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Straight Edge Interview Project: Weeze, 38,London/Hong Kong She/Her

Social Media: Instagram: weezexchristina I Facebook: Weeze Coulcher

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

I usually work in the Human Rights sector, with my most recent jobs in organisations working with and for Asylum Seekers, Refugees & survivors of human trafficking – but since moving back to London (from Hong Kong) just before the pandemic hit I’ve been working for a nonprofit think tank, in the Global Health Team. Sadly my amazing feline fluffybum best buddy Tildy passed away in June 2020 after providing me with 14 years of unconditional support, and middle-of-the-night demands for attention, food & bedroom door opening & shutting services.

I have a tonne of hobbies – but my main ones are scuba diving, I am a Divemaster and volunteer for Girls That Scuba, an online community of over 52,000 members. I make music – singing & playing guitar (links here) and recently started learning the piano. I love getting endorphin hits through Muay Thai, weights, running, cycling, dancing, yoga, blading, and I’ve taken up skateboarding after decades of wishing I could, but always feeling too insecure as a teenager girl – not knowing or seeing any female skaters. I’m currently learning Cantonese & Latvian; they are both so hard! l love to write and have a personal blog covering my travel experiences; pre-covid I traveled a lot – I love learning about modern history and other cultures – my personal experiences such as with anxiety and sobriety, and also more political pieces – especially regarding the current pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong – I was out protesting a lot in 2019.

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

Regret (Hong Kong)

Dagger (Hong Kong)

Catpuke (Phillippines)

Choke Cocoi (Phillippines)

Radigals (Singapore)

Shoot The Gun (China)

(check out Unite Asia on all social media platforms!)

What is your definition of straight edge?

Pretty simple – no drinking, no drugs (though alcohol is included as a drug, in my humble opinion) & no smoking – and with a huge dose of hardcore. I personally feel claiming, or associating yourself as straight edge, should be an active positive decision, promoting and normalizing being sober rather than a passive label used just because you don’t take drugs.

Where do you see the straight edge scene today?

I’m a newbie to the scene so I can’t really compare it to how it was – but from my point of view, it’s strong and growing globally. The two books edited by Gabriel Kuhn (which Kelly was interviewed in) introduced me to areas of the sXe scene that I had no idea about – politics and people that I really resonated with – away from the ‘jock’ cis-male image I previously had of it. (I’m not saying that is what it was, but it’s pretty much all I knew of it before.) I’ve connected with a lot of sXe people online in the last couple of years and there seems to be more and more, often younger, sXe bands forming which is great.

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?

For me, without the musical connection, you are sober, not straight edge. I know some people disagree, but I genuinely don’t understand why you would want to label yourself as such, have never had a link to hardcore.

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?

The challenges have been more to do with not drinking generally as I noticed when I first gave up – everyone wanted me to drink. This of course made it so much harder – I saw that alcohol was everywhere – and used and promoted as the answer to absolutely everything – celebrations, sadness, anger – but once I got comfortable with being sober myself and saying confidently ‘no, I don’t drink’ this hasn’t been an issue at all.

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

My instant reaction would be no, I see my veganism as separate – but I suppose it does link into my personal belief of doing as little harm as possible to anyone, or thing (humans, animals, the environment – and myself) and living by my own code of ethics and morals. I feel more content, and happier in my own skin – more at peace with myself – being both straight edge, and vegan.

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?

When I was a teen I first thought ‘sXe’ was a sect of Buddhism! Being into hardcore it’s always been around me, but not something I thought I would ever be, or initially gave any thought to. I started drinking in my early teens and very quickly developed an addiction to it, using it as a crutch and feeling like drinking, being a drinker was part of my personality even. It really wasn’t until I gave up completely that I REALLY realized how addicted I was and I guess what many would call a functioning alcoholic – I always had a job, friends, hobbies, completed two degrees, but consistently drank – a lot.

Giving up alcohol in my early 30s was HARD (harder I think than anyone could imagine unless you’ve done it yourself, with an addiction) but worth everything I had to do, feel, question, and face up to. Being sober moved from something I needed to do because I knew how destructive drinking was both physically and mentally, to something I loved, LOVE, being. And with this change came the nose dive into straight edge music and literature – seeing sobriety being promoted as a positive thing – embracing all the emotions, allowing them to fuel creativity – because life was so much more vibrant and intense sober. More action, more honesty. Eventually, after three years of sobriety, at a hardcore festival in Cavite, the Philippines, someone asked if i was sXe, and I finally said yes. (Haha!) I go to this in more depth in the article ‘From Sobriety to Straight Edge.’

