Your Identity Doubles as Community Service

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Are you ready to do community service? Many times people associate that word with punishment. But is it really? Don’t we all seek a job that would fulfill us? What best fulfills us? Giving and serving with a cause we believe in.

When you claim your Gothness, you have a moral and ethical obligation to be a representative of all Goths and to serve all Goths. The way to best serve other Goths is to be your absolute best, authentic self. When you are yourself, you give license and permission for other to be themselves. In that way you make them “licensed” Goths; you are paying it forward, making it easier for another Goth to feel safe, loved, and appreciated in this world. Since ours is an underserved community, we must take particular care to keep the community healthy (and alive!) Think of your unique talents and abilities and consider ways that you can give to the community. (I don’t like to say “give back” since you didn’t take anything). When you have come up with your list, narrow it down. What will best serve the Goth economy? What will best serve all dimensions of a Goth or similar person person in a similar culture?  I don’t like saying “subculture” because we do not subordinate ourselves nor should we.

One way that I serve the Goth economy is through Toastmasters. Toastmasters is a safe environment for socializing and  professional growth. Adding Goths to Toastmasters is a twist on the tried and true.

If you live in the Denver area, consider joining next week. For more information, see Freaks Who Speak Toastmasters Club.

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Freaks Who Speak Toastmasters Club

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What: Freaks Who Speak Toastmasters Club
When: September 18th from 7-8:30PM
Where: Scum of the Earth Church @ 935 W 11th Ave, Denver, CO 80204
Who: This will be an open club. There is an 18+ age requirement to be an official member, but all ages are allowed to participate in meetings to some extent. Normie allies of the Goth community are also welcome.
Why: There are many introverts with stories to share in the Goth community, but also few job skill trainings and resume-enhancing trainings targeted specifically to the Goth community
How: District 25 will provide a demonstration meeting to see if there is interest in the Goth community. Something like this has never been done before now!

Toastmasters Flyer

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Where Did All the Goths Go?

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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.

Passing Through the Closet

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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.

Who Would Know Black Better Than Blacks?

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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.

My Story

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“Look through the outer crust of personal adornment, clothes, so-called culture and the like, and down deep into the heart of all about him. […] An old farmer up in Vermont always used to wind up his prayers with this plea: ‘Oh, God, give me an open mind!’ If more people followed his example they might escape being hamstrung by prejudices. And what a pleasant place to live in the world would be.” —Napoleon Hill

You may think that people who dress outrageously just want to get attention or are in a phase, but you would be wrong.

When I was a freshman in high school, I dreamed of being a fashion designer. My Goth friends actually couldn’t wait to go to school just to see what I was wearing, but I still had to sneak out of the house wearing “normal” clothes and change in the restroom every morning. Eventually I got tired of the stares; it only exaggerated the shyness in my head. I have struggled for years to make my exterior match my interior because I felt forced to give off a false impression of who I am to pay my bills. Sometimes this would even translate into looking happy when I feel an opposite emotion. Is this not ridiculous?

I have met people who dress outrageously every day and will never stop in all walks of life. There are people who just dress the way their religion dictates among those who do not share their belief or understand even one minor concept of their belief. This is courage, not attention-getting, and those who dress for less than noble reasons make things difficult for the rest of us who just want freedom. The courageous will never compromise their freedom for money. I was not one of them, but I want to make life better for them and for me. I see people who have compromised, had meltdowns, covered themselves in tattoos when they decided to quit compromising, then struggled financially. But why is compromise necessary? Why indeed? Not everyone who has a tattoo wants to work in a tattoo parlor for the rest of their lives, and not everyone who has a salaried job wants to wear a suit and tie for the rest of their lives.

Those who fit neither group go to Renaissance festivals, dance clubs, gay bars, or anime conventions to feel free on the weekends or maybe just once a year, but such things are a package deal and not everyone is interested in the entire package because oftentimes it involves peer pressure or spending a lot of cash.

The movement will not be over until dressing for success has nothing to do with a suit and tie. Sure, you can wear that if it makes you feel good, but you can’t expect that it will make everyone feel good.

Your life will be greatly improved when you can feel comfortable in your own skin and fantastic in your own clothing and allow other people to feel the same way.

Goth Images

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