By Jack Spencer
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By Emily Weiss
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"IT'S IMPORTANT TO talk about queer politics," says local activist and punk enthusiast Ed Varga. "But it's distracting because ultimately, punk rock should be fun."
It's true that reconciling the two halves of the homocore scene--queer pride and the love of adrenaline-filled music--can be a dicey endeavor. For Varga, however, living within a dual context is nothing new. When I first met him several years ago, back when he played drums for the local band Wide Load Ma'am, Varga still identified as a lesbian. Over the past year, Varga has worked to acknowledge his true gender, and the process has been arduous. After jumping through a series of hoops (the prerequisite months of psychiatric evaluations to determine whether his desire to be a man is "sane"), doctors have now finally agreed to prescribe him testosterone, which he injects into his thigh every two weeks. He has severed all contact with his family because they could not support his decision, although the Department of Motor Vehicles was oddly more understanding: It allowed him to put "male" on his driver's license.
Yet all this is just a facet of Varga's identity. Aside from playing drums in the punky Element 115, Varga has also been organizing local homocore showcases, bringing to Minneapolis several acts found on the Northwest's Chainsaw and Candy Ass labels, like last fall's show by The Third Sex and upcoming gigs by The Vegas Beat (Tuesday; see A List) and Cypher in the Snow(July 13).Due to the absence of an underage, queer-oriented music venue in town, he rents out spaces such as District 202 and the Red Eye Theater, and does most of the promoting himself (mainly plastering posters around town, although local media like Radio K also helppublicize his shows).
All this effort is worth it, Varga says, because the scope of the local music scene needs to be expanded. "I think the punk rock scene here isn't very queer friendly," Varga says. "Some bands are openly homophobic. I also think that a lot of women would say that it's pretty male centered. Homocore is less of a scene and more a place for community, creating a place for people who don't fit in the straight punk scene or in the mainstream queer culture of discos and Melissa Etheridge. It's also a place for the straight community to see good queer bands."
While open homophobia and the subtle "don't ask, don't tell" straight community have frustrated Varga, he has also faced prejudices against transgenders from within the GLBT community. A couple of years ago, for instance, Varga organized a drag king show as part of the adventurous Vulva Riot series, in conjunction with a week devoted to transgender awareness. As a monthly lesbian-oriented event, Vulva Riot has a policy that states "All Women Welcome." But Varga, while recognizing the importance of having an all-women space, was outraged when FTMs were verbally harassed by some members of the audience. (For the record, Eleanor Savage, coordinator of Vulva Riot and co-host of KFAI's Forbidden Fruit, was also angered by the bigotry. "We said that bigotry is unacceptable behavior," says Savage. "It's just like homophobia and racism, and it wouldn't be tolerated.")
Varga has considered other venues in town for his shows, such as First Avenue, where punk rock has been long welcomed. But there are problems: The men's bathroom in the Main Room does not have doors on the stalls, which can create an awkward situation for FTMs (that's why he doesn't drink when he sees a band at First Avenue). So for the time being, Varga will continue to rent out spaces until the local climate becomes more sensitive to queer needs, or until the GLBT community supports punk rock. Savage agrees. "There's a huge queer population here, and the bars only support part of the culture," she says. "Why aren't the Saloon, the Metro, or the Gay 90's supporting the homocore scene? They could easily do it; they're set up to do it. We're always using someone else's space, and I think it's important for us to one day have our own space."
The Vegas Beat play on Tuesday. $5. 5 p.m. All ages. District 202, 1601 Nicollet Ave., Mpls.; 871-5559.