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

Yes. Since a young age, I’ve been promoting human and animal rights – through education, petitions, and trying to get people to watch documentaries! I used to play the SHAC VHS at my school in the late 90s – that didn’t go down so well! In Hong Kong (where I grew up) there is a huge and obvious divide between the rich and poor, and the treatment and low pay/status of Domestic Helpers (live in nannies/cooks/cleaners) was probably the first injustice I noticed. Sadly the situation has hardly changed, but there have been a few positive milestone cases, such as employers being convicted of abuse. The closest causes to my heart are currently the state of Hong Kong in its fight for democracy – with a new draconian, dictatorial law being implemented in July 2020 taking away the right to free speech and protest. People are being imprisoned on a regular basis and I worry for my friends and my fellow Hong Kongers. I try to inform people about what is going on there, I go to protests in London, write to politicians – anything I can. When I was in Hong Kong I attended protests and being tear-gassed became a regular thing. At the moment I am focusing my efforts on sharing information about the horrific situation in Myanmar and the indiscriminate killing of citizens after the recent military coup. In line with that for decades I’ve been attending protests against war, against the occupation of Palestine, the mistreatment, imprisonment, and torture of human rights defenders and the LGBQTI+ community around the world – and as mentioned, advocating for the rights of Asylum Seekers and Refugees. I also volunteer for Amnesty. A lot of activism and protest is fundamentally boring. Standing around for hours, sending letters to people that probably chuck them in the bin, time spent carefully writing posts on already news saturated social media feeds – but it’s all so important, and sometimes it works. Even if it doesn’t make the end goal, I know how much it means to those being mistreated to see and know others are fighting for them, are thinking of them – it gives them hope and strength. And we must make the mark in history that we are standing up for what we believe is right.

As a vegan scuba diver I also advocate for our oceans and marine life – especially sharks, who aside from being absolute awesome creatures (I am slightly obsessed) are vital to healthy oceans and being slaughtered at a horrific rate and I used to volunteer with the Hong Kong Shark Foundation and hope one day to join Sea Shepherd on a mission.

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

My own happiness, health, sanity.

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

Music & Movement! Whether that’s punching a bag, dancing in my room (happens almost daily in Covid times) or just going for a chilled slow walk – movement and exercise are absolutely fundamental for me every day. And music, how do you describe in words what it makes you feel? Hitting you right in the heart, making you want to cry and dance and sing and shout all at once. Sweet, sweet music.

In regards to peer pressure the easiest, yet also the hardest way to combat it, is to be comfortable with yourself and your decisions. If you don’t know other people that are straight edge in real life – reach out online. The female sober blogging circle kept me sober & sane(ish) in my first year, but since then I’ve made so many like-minded friends online, and I found this definitely gives you strength. The first time I said ‘I don’t drink’ and didn’t give a shit about the reaction – was a huge, wonderful step for me – and it’s how it is every time now.

How was it being straight edge in this pandemic?

Better than not being edge! 😉 Aside from the obvious thing of using alcohol as a massive crutch had I still been drinking (to what I can only imagine would be disastrous physical and mental consequences) I’ve made so many new friends and acquaintances online in the last year – mainly through the hardcore and straight edge community – some I consider now to be really good friends, despite never having met them. How many scenes give you that?

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

No. There have been times over the last few years where I have thought ‘I remember why I drank’ when things got really hard – and I could understand why I’d just want to get obliterated and escape for a few hours into a hazy mess. Sometimes I’ve had to pull out all the tools to get through, but I’ve never seriously considered drinking or reached for a drink again. I said to a very close friend recently, that I’d rather die than drink again. It may sound ridiculously melodramatic, but for me to actually do that – I believe means I would have given up on life. And I definitely don’t need drink or drugs for the good in life. Since I’ve been sober I have done so many amazing things I NEVER thought possible, and put that down to the changes in my confidence, lifestyle, self-belief, and the people I have around me, and the self-worth I now have.

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 main previous long-term relationship was one that involved so much drinking, and a lot of weed. Ultimately I believe all that was toxic and abusive was because of that. I tried to cut down, or do dry periods, but was always pressured by my partner to drink, and eventually would always just give in. For me now I’m only interested in being with someone long-term who does not drink, take drugs or smoke – this is non-negotiable.

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?

It wasn’t easy at first navigating new norms, ways of interacting, or being social, but every single meaningful relationship I have has benefitted from me being straight edge. I am sure some of my friends miss drunken Weeze sometimes, but we laugh together about the stupid times and I’m probably just as loud and shameless as I ever was – always the first and last one off the dance floor. I feel I am a better friend, a better family member, and ultimately I feel happier and more at peace with myself – anyone that wishes I went back to more destructive ways, living with loathing and anxiety – does not have my best interests at heart, and I’d keep them at a distance.

