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Straight Edge Interview Project: Rachel, 30, San Diego, California. She/Her

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RachelAshleyCoffman/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ilovechirashi/

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

I work as an Operations Manager in the Theme Park industry. I have three dogs (Meiher, Gatsby and Mochi) and a cat named Sapphire. My hobbies include hanging out with family & friends, cooking, traveling, cruising, going to shows, following my favorite band across the West Coast portion of their tour, trying new foods, and occasionally making art.

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

AFI, Minor Threat, Youth of Today, Earth Crisis, Have Heart, Bane, H20, Bleeding Through, Black Flag, XTRMST, Samhain, Converge, Coheed & Cambria, Tiger Army, The Misfits, American Nightmare, The 69 Eyes, HIM, Hatebreed, Rammstein, etc. (I love a ton of music this just scratches the surface.)

 What is your definition of straight edge?

Straight Edge can simply be broken down to abstaining from drug use and drinking. For me, its truthfully the only lifestyle that’s made sense, my way of life also reminds me to stay authentic to myself and my mind every single day.

Where do you see the straight edge scene today?

I’ve never been one to be too concerned with the “scene.” I’ve known and met many people who’ve claimed edge, vegan straight edge, and broke it almost as fast as they claimed it. Growing up in Southern California, there have been a handful of SXE bands both local and well known that have inspired me (again most of which are no longer SXE.) I still appreciate the influence of the culture. I have one friend who I adore that is Straight Edge, and he is amazing. I hope to continue to meet other fellow Straight Edge individuals, perhaps through this platform

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?

Straight Edge culture was born in the Punk scene, and that is undeniable. I am grateful through my love of punk, hardcore, metal, and alternative music I was introduced to it. However, as mentioned after my late teen years I kind of made it a point to not be concerned with the “Scene.” I was much more focused on my lifestyle and how much it meant to me, rather than sitting in someone’s shitty garage listening to the same dudes who broke edge a month ago talk about their side projects sounding like “JUDGE and XCHAIN OF STRENGTHX” mixed together. In some ways, as a female and one who does not give a shit about conforming to anyone’s set way of life or expectations. I absolutely did not fit in with the “Scene” at all. Hardcore, Punk, and most alternative genres have very “clear expectations” of what is acceptable and not. I have lived through the adversity and gatekeeping, and always stand my ground. I’m certainly not straight edge to belong, I am straight edge to be true to myself. To answer your question my hope in the future is that more people from other walks of life, backgrounds, musical interests etc. discover this amazing lifestyle and find support from other Straight Edge individuals who understand their interest and desire to abstain from drugs. My interests and music tastes do not all conform only to what is “traditionally” thought of as edge, so why should anyone else’s?

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

Oh man, I’ve had some funny ones throughout the years, main ones being 1. I used to be an addict that’s why I’m doing this 2. I hate bars, clubs, stadiums or any place that serves alcohol 3. I am part of a gang that wants to beat people up and steal their shit. I always have a good awkward laugh whenever I am introduced to a group of people by a friend, peer, family member that goes “This is Rachel, she doesn’t drink, she’s straight edge!” It’s usually to a group of middle-aged people or complete partiers that are not enthused at all or are completely confused. LOL

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?

Wow, this is a great question. I claimed edge at a very young age. I’m definitely someone who sticks to my guns (no pun intended.) I used to get so excited to meet other straight edge people, but usually was disappointed by most interactions. As a female, I faced A LOT of sexism, gatekeeping “NaMe 3 s0ngs” bullshit, I have been targeted in pits. This is not exclusive to women in the Straight Edge community, but women in any alternative scene if you ask me. I also cannot for the life of me, sit and listen to one more person talk to me about their vinyl collection or why “so and so’s band is a sellout.” Just to watch them break edge or make fun of other straight edge people later down the line. Dating is also VERY interesting in the straight edge community. Has anyone had any luck with that? I honestly would love to hear some love stories! I also am not Vegan but completely sympathize with the vegan lifestyle. I am a human with vast interests and hobbies that I would love to share with the world, and I sometimes just want to elaborate on that!

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 am not vegan or vegetarian. I am 100% a supporter of those who are and support the humane handling of all animals. I am conscious of whatever I put in my body. I love to cook, so I try to source local and fresh ingredients as much as possible.

