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Straight Edge Interview Project: Brianna, 28, she/her

In this interview, we feature Brianna, a clinical psychotherapist from the Chicago area, whose life blends music, mental health, and straight edge. With a passion for music, Brianna has been attending shows since her teens, finding solace within a scene that has helped navigate her through challenges. As a professional dealing with trauma, anxiety, and depression, she brings a unique perspective on the intersection of mental health and sobriety.

Keep up with Brianna by following her on Instagram and TikTok.

Could you share a brief introduction about yourself?

My name is Brianna, and I live in the Chicago area. I currently work as a clinical psychotherapist and specialize in working with preteens, teens, and adults with trauma, anxiety, depression, postpartum issues, and chronic illness. I have always been super into music and have been going to shows since I was a teenager myself. Growing up, music helped me a lot with my own mental health and struggles with belonging. Now I get to incorporate that into my work as a therapist!

Tell us about your interests and passions.

On top of being a therapist, I’m super passionate about mental health and social justice issues. I’m currently getting my doctorate in social work and will be graduating next year. As far as creative projects go, my goal is to start my own podcast this year! It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while, so I’m going to hopefully launch it this spring.

What’s currently on your playlist?

Pierce The Veil has been my favorite band for forever, so obviously them! I also love Sleep Token, Bad Omens, Knocked Loose, Bring Me The Horizon, Heart Attack Man, Movements, Left Behind, Counterparts, The Band CAMINO, and The Wonder Years. I’m also a huge Noah Kahan and Hozier girly LOL

How do you personally define ‘straight edge’, and in what ways do you feel it differs from simply being sober?

To me, straight edge is a lifestyle and a community. It gives us a sense of belonging. Sobriety is amazing, and I always support people in that, but I love the sense of support and encouragement in the straight edge community.

How important is music to your relationship with straight edge? 

Music has always been extremely important in every facet of my life. I would not be the person I am today without the scene I grew up in – both locally and with bigger bands. The music scene is actually what introduced me to the straight edge community as a teenager, so the two have always been very synonymous for me! However, I do think it’s possible to be straight edge without being part of the music scene – I just don’t see that as being super common.

What’s your straight edge story?

As a teenager, I was never into the party scene. I was totally a little emo kid, but I took school pretty seriously and was a healthy, active kid. I had some friends in high school that would joke around and say I was straight edge, and in college, I decided I actually wanted to take that oath. I decided to become straight edge soon after my 21st birthday, and I haven’t looked back since.

It gives me a sense of pride to live a healthy, straight edge lifestyle. I’d like to think I’m a funny person and fun to be around naturally, and I never felt like I needed to drink or do anything else to loosen up. I’m just me!

Can you recall a pivotal moment or experience that solidified your commitment to straight edge?

I can’t think of one pivotal moment, but being in control of my mind and body when I go out with friends or go to shows has always been super important to me as well. I’ve met some awesome straight edge people and have built friendships through that in my local scene when I was younger. I’ve never regretted my decision!

How straight edge influenced your relationships with family, friends, and others?

Most people in my life weren’t surprised when I decided to claim edge, but I can genuinely say I’ve had issues dating when some men have found out I’m straight edge. I had one partner specifically constantly questioning why I didn’t drink or anything.

It’s like some weird foreign concept that someone can live a healthy, clean lifestyle! I just tell myself that any man who is not comfortable with my decisions isn’t the right partner for me.

As a therapist, I tell some of my clients the same thing! The right people in your life – whether friends, family or a partner – won’t bat an eye at that decision and won’t make it a big deal!

Looking back, is there anything about path into and through straight edge that you would do differently?

If anything, I think I wish I would have just claimed edge earlier! I would have started as a teenager when some of my peers would make jokes that I wad straight edge. I shouldn’t have been embarrassed. I honestly think it’s one of the coolest things about me!

True or False: “If you’re not now, you never were”? 

I have never strayed from being straight edge once I made that decision; however, in my opinion, I think it’s possible to stray and decide to come back. I know not everyone will agree with me, but everyone has a different story and path in life. Who am I to judge if someone strays and then comes back?

Have you encountered any challenges or misconceptions about being straight edge?

The biggest misconception I’ve come across is just that I’m boring or not fun to be around. I’d like to think I’m pretty hilarious and am always down for a good time. I don’t care if other people drink around me, and none of my close friends are straight edge.

It’s my life and a decision I’ve made for myself, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like going out or having a good time!

Do you feel that your gender  or age has influenced your experience within the straight edge and hardcore scenes? 

I think my gender and age have definitely played a part. When I was in my teens and early 20s, I think a lot of people thought it was a phase. I’ve also had the typical experience as a woman in this scene where I’ve been questioned if I genuinely like this music or if I’m really a “fan” of certain bands.

I also don’t have any tattoos (just some piercings) and am aware I don’t necessarily “look” like I would be in this scene. I honestly love that though. I love being full of surprises LOL!

In your view, how inclusive is the straight edge movement, and what steps could be taken to enhance its inclusivity?

I think we should always be inclusive and aware of being more inclusive to those belonging to the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities. Straight edge and hardcore are for everyone, not just straight, cis white people.

Have you observed any evolution in the straight edge scene regarding acceptance and diversity?

I think the music scene as a whole has been moving towards being more inclusive, but I’m also very aware of my own privilege. While I can speak on my experiences as a woman, I am also privileged as a white person and someone who is straight.

I would love to hear the experiences of the members of those communities and would hope they feel more inclusivity as well.

Mother, wife, small business owner.

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