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 at all – throughout the first few decades of my life I was always the ‘weirdo’ and didn’t generally have friends into the same music as me, or with the same political, activist mindset. But I always had close friends outside the scene and I value my friendships with people from different walks of life, and who are on different paths. In fact I find the idea (which often has been put to me) that I will get on with someone because – they don’t drink or have tattoos or are vegan – much weirder. That’s not a personality, but just part of someone.

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

I’m just honest. I try to be kind and compassionate, whilst still being vocal about what I believe in – especially when I see injustice and abuse. I try to educate rather than finger point, abuse and judge. I of course can hurt people, make mistakes, fuck up – and am continually learning – but I am always trying – and if that’s not enough for someone – that is their problem, not mine.

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?

As someone that has dealt with addiction, I am very open and willing to being there for others going through the same. Before I became more involved in the scene I thought most people were sXe from a young age, but talking to more and more people I’ve found many also claimed edge due to their own issues, or because they saw themselves on a downward spiral if they didn’t stop. I’ve always found it amusing that some people look down on those claiming edge later, especially when it’s something they did at a young age because so many people around them were sXe. For me, it was an active, thought-out decision, not because everyone else was, or to fit into a certain group.

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

I think it is very divided. Hardcore is full of toxic masculinity with people not being held accountable for awful behaviour because of the amount of social kudos they have. Like mainstream society, there is so much ingrained sexism and also women pitting against each other. (I wrote about that issue) However, there is also a strong core element in which people are actively pushing for equality, respect, and recognition of the minorities in hardcore. I feel things are changing for the better across the scene and seeing more younger bands with members identifying as female and POC’s is hugely positive and we need to keep going that way.

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

Haha. Yes. Where to start? Sexual comments? Inappropriate sexual touching or gestures? The testing of music knowledge? The looks? The interrogations? The comment, ‘you aren’t like most girls in hardcore – you really like the music.’ Oh so many. Being midway through a conversation, then on mentioning a boyfriend having the person just walk away without even a ‘polite’ getaway comment – that’s happened quite a few times. Having ‘NO GIRLS ALLOWED” shouted at me at a show in Germany when I walked past some crew photo shoot (to go to the toilet) was a highlight! The unease of walking backstage or into a dressing room (with a purpose) knowing you are being stared at as a groupie (whatever the fuck that means anyway.) I love meeting new people, and I love complimenting people (as in ‘I love your band/your set was amazing’) but as a female, I shy away from talking to men in the scene and introducing myself or saying these things, because I just can’t be arsed to be thought of in any way than for what it just is – a friendly conversation.

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?

Women have always been working behind the scenes (with a few onstage), but I think they are much more prominent now, and better at supporting each other – largely helped by social media. I think many men are more aware of how women feel and the gender imbalance, and what needs to change – but definitely not enough. I still regularly have to ask why women are not being interviewed, promoted, or supported. Men need to actively call out their friends for bad behaviours – this can be in private – the trend of jumping on individuals online and threatening violence I don’t feel is particularly helpful. It’s not about being seen as a feminist or an ally but actually consistently acting like one. Promoters and bands need to stop sexualizing women. I put up a post on Instagram in Sept 2020 entitled ‘Dear Hardcore Men’ wanting them to ask themselves a few questions. This went slightly viral and the response was largely positive – it gave me a lot of hope for the future of the scene.

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

I think there are certain members and groups in the scene that are really pushing and promoting these issues, but still, there is a long way to go – the inequalities, many ingrained and largely invisible are present in society in general too.

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?

No. The defensive and angry comments I see when minorities challenge something, or someone with social kudos very much highlights this. Instead of taking a moment to try to understand what is being said, and why – often, especially online, they will be attacked by people for ‘daring’ to question a status quo or something someone did, ‘but he’s such a stand-up dude/he’s been around forever (even if the person is not questioning this, but perhaps suggesting a way to be more inclusive.) The high school mentality that still exists in some areas really needs to go. Loyalty to friends isn’t about being blind to their faults, you should be able to tell a good friend when they’ve done something shit – or suggest a way of being better. And you definitely shouldn’t be attacking anyone that does that respectfully or with good intentions.

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

Just a huge thank you for resurrecting the site! Hardcore is life – the community is a global family for me – I’ve got so many hardcore friends around the world, and being able to connect with more individuals and hear more music, read more from those in the scene – especially women – is amazing.

Mother, wife, small business owner.

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