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 YOUNG, about 12 years old. My dad was big music fan and introduced me to a lot of the classics- Queen, KISS, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath etc. I had also recently discovered series of pop punk CDs, Attitcus Dragging the Lake, Tony Hawk Pro skater compilations (Blink 182, H20, CKY, Black Flag, AFI etc.) AFI blew my mind, to this day they are my favorite band. Right when I discovered them, Sing The Sorrow had just released in 2003, the rest is complete and utter history. Davey Havok is soley responsible for how I discovered the Straight Edge and opened up my eyes to this whole world of Straight Edge music.

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

Straight Edge means being as authentic and in touch with myself and mind as possible. My vision and belief have always been the same. When I was a teen into my 20s, doubt surrounded me, “Its a phase.” “I was edge once.” “cute” these are all comments that just motivated me even further. I never doubted myself. When I was younger, there were times where I would get super passionate, maybe sometimes “preachy.” As I’ve gotten older, I have learned to move in silence and just be content knowing who I truly am. This is my way of life. Nothing has changed.

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

I am a feminist. I have been an advocate and ally for the LGBTQ+ community for as long as I could remember. I’m an animal lover, who will fight until the end of time to ensure proper treatment of animals in any capacity. I have rescued multiple pets throughout the years and donate money to local shelters, no-kill shelters and volunteer groups that rescue abandoned or homeless animals. I am against any and all racism, prejudice, and unjust treatment of all humans, especially in the black community and POC.

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

Truthfully, it is a promise I made to myself in my youth. It is one of the coolest gifts I’ve given myself. I would never want to go back on my word. I am proud of myself, my mindset and what I’ve achieved knowing drugs, alcohol or mind-altering substances were never a hurdle.

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

In hindsight, I didn’t realize how much judgement I was going to face in my pre-teen, teen years and early 20s for not wanting to partake. I can vividly remember being invited to kick backs/parties and then being uninvited at the last minute or having some bitch about me being there. At times it sucked, but I wouldn’t call it a struggle, but it made a lot of other people insecure and STILL does.

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

I am a big kid. I still have a lot of the same interests as I did when I was young, whether its video games, going to theme parks, chilling on the beach, exploring nature, and many many more. Therapy is great too! LOL.

How was it being straight edge in this pandemic?

The pandemic reenforced my decision to be Straight Edge more than anything, so it was just fine. I acknowledge how lucky I was in the sense of NEVER trying drugs or alcohol, perhaps that is the key to never wanting to

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

No. I can honestly say, even in my darkest of moments it’s never been an option. I deal with A.D.D, ADHD and episodes of depression. I have been in therapy off and on for 15 years, which helps me through my own mental stress.

Have you ever stopped being edge for a period of time, if so why? Did you regret doing so? What brought you back? If you have come back,  how do you view your commitment (i.e. for life, for now)?

I have never stopped being edge. I have known a handful of people that have, and I’m not here to judge or out them for where they are now. Everyone’s journey is different. That is definitely something I have learned to accept. I will never know what it’s like to numb pain with drugs or alcohol, and then pull myself out of it completely so I try not to judge.

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?

I have never had a straight edge partner. My current partner does occasionally drink and has tried other things in his past. Again, I do not judge. In my opinion it takes a really confident person to be with someone who is straight edge, because in my experience it can create tension in a relationship if someone feels “judged” or has to hide whenever they drink or smoke. I have certainly ended relationships due to the other person being shitty and riddled with guilt. People make choices, maybe not as extreme or devoted as myself, but they have to make good/balanced choices to be in order to be in my life. Bottom line.

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?

My family and friends (that are not in the scene) are accepting and low key confused. My parents fully support my decision, and I have been used in my family as a “poster child” for all the younger kids/cousins to follow (which DID not happen if you’re wondering LOL.) It’s funny, I can tell my dad doesn’t really get it, and will SOMETIMES offer me alcohol in a joking way. My older family members/coworkers do NOT understand and think I am religious or weird. I am totally okay with that too. I generally do not say the words “straight edge” if I am speaking to an older demographic because I simply do not have the capacity to explain. My friends who are not part of the scene get it and embrace me fully for the most part.

