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Straight Edge Interview Project: Jess/39/Los Angeles/She/Her

In our newest installment of The Straight Edge Interview Project, we’ve connected with Jess. An artist with a love for music and a passion for mid-century style, Jess made the move from the East Coast to LA. She shares her experiences as a woman in a scene that’s traditionally been male-dominated.

Jess opens up about how being straight edge influences her life, particularly in her relationships. She’s honest about the topics that matter: creating an inclusive community, the role of recovery in straight edge, and making sure the scene is accessible to everyone.

Catch up with Jess on her Instagram profile: https://www.instagram.com/captainbringdown/

Tell us about yourself! Hobbies, jobs, passion projects, interests?

I love drawing (shout out to the bi-monthly meetup @sketchparty), dancing, mid-century vintage, animals, and adventures. LA has been my home of 1 year– I had spent the previous 38 on the east coast (NYC/NJ)

What are you listening to these days? 

Mostly hardcore, shoegaze, darkwave, and nostalgic 90s pop/rock (namely Veruca Salt!)

Favorite bands right now are: World of Pleasure

Scalp

What’s your straight edge story?

When I was 8, I saw this scary shadow figure in my bathroom that turned out to be my dad passed out on the toilet, drunk. At the time I didn’t know he was drunk or even what being drunk was, but I knew I NEVER wanted to look like that.

At 14, a friend turned me on to Minor Threat and I was sold on the straight edge message. I didn’t truly consider it as a part of my identity then– it was maybe more of a contrarian thing that drew me at the time– so at 16 I tried drinking (which was some sips of a wine cooler my cousin gave me at a family party). I pretty quickly felt stupid and it solidified I didn’t want alcohol. I’m a kind of outgoing person, so I don’t need a social lubricant, and I never tried smoking or drugs at all.

How do you define Straight Edge?

I define straight edge as completely abstaining from smoking, drugs, and alcohol; and don’t think one can define as sXe without sticking to those basic things.

Since moving to California, I’ve met SO MANY folks who identify as sober. Their sobriety may exclude all substances, or may only exclude alcohol. The common thread I’ve noticed is that sober people see themselves as having a life-long struggle with a substance, and are constantly actively trying to rectify that. In all my years, I haven’t really any met any other straight edge people, so this is just personal philosophy; but I think straight edge differs from sobriety in that there’s not that struggle. And that’s what keeps me committed. I’m in no way interested in drugs or alcohol– I don’t need them to relax or have a good time or force myself to be social; etc etc.

I would say false. If straight edge is a club, then why not encourage more people to be a part of it? Gatekeeping is stupid, and in this case might discourage folks from rejoining a positive path.

Sure. Traditional paths to sobriety like 12 steps may not be for everyone, but everyone benefits from a community of a common thread. My friends who are now substance-free have told me I make them feel better when they’re out with me because I don’t drink, and have gained confidence in other social settings from my example of being completely abstinent and not a pariah.

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

No.

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

It’s hard for me to say because I don’t personally know my other straight edge people, and never really have.

Has being straight edge had an impact on your relationships (family, friends, significant others)?

I’ve had a lot of friends say that I’m admirable for not drinking or being edge or whatever, but that’s where it ends.

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

When I tell new folks I meet that I’m straight edge (normally I just start with “I don’t drink.”) they either assume I am religious or that I used to have a problem. When I explain further, it usually doesn’t really matter– I just get asked why. So to gate keep the straight edge philosophy because someone doesn’t listen to a certain type of music is troublesome and dumb. What if there was a straight edge hip hop movement? That would be amazing!

Final Thoughts?

Final thoughts are: there’s a lot of societal pressure to drink (and an increasing one for weed). Straight edge should be a movement beyond hardcore and not be previously gate kept for a certain faction of people. It’s no wonder why every one I know with a straight edge tattoo is no longer straight edge: they got into different things that aren’t hardcore or succumbed to societal pressure; etc. and felt like they didn’t belong anymore. To exclude folks from something positive is sad and weird. I don’t want to get drunken phone calls from my friends. I don’t want to smell weed on the streets. I don’t want to know anyone else who’s OD’d and died. If folks want to make a commitment to keeping their mind and body substance-free, why can’t we just let them start today?

Mother, wife, small business owner. www.justbuttons.org

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