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Straight Edge Interview Project: Laura, 33, Arequipa, Peru she/her

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

I’m a volunteer in social work; I have spent almost 3 years in Peru working with disabled adults and have been setting up an NGO to create employment opportunities for them and the deaf community. I’ve been vegan for about 12 years and I spend most of my spare time in the gym. I love powerlifting, bodybuilding, also riding bikes, reading and knitting. I used to go to gigs all the time but unfortunately there isn’t a scene in the city I currently live in.

Favorite straight edge (or non-straight edge) bands? If you have links, please provide them!

First Blood, A$d, Casey Jones, H2O, Sick of it All, Terror, Lionheart…

What is your definition of straight edge?

It’s more than just being sober. It’s about rebellion not only against the pressure to always be drinking but also society itself and it’s pre-determined standards of how you should live your life. It’s about equality and staying true to yourself that’s brought together through music a community, local and worldwide, on a much deeper level.

Where do you see the straight edge scene today?

I feel like it’s still being kept alive and going strong and that now more than ever we need this scene to be heard in the world.

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?

Well, I’m not able to attend gigs due to where I live, but I still claim edge and associate myself with the straightedge community. I understand why people may think this, as music is a huge part of the lifestyle, however there are exceptions.

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

That it’s really boring haha

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 haven’t had any challenges with anyone else who claims edge, but with people who are not edge there have been lots. Things like, after years of being sober, they still offer me a drink or worse still, try to talk me into drinking. It shows a lack of respect towards a personal choice I’ve made (and one that has benefited my immensely) but I also know that it’s also a deeper reflection on that individual and insecurities they may have regarding their drinking and/or drug habits.

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

I actually turned vegan years before claiming straight edge, as I had a toxic relationship with alcohol that took longer to conquer.

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 was already in my late twenties. I was part of the London & UK grindcore/punk/metal community so for me, gigs and music was already a huge part of my identity. I listened to some straight edge bands but I had a troubled relationship with alcohol so I could never even imagine being straight edge. There was one particular Monday morning when I said enough was enough, but in reality I’d had so many key moments leading up to that. I went sober and as I’ve always identified myself so much with the music I listen to, it made me revisit and really take note of bands like Minor Threat, for example, that I’d listened to all these years without really getting what they were about. Claiming edge was just a natural progression for me.

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

I’d like to be more activist. I’m vegan and I’m sober, but I haven’t always been those things, so I try to find the least judgmental approach as well as lead by example.

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

I think taking a step back and seeing how far I’ve come, how much better my quality of life is nowadays and remembering all the hangovers etc. Also the straight edge community plays a huge role for me. Even though I can’t be that active in going to gigs, thanks to social media I can still meet other members of our community and feel part of something much bigger.

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

I exercise a lot; I always enjoyed working out or riding bikes, but it’s a great stress buster and having a routine helps with anxiety too. I find with peer pressure you’ve just got to smile and say ‘no thanks’ and remember you don’t owe anyone an explanation. When I first quit drinking, but still had urges to get drunk, I would take myself out for really long walks. Like hours. Not only would it calm my mind but I would get back home and be physically exhausted, so all I would want to do would be to eat some dinner and get into bed.

How was it being straight edge in this pandemic?

I’m just glad that I was straight edge during all this. I’m living in Peru and lockdown was very strict here – we were only allowed out to go to the bank to pay bills or to buy food. No daily exercise, curfews etc. Being able to keep a clear head and stay connected via social media helped a lot. If this happened 10 years ago I dread to think how much I would have drunk every day.

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

Occasionally I’ll want to escape but in these moments when I think about being drunk or high again I just think of how bad it would feel. Sometimes I dream that I break edge and to be honest, they are more like nightmares, so I don’t think I would ever do it. I’ve gained too much self respect over the years.

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?

Before I was straightedge I have had toxic relationships where we both just led each other further down in terms of drinking etc and it was horrible. My current partner doesn’t claim edge but fully respects my decision not to drink and they never drink more than a few beers a year. I couldn’t date someone who got drunk every weekend because it’s too much of a contrast to my life choices.

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?

Yeah, this is challenging. I just remind myself that when they make jokes, or try to get me drink etc, it’s their insecurities playing out. When I stopped drinking a lot of people also stopped calling me to hang out, which at the time really stung, but looking back, it was probably for the best. My real friends, whether they drank or not, were supportive of my decision.

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If you are single, have you found it difficult to date?

I was single when I first went sober and claimed edge and it was a lot harder to date than I had expected. In terms of my confidence and also meeting guys. My first sober date I was so nervous but you get over it. Sobriety gives you a new level of confidence, not in an arrogant way; you just learn to be more self assured. That’s my experience, anyway. I had a few awkward dates at the beginning of my sober dating journey. For example one guy took me to the pub and drank half a dozen pints whilst I had juice so he ended up drunk while I stayed sober. I wouldn’t expect someone to change who they are to be with me, but don’t take a sober girl on a pub crawl if you want a second date.

Some straight edge women/girls I have talked to have told me that they feel isolated and that they find it difficult to relate to people outside of the straight edge scene. Is this something you can relate to?

Not really, but I think that’s because I wasn’t always straight edge, so I’ve been part of other walks of life and therefore I can relate to people outside of the straight edge scene. I may no longer be associated with other groups but I can understand their points of view.

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

So many people don’t know what straight edge is and having also been vegan for over a decade, honestly I’m quite bored of having to explain my personal lifestyle choices to people I’ve just met. If it comes up in with people outside of the scene, I just tell them I don’t drink. You can usually judge by someone’s reaction if it’s worth answering any questions they throw at you.

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 would say I’m one of those people. I knew straight edge existed but I’d always ignored it. I think I was sober for almost a year before I claimed edge and I have always felt welcome within the community. I think it’s important to remember that people can change their lives around at any time and we need to support and welcome those who have decided to make the positive decision to become straight edge.

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?

Just more all-female, or non-male bands and more of us in the pit 😉

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

Guys thinking you are at gigs just to hang out. Or pick up a guy. Like you don’t actually know anything about the bands or the music.

Do you feel the straight edge community has done enough to advance gender/race/social issues?

I think these are ongoing issues and that we can never stay silent on.

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?

There’s always work to be done – but I don’t think the scene is exclusive, so we just need to keep striving for inclusion on all counts.

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

Thank you for playing such an active role in our community!

Mother, wife, small business owner.

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