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

I am not single, but I have ABSOLUTELY had a hard time. This is not exclusive to Straight Edge individuals, because dating in 2022 must be horrific. Generally, it goes back to the insecurity thing, a lot of adults need liquid courage to even speak to someone that interests them. I found it very hard to connect even when being physically attracted to someone. I have been told I am “intimidating” as well, which adds even more fun to the mix LOL. One of my worst dates was with another “straight edge” person.

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?

As a minority in society (in more ways than one.) I have learned to kind of push myself out of my shell and engage. It is exhausting (mostly for work.) At the end of the day, I am so happy with the people in my life, and I am eternally grateful to be surrounded by such positive people. I do remember a time where I felt alone, isolated and didn’t have a single friend. My advice would be to look at each person for who they are, forget if their edge or not, just try to connect. You never know who you’ll meet this way. If someone is toxic or doesn’t support your lifestyle, you’ll find out sooner than later.

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

I am not a parent. I would love to hear feedback from other edge parents though.

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

In my experience, it usually starts with “If you don’t mind me asking….” I KNOW INSTANTLY its coming. LOL. If its someone who I am close to or I feel has a genuine interest (and I have an extra 30 min or so.) I will explain the connection to music, the sub-genre as a whole, and why I felt compelled to lead a lifestyle like this. Davey Havok will sometimes get brought up and it generally helps bring understanding to my individual story. On the flipside, if its a stranger or someone who I am not connected to, I will just tell them “Drinking, smoking, partying just isn’t my thing.” Short, sweet and to the point. Does this provoke more questions, yes sometimes, do I care? No not really. I am a firm believer that I do not owe ANYONE an explanation on my lifestyle. At the end of the day, do those folks give a shit? I think not.

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?

My opinion on this has shifted over the years. I believe that if someone who struggled with addiction finds Straight Edge, I think it should be embraced. I do not have stats on relapsing or anything of that nature. Ultimately, why should I judge someone who is trying to find community or peace within their sobriety? NOW, the question of the “Scene” being supportive enough to embrace these individuals is a whole different story. The human brain is so complex and tends to rebel against itself. Is the narrative of “SXE no drinking, NO DRUGS.” Reverse psychology in a lot of ways? I have seen so many people struggle to claim edge, and just relapse or drop it the next week. Sometimes I question if it’s the right path when addiction has been present. However, that is not for me to decide. I will embrace anyone who actively tries to turn their life around for the better.

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

To be honest, I would like to learn more about how the community has made strides to create gender equity.

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

1000% If you’ve read my earlier statements. I have been attacked in mosh pits, spit on, called a “poser” told to go “find a date somewhere else.” Is this a surprise? I have always laughed in these people’s faces and went on with my life. 90% of the time its coming from males. Sometimes I go to shows in hardly any makeup, jeans and a band tee, other times I wear dress and get glam (god forbid.) Again, I ultimately do not owe anyone anything and will do anything I want regardless of some fools trying to bring me down.

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?

Absolutely, it has always been a male dominated world. Women have a very important role in this community, and we should never forget it. I have always admired xSisterhoodx for the representation of women in hardcore and straight edge communities around the world. In the early 2000s, there were more women involved but I feel as though, you see more and more women claiming edge and of course STICKING to it. Our desire to live drug free lifestyles, stand for something and ultimately create music, art or anything we like pertaining to Straight Edge is something to admire and WILL be respected.

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

The perception that I know “less” or am a “nuisance” in the scene. Additionally, the cowards that like to throw themselves on top of women or kids in shows to purposely hurt others. Probably explains why I can’t stand my own scene sometimes.

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

It’s a work in progress. I feel like there have been many positive, uplifting messages spoken by members of the community. Putting it to action is the most important thing.

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?

To be honest, I think a lot of positive changes have occurred recently (more women in the scene, different cultures, the spread of awareness and advocating for different issues, etc.) However, it is a work in progress, there is a lot of traditional, hardline, sexist assholes out there who I can tell don’t embrace change very well, however I am certain we can get there. It’s not even necessarily a male vs female issue its about being honest with ourselves and embracing others who may need our support more than we know. This community is not perfect, but we stand for something amazing.

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

Not at this time. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my experience. I have been following you guys since the early 2000s. The work you’ve done to positively impact this community is incredible. Thank you!

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

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