There is no time in which a closeted Goth’s life stands in starker contrast than during a job search. It’s hard enough to compete with a suit and tie, who doesn’t have a guarantee either. We may try, but we know that we may never fit the mold. As I was contemplating these things, I caught a glimpse of an iPad poker game filled with a trio of Goth players. Poker by itself does not necessitate that players be Goth, so the option for them to be got me to thinking. Apparently, the culture still exists, but in a space so underground that it’s practically alternative reality. It exists in a safe space away from the rest of the world–in the world of World of Warcraft, The Sims, Second Life, IMVU, online poker games, video games, iPhone games, and computer games. They exist in the land of the digital. They live in a gray space–real enough to identify with but too false to feel satisfying. Goths have been so suppressed that the culture has been relegated to the confines of (even standard) avatars, where we can project our desires without fear of losing our livelihood. A job search profile pic may never live up to one’s true identity, but an avatar can always express your true self without fear. It is certainly not the best way by a long shot, but when there is a will there will always be some sort of way to express ourselves.
Today I am again reminded of how frequently people choose violence as a way of expressing anger. Two times there have been an active shooter (or the possibility of an active shooter) in a place close to me near dates that were important to me. I didn’t think I’d ever have to write a post about it here, but I feel that it is about time.
We all know about the current events with police brutality against blacks and the continuation of active shooters ever since the time I was in high school. In an American culture that glorifies violence, even over sex, it is not just surprising that there is violence, but it is surprising that there isn’t more.
The most relevant shooting to our group of people is the Columbine massacre, which many have confirmed were not the cause of Goths or the Goth culture. I will never forget that when a teacher told my friend to “take it off,” referring to his trenchcoat, he took off his shirt and put his trenchcoat back on. Now I’m not saying that I support defiance, especially when it comes to retaining a job, but I am saying that there are many ways to express ourselves that are nonviolent but just as effective.
The great thing about our fashion revolution is that it works best without violence. Actually, violence defeats the purpose of changing people’s opinions and stereotypes about us. People are not going to hire you under threat of force. Our revolution (to put Goths in jobs) will require us to do the work, and we will only get as far as the effort we put in. Our revolution is a revolution that will require our own self-improvement.
As we consider Rachel Dolezal, the NAACP leader and white woman who passed as, and identified as, a black woman, let’s consider all types of passing. We may consider Bruce Jenner’s passing as, and identification as, Caitlyn Jenner. Is passing really passing or is it being in the closet? At which point is the line drawn between these two similar concepts? Honestly, it’s easy to pass as mainstream, but it is difficult to be in the closet. Not only are our GLBT allies in the closet, but Goths the world over are in the closet. The more our GLBT allies come out of the closet, the more the Goths go back in, if you just look at the statistics from Vampire Freaks, the largest Goth organization that would have the data, you would know what I’m talking about.
If people think Rachel is crazy or Caitlyn is crazy for acting on how they self-identify, then call me crazy for self-identifying as a Goth and never giving up that identity. In today’s world, why must we pass for mainstream people? In today’s world, why must we continue to be shoved into the closet when everyone else is coming out? Why does everyone else get a protected class except for us? Does society think that everyone else’s identity is more important than our identity? Every time you think the world is being more open-minded about race, sexuality, etc. just consider for a moment if all that applies equally to Goths. If it doesn’t, then we still have a long way to go. We are not ghosts, and we are not invisible.
I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping to stick around so that something may be done about it.
You may have heard of the culture wars. You might have heard that it’s political, between the two major American political parties. I disagree. There is a culture war going on, yes, but it ain’t in politics–it’s in corporations. If you feel that you have to be anyone other than yourself, then the Man is keeping you down. You shouldn’t have to be more articulate, more hardworking, afraid to express anger, willing to trust the system, or perfect to survive, to pay your bills, or to afford rent. People who make it in Corporate America are not cultured, just the opposite–they are without culture. Lets just take a look at the United States of America. You’ll find culture in the tourist spots and the poorest cities–Albuquerque, Baltimore, New Orleans–because Corporate America does not reward culture or history. Corporate America rewards the DC area because the shiny, happy judgers of others all have smooth edges and surround themselves with suburbs and newness. They are the Stepford Wives of America, and as with the movie, they could all easily be replaced with robots and androids. Corporate America drains the color out of everything and everyone until all that’s left is white collars. We need to put lipstick on those collars, add color back to the workplace, and have an affair with real living. We need to admit that we cannot rely only on the innovators–those only concerned with the newness in the technology sector–to carry the weight of a nation. We need to admit that we need all people. Many Goths and like people have heard people say of them that “it takes all kinds,” and in a way that’s true. It does take all kinds of people to make the world go round. We should not put all of our eggs in one basket; we should diversify. What is America if not diverse? We need to celebrate that diversity–and I don’t just mean diversity of race, but diversity of skillsets, diversity of insight, and diversity of personality. Above all, we need to celebrate culture, whether “subculture” or not. If we don’t, then we may lose any remnants of the past and of ourselves.
