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Straight Edge Interview Project: Danielle Loftus, 37, NY. She/her

Social Media: Instagram: @xsunnydx

Tell us about you? What do you do for a living? Do you have any pets, hobbies, pet projects?

I am a brand new mom of a six-month-old little dude who is my absolute best friend. I am a fur mama of four, two cats, and two dogs. I’ve had an eclectic work history, but my career has been a registered nurse for the last five+ years. Being a nurse has been my true calling and has given me an outlet to connect with people in so many ways. I previously was a roller derby player for several years but being a nurse and my schedule made this difficult later on.

Favorite straight edge (or non-straight edge) bands?

7 Seconds, Strike Anywhere, Earth Crisis, Set Your Goals, Boy Sets Fire, AFI, Good Riddance, 88 Fingers Louie, Alkaline Trio, The Misfits, Propaganda, The Weakerthans, Flopdown, RAMBO, Converge, Cattle Decapitation, Discount, Lifetime, Mouthpiece, Minor Threat, All Out War, Polar Bear Club

What is your definition of straight edge?

Anyone who rejects drug/alcohol culture and abstains from them

Where do you see the straight edge scene today?

In my opinion, the concept of straight edge today is a lot more accepted but still a concept that I feel is looked down upon. It’s a hard pill to swallow for many as they see it as a threat to their own comfortability. I have been confronted or questioned more about my title of straight edge than I ever have being vegan, The scene itself for me is very different. I found my understanding of straight edge through music. Music is no longer the main influence of straight edge and I feel that has diversified the scene. As I get older the scene to me is a distant concept but something I hold on to dearly.

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?

I think it is totally possible. Personally, I found straight edge through music BUT I always questioned the concepts of drug and alcohol culture prior to my music influences. I think the music scene made taking on the title an easy thing. It gave straight edge a home and a place to speak its piece to an open audience. Music is so emotional that it was and is an amazing outlet to question all authorities.

What are some funny/common misconceptions people have about you being straight edge?

People always think the weirdest things. For a long time my own family didn’t understand the concept and felt it was part of a cult or a religion which is NOT the case. People also always say to me “but you are way too fun to not drink” whatever that means.

What are some challenges you have faced when interacting with other people who are also edge? If you haven’t had any challenges, tell us some challenges you’ve faced when interacting with people who are not edge?

I think some people who are edge, or of any self-titled group, can be extreme. My feelings on being straight edge are very strong, don’t get me wrong, but I personally do not feel like calling someone an asshole who is smoking a cigarette gets my point across. For the most part, the straight edge folks with who I have always surrounded myself have been positive AF.

As far as challenges I have had with non-straight edge folks there have been many. Some people are very threatened by the fact that I do not drink or participate in that scene. They feel is a judgment by me on their own behavior. Unfortunately, I feel it’s a subject that brings a lot of feelings to the table which makes it hard to approach sometimes.

Is your diet influenced or informed by your choice to be straight edge i.e. organic, antibiotic infused meat, genetically modified foods, vegan, vegetarian?

To me being veg/vegan/plant-based and straight edge made 100% sense. My refusal of drugs and alcohol has to do with harm reduction. I feel these industries are harm full to humans and for me eating meat is harmful to non-humans. Harm reduction during my time on this planet means the world to me. I can’t be perfect but I can choose to choose a path that brings the least amount of destruction to the other beings around me.

What’s your straight edge story? Was there a key moment that made you realize straight edge is the way you want to live your life? How old were you? How did you find out about straight edge, was there someone in the community that introduced you, or were you introduced to it through people/bands, etc? What drew you to it?

I had been into punk rock at a young age. For me, I had heard of straight edge, even dated a guy who had claimed to be hardcore vegan straight edge (broke edge/ate meat right out of high school) but I had a hard time breaking the mold of how I was raised. Alcohol was around me at a young age due to my family’s European upbringing and was always included in every gathering, same with meat. My family was raised in Italy on farms raising and slaughtering their own livestock. It was something put in front of you that no one questioned.

In 1998 I discovered the band AFI. I read an interview with singer Davey Havock and his beliefs on straight edge. It struck me to my core and I totally identified with the things he was saying. On Halloween of 1998 I got together with a few friends, mind you, I was 14 at the time, we made jello shots. I began to realize that night I was just in high school and drank nearly every weekend. To me, this was not a trend I wanted to continue. I looked at my drink and turned to my best friend and said that’s the last drink I will ever take. And that was it. I never again drank, or did drugs of any kind. I claimed the title of straight edge and never found another reason to look back.

Define what straight edge means to you? Has this changed over the years?

I define straight edge as the rejection of drug and alcohol culture. For me, my definition has not changed over the years but evolved. As I grew older I realized not only did I not enjoy being fucked up BUT I realized the political connection as well. Drug and alcohol culture is pushed into communities for very specific reasons. Those who are too fucked up to fight back will always be oppressed. This became more evident to me throughout my years.

Do you consider yourself an activist? What is/are your cause(s), and how have you been working to advance them?

