of my home, banned from family functions, or otherwise excluded by people I love. And the metal community, oddly enough, was very accepting and loyal, and they continue to be.  I, as well as many gay metalheads and metal musicians, can’t thank you guys and gals enough for that.

paulmasvidalseanreinertcynic2011_638However, when you try to explain to another gay person what music you enjoy, Dearest Mother of Chthulu, you really shouldn’t even bother. You are viewed as “uncultured,” “uncouth,” and ostracized for not fitting in, which runs directly at odds with our constant need for acceptance of who we are. Think about that for a second… I (and others I’m aware of) have been given an unnecessary rash of shit for being diverse by people who crave diversity. “Fucked” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Yes, it’s true. Not all of us like RobynThe Scissor Sisters, or The Arcade Fire. HBO’s Looking makes me never, ever want to visit San Francisco (and for the record, I would fit in with the majority of the gay community there about as well as a Straight-Edge guy would fit in at Burning Man). The fact that I did a retro review for the Emperor album that has Faust on it (and a positive one at that) does not escape me. I’m also about as politically correct as an episode of Wonder Showzen, about as hip and trend-setting as your mom, and only use the word “fierce” when talking about the High Punch button in the original Street Fighter II.

I’m writing this article, sticking myself on the edge of a skyscraper (even under a pseudonym) because, unlike my teenage years or my twenties, I know there are other metalheads in the LGBT community who, for whatever reason, feel alone from either family or friends because of their orientation, or from other members of the LGBT community because of their love of metal. There are many colors of the proverbial rainbow, and there are those that appreciate the darkest, tr00est, kvltest, frostbitten shades of black in it, and that shade is ever-growing, ever-strengthening, and becoming more and more accessible as time goes on.

And to you guys and girls, I just want to say that you fucking matter, and nevermind the naysayers. Keep throwing down at shows. Be true to you and others. And remember that we are ALL legion.

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  • replica

    As an ambassador of all things “straight”, let me offer my warmest of positive apathy.

  • AndySynn

    Interestingly I have quite a few friends in both the gay and transgender communities over here, and while both are generally a little confused and by the very idea of “Metal” it’s my friends in the transgender community who have been more fascinated and interested in what I do!

    • nunka

      As a transgender person and a passionate metalhead, I’m not really surprised by that. We’re the most frequently overlooked of the big-4 LGBT groups. Unlike gay culture, there’s no special rulebook for us to follow. Our cultural identities are very individualized because nobody has defined what “trans fashion” or a “trans lifestyle” is. We’re left to our own devices. We listen to whatever the hell we want.

      Basically, my point is that many of us are just as grim and frostbitten as the rest of you. ;)

      • AndySynn

        You’re not as grim and frostbitten as me! I’m currently typing this from a cave, in the woods, at the heart of winter!

        Or not…

        Seriously though, that’s generally been my perception of things too, so nice to know I’m not completely imagining things!

        I just have always found it odd that many of my gay friends find my supposedly “straight” interests to be completely alien, as if they belong to another world and as if I’m a member of another species, whereas my trans friends simply find it interesting because it’s not something they’re generally as familiar with.

  • Al Tatts

    Great article and an interesting read that gives pause for thought. I hadn’t considered sexuality as having bearing on musical tastes for, well, years. I’m just happy that anybody supports the music I love. It means it keeps getting played, recorded etc. An album sale is an album sale is an album sale, right?

    The irony that a group that celebrates diversity has its own cultural fascism is pretty stunning.

    I need to get out more.

    • devil, câlisse!

      Facism? Really? My guess is you REALLY need to get out more… It’s a big world out there….

      • Al Tatts

        Have a go at understanding the word fascism.

        • devil, câlisse!

          Well, i already understand it. But if you really need an in depth explanation of this authoritarian radical political ideology, may i suggest the wonderful A history of fascism, by Stanley Payne. Its really interesting.

          • Al Tatts

            Please. It was used in the context of chauvinism and intolerance.

          • http://www.mutantpop.net timbearcub

            I think the thing is with the F-word is that when it’s real, rather than an overstatement it’s really ugly and horrible…so I bit like pulling out the Nazi or Rape etc. words, it kind of makes the other acceptable, or diminishes it when you use it for dramatic overstatement?

