There is this image of Sid Vicious and Niels Stevenson that I keep on my desk. It’s
my favorite moment in J.D.s, and I printed a facsimile of it to display in my room. It’s a
photograph of the Sex Pistols bassist and their manager in bed, possibly naked, so
that it says ‘All punks are gay’ next to it. Niels had worked with the Sex Pistols in the
late 1970s before becoming the manager of Siouxsie & The Banshees until the early
1980s. The photo was taken at the same time, in 1976, at Linda’s house, who had an
apartment in the St. James Hotel in London, but who was also called Dominatrix and
was a lesbian prostitute where Sid and Niels used to meet at night. The same year
The Sex Pistols - a group of white, cis, heterosexual men - invented punk music at a
concert at the Marquee, also in London.
This is a questionable version. The punk context had in fact already existed for 400
years and had in fact been declared dead, in 1972, in a long criticism of Alice Cooper.
Contemporary, this 1976 version at the Marquee rather proved the ease of Western
musical movements to inscribe themselves in a system of appropriation, uncertain
and constantly contradictory, in front of the histories they were erasing. Punk had
already been black, queer, and self-proclaimed - silently - as the marker of a millen
nium against oppression. It has long referred to a sex worker, an elementary or fake
music performance, a delinquent, or a passive homosexual youth (in Simon the Old
King, a 17th century folk tune, ‘punk’ means ‘whore’).
In a text that Bruce LaBruce let me read, he tells of being punched in the face by an
Englishman wearing a Mohawk when he was accompanied by a sissy-core friend
group in early 1980. Five years later J.D.s (for Juvenile Delinquents) was co-founded
in Toronto by Bruce LaBruce and G.B. Jones. It was constituted in autonomy by artists,
sex workers, authors and anonymous people close to the local punk movements, and
was the first printed production of a persistent movement: homocore. If it is quickly
rethought for the term queercore and initiates itself as a space of radical exploitation
of queer iconography and pornographic literature, it will have allowed a forgotten
generation - already half decimated by the AIDS epidemic - to constitute a politi
cal-structural critique on its own limits. J.D.s was a revenge.
Until 1991 J.D.s produced tapes, compiled lists of queer punk bands, relayed
concerts and organized film screenings, the first ones by G.B. Jones and Bruce La
Bruce (at the time film students at York University in Toronto), and others, many of
them pornographic. There is also a manifesto, Don’t be gay (or, how I learned to stop
worrying and fuck punk up the ass), published in 1989 in the punk music maga
zine Maximum Rock N’ Roll and from which the exhibition borrows its title. Written
following a questionnaire published in the sixth issue of the magazine, G.B. Jones and Bruce LaBruce address, point by point, the structural shortcomings of the punk movement with regard to the gay question. For if this same movement took preci sely support on a lively homosexual identity, it had also separated itself from it si multaneously. Before designating a group of whores and delinquents, ‘punk’ had its etymological origin in the same roots as ‘faggot’, and it was no coincidence that the intention of the first punks was to destabilize conceptions of gender and sex on stage, on album covers and in their television interviews. If J.D.s cites these first characters as real fluid identities (The Sex Pistols, Patti Smith, Dee Dee Ramone, Nervous Gen der, Catholic Discipline, X-Ray Spex) he also accuses them of having monopolized the codes according to the trends, constituting the superfluous character then im posed on queer cultures. The Velvet Underground, Patti Smith or The Stooges were finally punks-as-in-genre, too close to institutional situations of the time (in a close context, in 1976, ‘Sexual transgression n°5; Prostitution’ of the COUM transmissions was funded by the British Arts Council).
Before them, there were especially Little Richard - that John Waters qualified as the first punk - MC5, Bad Brains and Pure Hell, then Fifth Column and Vaginal Davis. To reinterpret the queer languages within the punk musical cultures was then to be the means to form a reflection on its history until its contemporary condition, through the
elaboration of a questioning on the condition of the queer persons, but also of the wo men, lesbians or not, whose role was primordial within the movements of emancipa tion of this time. Wanting then to form a space of inclusive counter-culture to all these queer identities, and in disobedience to other LGBTQ+ movements of the time in what they invented of homonormative and anti-queer punk cultures, J.D.s established (by divisions; fags and dykes) to not cease to repeat what had to be explained on the punk movement; that it had from now on to assume the history of it; the delinquency and the exile of the homosexual bodies.
Exhibition text written by Hugo Bausch Belbachir
Don’t be gay: J.D.s (1985-1991) is the first retrospective exhibition about J.D.s in France. Conceived as an anthology, it is organized by Hugo Bausch Belbachir.
Hugo Bausch Belbachir is a curator based in Paris. He is the founder of TNT (Paris) and works at Fitzpatrick Gallery (Paris) where he directs an exhibition program around the moving image.
Based in Marseille, Giselle’s Books is a collection of artists’ books and writings as well
as an exhibition program that focuses on edited and archived formats through
publication. The publications of Giselle’s Books’s library are put into circulation
through a loan catalog and presentations dedicated to highlighting discrete corners
of what is commonly referred as the art publishing scene.