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Straight Edge Interview Project: Celina Bolaños, 20, Richmond Va, They/Them

In this spotlight, we get to know Celina Bolaños, a 20-year-old student from Richmond, Virginia. Learn how they are navigating art school with ambitions in video production and sound design, and aspiring towards a career in tour and artist management.

From confronting personal challenges to finding a sense of belonging and purpose within the scene, Celina offers their perspectives on inclusivity, relationships, and what it means to them to be straight edge.

Join us as we get a peak into Celina’s world, where conviction meets creativity, and life choices resonate with the core values of the xsisterhoodx community.

Tell us about yourself!

I go to art school for video production and sound design, but ultimately hope to go into tour/artist management for bands within pop-punk/emo/hardcore! I’m currently interning at Fender and a publishing company in addition to working part-time at Warner Music U. I’m also a guitarist who’s been playing since I was 12, mostly writing emocore/math rocky stuff! My main special interests include emo-violence/midwest emo, going to hardcore shows, and all things math rock/technical!

What are you listening to these days? 

No Pressure, Magnitude, Sect, Defiant, Killing Pace, Raw Brigade, Trapped Under Ice, Anklebiter, Hot Mulligan, The Story So Far, Vs Self ,and pretty much every Midwest emo band under the sun!

What’s your straight edge story? 

I had originally heard it throughout high school in sort of a demeaning way or as a way to make fun of people. While I was involved in the DIY scene, I was mostly into metal at the time when they also seemed to look down upon the straight-edge community. However, I was a huge fan of all of Andy Hurley’s projects and saw a few people in my local scenes who all identified as straight edge which got me intrigued! As I got to college in 2021, I was in a pretty unhealthy relationship with my girlfriend at the time who was progressively going on benders, hiding her substance abuse behind my back while knowing it made me uncomfortable and was in a crowd where heavy drug use was quite normalized. I was having constant panic attacks and knew that staying in that environment was only going to further worsen my mental health. That fall semester, I began going to more hardcore shows for the first time in my life and saw Magnitude and Fanfare perform in Richmond. After going to that show, I realized just how much community there was and how at home it made me feel. I broke up with my partner at the time a few days later and claimed edge right after that and I’ve never looked back!

How do you define straight edge?  

To me, straight edge is about being conscious about your decisions and seeing it as a lifestyle rather than just being sober. You’re actively choosing edge every single day. That activity and consciousness I think are the main differentiators. There’s community, shows, DIY ethics, and while you can claim edge by just being sober I think the true beauty is around all aspects of the community which makes you want to stick to the commitment. I’ve never really been a user of drugs or alcohol outside of trying it a couple of times as a teenager just to see, but I really have no desire to not be straight edge as of now. I just turned 20 a couple of weeks ago and still go to all the same shows, parties, events, and gatherings as everyone else but I simply feel more in tune with the experience and myself by choosing sobriety. I also know that my own mental health and traumas are so deeply rooted in my brain that the most effective way to heal is by not risking addiction and being as present as possible. Ultimately what keeps me committed, above all else, is the community within the shows, harm reduction efforts, and the music behind it all.

Do you feel that the straight edge community has been, and should be welcoming to those in recovery?

Absolutely! While I’ve never been a user, I’ve witnessed so many people fall victim to addiction and ultimately what they need to heal is tenderness. By treating them with open arms, tenderness, and care is the best way to aid people through their recovery.

Have you ever felt that your gender has influenced your experience in the straight edge and/or hardcore scene?

It’s definitely influenced my experience within hardcore in general but with both pros/cons. I’m a femme-presenting nonbinary POC, and in Richmond, it’s still quite white-dominated. It’s allowed me to gain deeper connections with the girls/nbs/trans people within the community as solidarity, but on the flip side, I’ve had people say that I come across as obnoxious or talking about it too much or gatekeeping. However, if a cis man were to post or say any of the same things it wouldn’t be questioned at all. Hardcore and straight edge are 2 of my biggest hyperfixations and I absolutely love telling people about it! So allow us to be just as vocal about it as everyone else! Like I said previously, though, I originally came from the metal scene and have ultimately felt the most at home within hardcore due to how much more welcoming the people are towards anyone who’s not a cishet white male.

Do you feel that the straight edge movement/scene is inclusive? 

The shows that have made me the happiest I’ve ever been the most at home and connected to the scene have all been ones where there was free Narcan provided, Narcan training, a whole table full of zines to take chocked full of political theory, harm reduction tutorials/resources, free food bank locations, etc. and actual ways to sign up for email lists and groups to get involved in harm reduction/mutual aid efforts. Not all shows have these and I absolutely think everyone should be putting in the extra effort to provide these resources if possible as part of their merch tables!

Has being straight edge had an impact on your relationships (family, friends, significant others). If so how would you characterize that impact?

Personally, it hasn’t really impacted anything about my life outside of relationships. When going on dates with new people it is almost always something I bring up as early as possible. I’ve not been in a relationship with someone who is also straight edge yet, but I always lay down the ground rule moving forward that I’m okay with casual usage but any heavy or daily usage is triggering for me and I simply can’t be in a relationship like that again. For friends it’s much less of an issue, I still go to the same parties and pre-games as everyone else, just with an Arizona Iced Tea in hand!

There’s an ongoing debate on whether one can be straight edge without being a part of the music scene, what’s your thoughts on this?

While I think it is possible to be straight edge without being in a scene, I do think that it takes a lot out of the beauty of it. Not all towns or cities have amazing hardcore scenes, but putting in the effort to listen to the music or watch recordings of shows allows for you to see the beauty of it. It derives from music, and I think the community surrounding it is again what differs from simply just being sober.

Final Thoughts?

Straight edge is ultimately about actively choosing this lifestyle and centering wellness and harm reduction within your everyday life. Start that band! Write a zine! Support your local scene in every way possible! Don’t worry if you’re being too vocal! In the words of Magnitude, “I stand to defy” XXX. RVA HxC forever.


Mother, wife, small business owner.

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