            Sometimes I think you have to save the bad words for, you know, bad things. Otherwise it just gets a bit messy.

        • Constantijn Blondel

          In the original comment, you used the term “cultural fascism” rather than ‘the f-word’.

          I think that was a perfectly fine choice of words and not really worth for anyone to get upset over … properly nuanced and contexed, and stuff …

          Just white-knighting here :)

    • GHDJ

      Oh trust… Gay guys can be just as weird about members of their own klan that don’t fit in. When I remarked that I didn’t know who the big blonde Swedish diva playing the Hollywood bowl was recently, I got plenty of “how are you gay and not know who Robyn is?”

      Gay guys can be pretty weird about gay guys who don’t fit into the mold.

  • Oberon

    I remember seeing some sort of documentary about Halford and one of the fans stating ” I don’t care if he’s into golden retrievers, just as long as the music is good”

  • Robert Turnbull

    It is extremely frustrating how many people assume certain preferences, beliefs, looks etc. remain mutually exclusive from one another. As a Christian, I have colleagues and acquaintances that cannot understand how I can enjoy metal and remain faithful and steadfast in my beliefs. Of course there are certain bands I do not listen to (hopefully for obvious reasons), but the same would apply regardless of musical genre.

    Oh and by the way, excellent article Grymm.

    • Zadion

      Couldn’t have said this better myself! Orientation is one of a multitude of personal traits where others assume things about you based on it. I, too, am a Christian who has seen derision from other Christians because I love metal (and don’t particularly like most gospel), despite actively avoiding anything too scathing towards my beliefs.

      And what’s perhaps even worse is facing scorn from OTHER metalheads because I like music that’s not metal, such as EDM and hip hop. People aren’t even making assumptions about what you like or don’t like based on personality traits or beliefs, but also based on other things you do or don’t like. Then they offer ridicule because you didn’t fit up to those assumptions. How ridiculous is that?

      I concur; great article, Grymm!

  • El Lado Oscuro

    Good point, actually I think nobody -with some discernable IQ- gives a shit anymore where the rest of the world put his/her things on, and viceversa, but specially in the arts field.

  • http://www.metalvortex.net/ [HKK] Hell³

    What most of the apathetic (positive or not) people obviously fail to acknowledge is that there are people who give a shit, in either side of the discussion. It’s more than just politics or PR. If there’s even a remote chance of a positive outcome for anyone out there who might be on the fence on the subject, then I would say it’s worth even just sparking the debate that otherwise would have been kept private if lucky or secret if they’re not.

    I am from a country where even the mention of homophobia, racism, xenophobia, clasism, or religious persecution is met with derision or even annoyance because we’re supposed to derive from a melting pot past where there is no way, again supposedly, that it could end in a non-pluralist society. So here we are, patting ourselves in the back while the rest of the world criticizes us for our world cup behavior and actually dismiss the thing because “they don’t understand our culture”.

    So I, for one, let me step outside the positive apathy and give you, Paul and Sean my support for taking a stance in a world where the neutral “I don’t care one way or the other” attitude is treated as a better alternative perhaps just to avoid being targeted by the internet extremists. And also let me thank you for a great thought-inducing piece.

  • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

    This article rules. Considering that metal (when it’s good) is a considerable force against closed-mindedness and bullshit religious values, it’s amazing that the gay community hasn’t collectively found something to like about it.

    • Grymm

      THIS. GODDAMN MOTHERFUCKING THIS.

      Exactly. Great metal is salvation. For EVERYONE.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Well said sir!

    A problem IMO, that crosses culture, gender, race and sexuality is that most people most of the time are wilfully ignorant (AMG readers excluded of course) and contribute to an insidious type of cultural and personal fascism. Woody Guthrie painted on his guitar the slogan ‘THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS’ and he spake the truth good metal or any art for that matter, should be a metaphysical punch in the face of wilful ignorance and a refuge for those that choose not live in bliss-less ignorance.
    oh and
    ‘and only use the word “fierce” when talking about the High Punch button in the original Street Fighter II.’
    thats gold.

  • Innit Bartender

    I can only say it took a lot of courage to write this, so good job mr. Grymm.

