Genderqueer hardcore band G.L.O.S.S. is breaking all the rules. Led by trans woman Sadie Switchblade, the band is bringing feminism to a scene notoriously dominated by men, and challenging authority in under eight minutes. Their latest EP, Trans Day of Revenge, is a pounding manifesto against sexism, racism, and domestic violence, and G.L.O.S.S. — whose name stands for Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit — couldn’t care less about the hype. For Sadie, Tannrr, Julaya, Corey and Jake, G.L.O.S.S. isn’t about the music—they want to start a revolution. And Trans Day Of Revenge is a call to arms.
I called Sadie to talk hardcore, feminism and being a trans woman in the scene.
Tell me about G.L.O.S.S.
We’re a hardcore band interested in inciting violence, and we wanted to have a name that emphasized our unwillingness to acquiesce to social expectations. But I’m currently more interested in being part of a social movement than I really am in playing hardcore music, so I think for me the excitement of the band is that it feels dangerous, and it feels threatening to the establishment.
What about your second EP, Trans Day of Revenge?
The first record was focused more specifically on trans experience and was more first person. For this record, I wanted to expand on and move beyond that lyrical content, but without leaving it behind. It’s also speaking from experience, but it’s a bit broader and talks more about politics in a general sense. There’s songs about fighting skinheads, a song about childhood sexual abuse. There’s a song about working with people who have experienced domestic violence and wanting to quit your job on the spot and go do something that will actually help somebody.
What do you want people to take away from your music?
I want it to be a reminder that marginalized people are worthwhile and worthy of everything, and don’t need to hurt themselves and don’t need to give up, and don’t need to give into all the bull shit around them. I want it to be a record that feels healing and cathartic to listen to for people who have been harmed by institutionalized oppression.
Do you have a favorite song on the album?
I think my favorite song is “We Live,” which is a song I wrote about my experience with incest. I think it’s my favorite because it’s the most just written from my heart. I mean, I like the cadence of the vocals and it’s fun to perform but I just really connect with it on an emotional level and it feels like an important song for me.
Is the album directed at anybody in particular?
I would say the anger in it is directed at the police, politicians, men, people who intentionally harm other people. I think it’s also directed at queer and trans people, marginalized people and even people who have been marginalized by the LGBT community. It’s really supposed to just be for trans people and queer people for the most part, and it’s fine if other people take things from it, but the amount of attention and commentary it gets from cis people is a little bit baffling. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter to me what these critics or do-gooders think about this band because it’s not about them.
What was it like growing up in the hardcore scene as a trans woman?
For most of my life before this band, I always felt like I was in the back of the room. When I was into bands, it was kind of only because those bands were the closest thing to feeling home, even though I never felt truly welcome in any hardcore scene. And I think that’s what is so important to me about G.L.O.S.S.—creating this new climate where people that are traditionally unwelcome or disregarded in the hardcore scene can come and have their space.
How does your feminism play into your music?
An important thing about the way I live my life, which isn’t necessarily a tenet of a lot of people’s feminism, would be being unapologetically femme. That’s a big part of it for me and intersectionality is really important to me, and I want that to come across in the lyrics. I think I made an intentional effort to write lyrics on the new record that were explicitly anti-racist and just really wanting to draw a line in the sand about that—we’re not just a band that’s here for ourselves and white feminism, but that we stand in solidarity with people of color. The only feminism I’m interested in is an intersectional and all-encompassing feminism.
Is making a music your form of feminist activism?
The way that I view activism is that I am wary of compartmentalizing different parts of my life and being like, ‘And this is my activism,’ because I think that can limit the horizon of what can be achieved. So with G.L.O.S.S., I’m less interested in naming it and more interested in being like, ‘This is what we’re doing, this is what’s happening as a result, how far can we take this in terms of creating a new society.’
Some of the members of your band have said they don’t want people paying for your music. You’re really pushing forward the DIY ethos in a time where hardcore, and punk especially, have been totally coopted. Why is it so important for you to stick to those core DIY and punk values?
While it is really great to make some money off of this band, the crux of playing in G.L.O.S.S. is about trying to exist in opposition to all of these elements of the world that would seek to round off our jagged edges and commodify us, to make us digestible and tolerable by the mainstream culture. We’ve caught glimpses of that and what that would look like and we’re just not interested. We don’t want this band to become something that’s about generating revenue, we want it to be something that’s about generating a movement.
What was it about punk and hardcore that attracted you, to begin with?
I think I’ve always just felt confused, and like the black sheep of my family, and I’ve always been queer and gender non-conforming. Especially growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, there wasn’t the internet to access those ideas—there wasn’t access to language about those things. So rather than being able to be like, ‘I’m trans,’ from a really young age, which a lot of kids can do now and that’s so fucking awesome and important, I think that confusion and hurt went into different channels. That’s why I was drawn to punk and hardcore, because it was an outlet. It still is an outlet for feelings that can’t be explained or contained.
Do you think the hardcore scene is changing to be more inclusive?
I don’t know if it is, but at least with us, we’re just like, ‘We don’t care if it’s inclusive, we’re just going to create our own thing,’ and maybe that will have a ripple effect that will make hardcore more inclusive. I definitely think that it’s much more common to see women and people of color and queer people in punk bands than it ever was when I was growing up. And bands with all men—and all white men—are much fewer and farther between.
You spoke earlier about the amount of attention the band has received, and how confusing it is for you. Is it at all empowering?
I just made a decision to be really honest in my lyrics and I think maybe that resonates with people. I also think part of the attention is kind of like the cis gaze and a fetishization of trans women in the media that is really happening a lot right now. I don’t know how much of it is tokenizing and how much of it is actually about wanting to amplify marginalized voices.
Who are some of your favorite feminists?
Emma Goldman, Laverne Cox, and Sylvia Rivera, definitely. They’re loud and unapologetic and refuse to throw other people under the bus just because it’s politically advantageous to them.
What advice would you give girls who are just starting out in their local punk scenes, or who want to start a band but don’t feel like they can?
I’d acknowledge that it’s scary and not downplay that it’s a potentially really hard thing to do. But I would just want to say you can do it, you can do anything you want. It sounds cliched, but the more you just do things and don’t think about the consequences, the more your self-esteem will grow and the more you’ll be able to do.
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Alex Weiss is a New York City punk, musician, and writer.