Absolutely. I consider myself an animal rights, social justice, feminist advocate. To quote my favorite band Strike Anywhere “until the last lock breaks none of us are free”. In my earlier years, I spent helping many organizations advocate and educate about many causes. Adulting has caused me to take a step back in any direct advocacy but I know support as many organizations and causes as possible. AND I will always take the time to help spread education and voice my opinion in the hopes it can impact even just one person.

What, if anything, keeps you committed to the straight edge lifestyle?

I still loathe drug and alcohol culture. I have never found one reason TO drink or do drugs ever again.

What is something you didn’t think you would struggle with by claiming edge?

When I claimed edge I assumed I would have struggled with having people my age around me understand but I didn’t expect to have such a hard time with my family understanding. I thought parents/families would be thrilled their child would reject these toxic chemicals but it was a difficult road for many years to get to a place of understanding.

What do you do for stress relief instead of drinking/drugs, tips for peer pressure?

Working out, laughing, and daydreaming have always been stress relief for me. In terms of tips for peer pressure I would say you need to find a place of acceptance and confidence within yourself. Once you are confident in your beliefs other people will respect that.

How was it being straight edge in this pandemic?

EASY. Business as usual. I also had a child during the pandemic, still didn’t make me want to drink 😉

Have you ever considered breaking edge? What were the circumstances, and what changed your mind?

Never. I truly never looked back.

If you are in a relationship is your partner straight edge, or have you had a previous relationship with someone who was not straight edge? What, if any, challenges have you faced relating to your lifestyle/choices?

My previous partner of over ten years was straight edge. After that relationship ended I never in a million years would have thought I would have ended up with someone who was not straight edge. But my partner now, and my sons father is not straight edge. He is an amazing, intelligent human who since day 1 has always respected my edge. It was challenging for me to not feel as if I was peer pressuring him to not drink. I wanted to make sure he felt comfortable being himself around me. He is a person who may drink a random beer while out but he is also a foodie and a chef. He truly likes alcohol for its taste and its craft. We joke all the time though but that man since day enjoyed his half a beer and always ordered me a Shirley temple happily.

Has your family and social life been negatively or positively impacted? Have you faced or are you facing any specific challenges because of your lifestyle choices? If your family/friends are unsupportive, how do you deal?

At the age of 37 after being straight edge for 23 years I can say I have only surrounded myself with supportive people in my life. Those who may have been unsure about me claiming edge earlier on have long forgotten those thoughts. I have strong friendships with many non-straight edge folks that are respectful and real.

If you are straight edge and a parent, how has being straight edge informed how you parent and/or relate to other parents?

My son is only six months but I guarantee I will come across this. I know people ask all the time if I will raise my son to think straight edge is the right path but my only goal is to educate him and have him question everything so he can make his own, educated choices in life.

How do you explain your lifestyle to others outside of the scene? Do you find it difficult? What’s your elevator pitch?

I do sometimes find framing straight edge difficult. For example, I have a straight edge tattoo across my stomach, 3 X’s. I cannot tell you how many times to doctors or midwives I had to explain what that meant during my pregnancy. I often forget it’s there because it’s so old but it started a LOT of conversations the last year. I simply say I’m straight edge which means I abstain from drugs or alcohol. Most people nowadays say ok or I respect that and move on.

Over the past decade or so individuals in recovery have stumbled upon the straight edge lifestyle and it has really spoken to them. Do you feel that the straight edge community has been welcoming to those in recovery? Do you have mixed feelings? Strong Feelings?

I think that’s a gray area. I find that people in recovery have very different reasoning for becoming straight edge and have a very different, yet valid, experience. I often try to frame it like this I feel very fortunate I was able to make the choice to become straight edge. I was educated, exposed and that led me to my path. Not everyone is as lucky as I am.

How do you feel your straight edge commitment plays into the bigger social justice movement for gender equity?

I think it just helps my clarity. I am dedicated to ending all oppression

Have you ever had a negative experience in the scene related to your gender?

Yup. I think it may be hard to find a woman who has not. Men outnumber women by a lot in the scene and sometimes that plays out negatively. At shows, women had to fight to the front to be heard or seen.

Straight edge and the associated music scene have long been male-dominated. What do you see as a woman/girls role in the scene? How has this role changed since you have been involved and what changes would you like to see?

I think women have made a HUGE effort to be heard and to say we are here and we matter too. We no longer are the girlfriends holding the boy’s coats while they mosh and live it up. I hope women/girls today continue to make their presence known and respected.

What if any challenges have you faced that are specifically related to being a female in a male-dominated scene?

I was fortunate enough to have only experienced the vague challenges of just being one of the girlfriends at the show. I think finding other women/girls at shows and I the music scene helped me feel more at home.

Is the scene as inclusive as it likes to think it is? Do you think there’s work to be done? If so, what would you like to see change?

I think there is always work to be done. The scene is trying to survive and continue passing itself along to the future generations which is important BUT we need to remember to evolve and be self-critical.

Please add anything else you think we should know or you would like to share!

Being straight edge has given me such an advantage in life. I feel like it has been a privilege that I was exposed to the idea of straight edge and introduced to the music scene that fueled the path in my life. My wish is that every person finds something that impacts their life with such a positive force the way straight edge has done for me.

Mother, wife, small business owner.

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