  • SeventhSonOfA

    I’d love to know in what industry “Termination of Employment” is a risk for coming out. I’d like to work in that industry. Lately, in case you’re not paying attention, failing to fully celebrate and revere (forget tolerate! Not enough!) homosexuals and the normalization of their deviancy is what results in employment termination.

    • Grymm

      Come live in Florida (like I do). You aren’t really protected here or a few other states legally.

      Otherwise, pretty much spot-on.

    • http://www.metalvortex.net/ [HKK] Hell³

      I know you are trolling, but I would like to know In what industry, state or country I have to celebrate and revere homosexuality so I don’t risk unemployment, sounds like they could have kickass “reverence” parties.

      And as far as your link goes, it’s not really that good to even censor if all they do it’s just generalize. For every Vikernes or Mustaine there is a Lunn or a Rollins. Even Dickinson (who, by your nickname, is a person that may be known to you) has called metal the working man’s opera. So saying that metal is right wing is really ingenuous at best and truly ignorant at worst.

    • James Ingold

      A newly-experienced absence of privilege often feels like discrimination. I suspect your observation of a pressure to revere gay people is just a skewed relative perception compared to the not so distant societal sanctioning of ignoring, ostracizing, and deriding gay people. Give it time and you’ll realize it’s not deviant, but normal and even wonderful. Best regards.

  • GHDJ

    Ok so remember that Looking isn’t really very San Francisco… Most of the people who lived there hated that show for it’s white washing and boring characters. I promise you that if you take Looking as representative of what SF is like, you may as well judge Los Angeles using an episode of 90210. There are plenty of us gay metal heads here and they even play music you might like at the eagle.

    • Grymm

      Duly noted, and yes, I do have a slew of friends from San Francisco who definitely don’t fit the mold at all.

    • JWG

      So what you’re saying is that TV isn’t at all realistic concerning communal identities.

      This definitely makes me question my prior conceptualization of the Jersey Shore.

      Maybe…

    • http://www.mutantpop.net timbearcub

      Oh I love the Eagle. And Hole In The Wall is quite rock-y as I seem to remember. In fact compared to the hard-house crap we get in clubs and sometimes bars in Europe it was a pleasant change to have something that didn’t need a bag of drugs and a glowstick to not hate (and I love my pop, house and dance…which it why I can’t stand the generic rinky-dink hard trance boom tss boom tss).

      Yeah there are fans of all music in SF, when I’ve visited there I’ve not felt out of place for my musical likes, more other stuff (like London, the locals can be a bit cliquey/cold to new faces, but NY is the same – it’s a city thing mostly, and a bear thing).

  • http://Angrymetalguy.com Steel Druhm

    We aren’t removing your comments. If you include a link it drops the comment into a moderation panel and one of the staff has to go in and manually approve each one.

  • Grymm

    And now it’s triple-posted.

    Umm… congrats?

  • Chris

    That might be the most inane thing I’ve ever read.

    Perhaps its greatest logical flaw is that it wants to root metal culture within a framework that is rigidly defined (which is absurd by itself), claiming that because it says it is rough and tumble (and conservative), it actually is. It basically provides an analysis that somehow manages to be a stretch while *still* only being a surface reading of metal.

    The roots of metal have literally nothing to do with far-right politics, cultural or otherwise. I mean, let’s cut the shit, that article is advocating for *literal* fascism: the revolution-via-nationalist pride, social darwinism, and strength though power (and racial purity — thanks to the Burzum link).

    Perhaps the most popular topic of conversation of proto-metal and early metal bands was war — anti-war, to be precise. I’m not sure how someone could see War Pigs (or basically half of Metallica’s catalog) as being right-wing — and jesus christ, especially not the sort of right-wing being advocated in this article.

    Likewise, the claim that “satanism” was meant to convey something “evil and real” is a half-reading. Once again, see the story behind War Pigs. Outside of that, most early metal bands that adopted a satanic image did so because they thought it was cool to be scary. When that evolved with the Norwegian black metal scene, they took it and ran with it because basically every member of that scene was a teenage/20-something disaffected adult with nothing to hold on to. That, and it sold records. I realize it’s not trve kvlt to say, but that whole scene was about selling a sound (the ideology was only important to a small few — see how basically everyone but Varg and Gaahl has backed away from it).