A while back I said that Goths don’t come from ghettos. Perhaps it’s time for me to revise that statement. Goths didn’t use to come from ghettos, but times have changed.
Back in the 70s, 80s, and 90s Goths were mostly white, but they were also mostly openminded, intelligent, and accepting of those not accepted into regular society, such as full-figured people and people with disabilities (as is apparent from Goth retailers).
Nowadays, it’s possible that the demographics have changed—it may or may not be mostly black now because Goths don’t look entirely like what they used to. And this is why people think that “Goth is dead,” but I believe that you cannot kill a spirit and you cannot kill a soul (the Goth spirit and the Goth soul).
In my area, most of the white people from the suburbs wear suits and ties and most of the white Goths have moved to other cities and states.Aspects of the originally white Goth culture have trickled to the black community in DC. Most of the black people from the city have adopted Goth styles—rainbow hair, piercings, and tattoos.(Granted, they have gauges now too, which elder Goths would have worn earlier if they had the idea.)
It is now more acceptable to employ black people with rainbow haircolors than white people with rainbow haircolors. I see this daily on buses and trains. Granted, I speak from a narrow viewpoint as someone from the DC area and can only tell you the changes I have observed here.
Some blacks have even gone so far as to take on the Goth label, whether intentionally or by others labeling them. For example, black rappers like Kanye West and Rocky A$AP (originally from my area), have led the street Goth fashion—which consists of mixing high end fashion with low end fashion.
To me, this makes a lot of sense. Who would know the power of the color black better than blacks? I think this is fitting because Goths have always been associated with the color black as well as with an edgier attitude. As times change, the black community has been more willing to take on the role of the rebel.
People avoid the Goth label to avoid the stereotypes, but every group has its stereotypes. If you have black skin will you say you are not black to avoid stereotypes? People would look at you like you’re crazy. If you are a Korean adoptee and you say you are not Korean people will still look at you like you’re crazy, even if you aren’t part of Korean culture. Should you really avoid a label to save your own skin but not to save others who need the power of unity? For example, just because you say you’re straight doesn’t always mean you are. And if you act flamboyantly you can’t be assured of safety just because you haven’t yet owned the label.
Now I understand that you have more choice over the matter concerning what you call yourself, being that the Goth movement, more than any other subculture, has been marked by been indefinable and without a leader. In fact, it is definable as indefinable. Many have tried and many have failed. True, it was a culture that sprang up from music, but in the end it became a culture as rooted as much in fashion as it was in music.
If it has morphed into a fashion culture, then how can you say that you are not Goth if you have a full head of unnatural rainbow hair color in shades of red, orange, pink, yellow, green, blue, or purple when you were born with black hair? How can you say that you are not Goth if you wear a wig of those colors on a daily basis or if your dreads are dyed one of those colors? How can you say that you are not Goth if you have piercings, gauges, and tattoos? How can you say that you are not Goth if spikes are on your shoes, pants, jackets, and backpacks? How can you say that you are not Goth if you have a mohawk or liberty spikes?
Wherever outcasts are there Goths will be. Wherever artists are there Goths will be. Wherever rebels are there Goths will be. Wherever openminded people are there Goths will be.
It doesn’t matter if you are black, Goth, or a black Goth; we all fight for the same thing—a safe environment in which we can be free. We also fight against the same thing—appearance-based discrimination, whether in the workplace or on the street.
We fight for safety. We fight for freedom. We fight for acceptance, not just toleration. We fight to be who we are. We fight to pay our bills and feed our children. We fight to live. And we fight for something to live for.
Identify who you are. Accept who you are. And know what you will fight for.
The grayest sky,
the grayest sea,
no color is more in between extremes.
There’s nothing boring about the middle way.
Inclusivity is unlike the holier than thou 1% in every way.
When positive thinking marketers make darkness dim
and white cookie cutters grin,
the last option for compassionate artistic expression is gray.
Gray cements the foundation.
When the blackest building is demolished,
it’s the gray cornerstones that remain.
Black ties rule the night and white shirts rule the day,
but gray pants of every shade are here to stay.
As solid as stainless steel,
gray metal is more consistent than I feel,
from day to day to day.
Neutrals go with everything,
and for employees who go with everyone
an employer will handsomely pay.
Like the loyal stones, they stay.
There is nothing more lasting for our purposes than gray.
No matter our form, we will not go away.
Existing employment practices hold no sway.
We will have our day
when darkness turns to gray.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
I just wanted to take this moment to remind everyone that you are not alone in your fight for a decent job and a good paycheck without compromising who you are. I made a collage of pictures of people who have rainbow-colored hair, dreads (even if they’re not black), multiple piercings, and darker aesthetics. The only way we can navigate through darkness is because we are all made of light. Keep your light burning bright and never put it out.