    But implying that their injection into metal means that it is always to be associated with those things is bizarre. Why does the chain stop there? I guess Wolves in the Throne Room are out, right? Agalloch, too?

    And shit, that’s just the black metal chain. The link completely falls apart when you try to stretch it to power metal, or hell, even doom metal (which is about as shoe-gaze as you get in the land of metal, which directly contradicts the article, as it tries to make the case that self-expression is leftist… which… music… what?)

    But honestly, I don’t know why I’m bothering to respond in the first place. This kind of junk has been going on ever since the first vaguely racist metalhead sat down in philosophy 101 and misread Nietzsche.

    • Grymm

      You took most of the words right out of my mouth, but I’ll take this just a few steps further, shall we? But first, two things:

      1) Artists in the metal genre should be allowed to voice their opinions, no matter how unpopular. In fact, I’ll even go as far as saying that, musically, I’m impressed by Burzum, Arghoslent, and Nokturnal Mortum (more on them in a bit), even if I -vehemently- oppose their ideologies.

      2) You are also more than welcome to express your opinion here at AMG. Even if it’s dead wrong (like SeventhSonOfA’s). Allow me to pontificate…

      If metal music is for the extreme right-wing and the voice of conservatism, someone should check into the roots of metal music (and in rock and roll in general), and find out that it was born out of the American blues genre, which was heavily populated (and largely perfected) by African Americans.

      But sure. We aren’t talking about rock and roll or blues, right? HEAVY FUCKING METAL, right? Everyone knows about the Big Three of classic heavy metal: Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, and Judas Priest. Iron Maiden, I’ll touch upon shortly. Black Sabbath started off as a group of junkies from Birmingham who were anti-war and pro-pot. Hardly extreme right-wing values. And Judas Priest? Everyone knows they are fronted by the President of The Gay (Metal Chapter), Rob Halford.

      May I continue?

      Speaking of extreme right-wing, let’s talk about one of their biggest card-carrying members of the scene, Nokturnal Mortum. Talented musicians, I will give them that. But there’s something downright hilarious when you look at NM frontman Knjaz Varggoth’s Facebook page, and he’s posing with former Iron Maiden frontman Paul Di’anno, who is not only famous for mooching off of Maiden’s history, but also recently made famous for serving jail time for illegally mooching off of the welfare system in England. And I am quite certain that that’s looked down upon by you guys.

      And speaking of NM, those boys sure do love their leather, don’t they? Here they are on stage, singing their praises for the white race, all sweaty in tight leather, to (presumably) other sweaty men (who may or may not be wearing tight leather), using music that was originally descended by black people, and made famous in part by The Gay.

      So, yes, you are entitled to your opinion. I’m also entitled to say that it is what it is.

      Pure. Fucking. Bullshit.

      • Carniverous Ruminant

        Beyond what Paul Di’anno did, the guys in Iron Maiden seem fairly politically progressive, if you extrapolate their beliefs from the subject matter of their lyrics. The best recent example is “El Dorado”, which is a direct indictment of the hyper-capitalism from American and British financial institutions that led to the global recession in the late aughts.

        • Grymm

          Oh, they most definitely are very progressive, and I’m a HUGE Maiden fan, btw.

          I was just pointing out the irony of someone who will gleefully cheer for fascist ideologies when they stand next to someone who does something completely against their viewpoints (and illegally, mind you).

          • Carniverous Ruminant

            Agreed, and I was responding to the original poster in this thread, given his incredibly ironic username in this context (SeventhSonOfA). I was an officer in the US military, and I saw a number of my friends get out because of the whole “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. It was complete bullshit, and it’s amazing how much things have changed in the last 5-7 years, even if that change seems incremental with all of the anti-gay pushback from these right-wing religious extremists.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    wilful ignorance, exhibit A

  • http://themetalpigeon.com/ The Metal Pigeon

    Really fantastic piece Grymm. I’m happy to hear that the metal community at large is “positively apathetic” about issues like sexuality. We’re all here for the music after all. I think my big tip off that the metal community would react like this to the idea of gay metal artists is the fact that Rob Halford was/is still regarded as a badass after his coming out —- it didn’t change who he was to his audience.

    I’d like to see situations where gay media would cover metal, to counteract that very thing you were describing when talking about your social media circles. The view of metal from the perspective of the gay community is not something I’m personally very aware of, though I have a friend/co-worker who’s gay who just tends to view my metal obsession as foreign, despite my casual insistence that he might like some of it. Its hard to say who’s responsibility that falls on —- the metal community or the gay community (I suppose the gay metal community?). Didn’t metal score some points with Halford’s coming out back in the day?

    On a personal note, I was at a metal show earlier this year and was pleasantly surprised to see a lesbian couple in the crowd. That was a first for me. And even more surprisingly, no one really stared at them or paid them too much attention. They themselves were too into the music to bother looking around to see if anyone was anyway.

    • nunka

      I would hazard a guess that metal is dismissed as “foreign” and “just a bunch of noise” by most people who see themselves as members of a unified community – who feel they are, or should be, on the same page as every other member of that community – regardless of their sexual orientation. Metal, at its roots, began as an escape for the outcasts… a power fantasy for the powerless. Thus it naturally appeals to those of us who have ever felt like outcasts.

      That’s obviously a broad generalization. But so is the notion that *all* metal is or should be any one thing. Fight fire with fire? ;)

  • Piet

    I am indeed one of those guys who just doesn’t give a shit at all about someones sexual orientation. As long as you don’t expect me to treat you differently than anyone else you’re fine in my book.

  • Greg Hasbrouck

    Nice article.

  • http://Angrymetalguy.com Steel Druhm

    Here’s why I love the AMG fanbase: when Grymm told me he wanted to do this piece, I thought it was brave of him, but I also knew it would be well received by 90% of the AMG readers. Everyone is entitled to believe what they believe and feel what they feel, but by and large, we’ve managed to develop a very cool and intelligent core readership for this little blog that could and the reaction here is proof of that.
    If this was posted over at Blabbermouth, I think the reaction would have been way different and that’s unfortunate.

  • James Ingold

    Thanks so much for writing this article. Metal music and culture obviously has some challenging histories with regards to sexuality but that’s not exclusive to metal (being a more politically charged genre, hip hop for example has some really interesting historical developments).
    I remember my younger days where I felt I didn’t fit in the communities in which I grew up and my first experiences with the local gay community was equally disillusioning. A big thing for me was realizing I didn’t need to change or be anything to ‘fit’ somewhere; just be who you want and you’ll naturally connect with some people and a more generalized sense of belonging won’t seem so important. No matter where you are, it’s easy to get myopic and polarized if you’re not actively challenging your beliefs and trying to look at larger world. Thanks for reminding me of that.

  • http://autap.se Richard

    Man, my tactics in Street Fighter got so much better after I discovered the full range of punch ferocities.

    Here’s to the Tolerance Train*!

    *© SeventhSonOfA, 2014

  • Godwalker

    As a Metalhead with a slew of gay friends, I find this remarkably interesting, It seems the gay community puts itself into its own stereotypical pigeonholes. By which I mean, they come down on their own culture hard if they are not acting “properly” gay. Some of my gay friends are more “out there,” than the rest, sure, but in the end, they all follow the same trends. Disco music, nice clothes, dishing on gossip, knowing useless trivia about this and that and I’ve seen the majority of my gay friends come down hard on other gays around them who didn’t fit into this mold-to the point where some gays simply didnt even want to associate themselves with other gays because they just didn’t quite fit in. It’s a hypocrisy of the greatest order. A culture whose been fighting for acceptance won’t even accept their own cuz they aren’t representing what gay “should” be, This is why I love the Metalverse. I truly do believe we are the most accepting niche of people. We “get” it. We get that we’ve been fighting for acceptance our whole lives-more than just musically-and anyone who shares the same mindset as us (gay, metalhead, straight, disabled,etc ) is more than welcome to join up with us and be who they are. I can totally see the writer’s point with this.

  • http://walkyrie.com.ve/ Luis Robles

    I live in south America where the chauvinism is such a migraine induced problem. I could not care less about the sexual orientation of my fellow metalheads. Are you a nice person? Can we have a conversation? Are you a person that cares about their friends.

    Then you are good to go. Thank you for the article I liked it very very much.

  • http://metalbandcamp.com MaxR

    Great article Grymm. But, but.. does this make you Angry Metal Gay?

  • KMFCM

    I can relate. you know who gives black metalheads more shit than anyone? um, black people.