Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band: DVD

Oct 29, 2009

I was fifteen when I first saw Pansy Division. It was a time in my life defined mostly by complete and total disdain for almost everyone I knew. I went to an all-girls Catholic high school and would scrawl leftist political slogans into my locker just to annoy people. Ah, high school punk rock! But when I saw Pansy Division, I was blown away. These guys had stickers on their guitars saying “cocksucker” and “sexual anarchist!” The audience, which was there to see Green Day, just stood there, jaws open, not sure of a.) what to make of this, and b.) how they should construct their response, so as to seem not homophobic, but definitely NOT seem gay, either. It was amazing!

My sister and I immediately bought all of their records! We listened to them constantly! I think that, had my mom gone through our records (which she had absolutely no desire to do), the lyrics to “Groovy Underwear” would’ve been more shocking to her than the entire Alternative Tentacles catalog (with the possible exception of “Will the Fetus Be Aborted?”). “Tight briefs on your sexy butt/White fabric surrounding your nuts/Bike shorts put it on display/You’re wearing it to the left today.”

Despite touring with Green Day, and having records on Lookout, Pansy Division never reached the level of popularity of many pop punk bands. Some of it was pretty basic. The band swung to the “pop” end of the pop punk spectrum, and sometimes the results weren’t pretty.

But I think too many people wrote them off because they thought they were, basically, a joke band. People didn’t realize that writing explicit songs about gay sex in the early 1990s, no matter how ridiculously pun-ridden, was very different from, say, the Spinal Tap album.

And that’s a shame because they’ve actually written some pop punk gems, like “Homo Christmas” (“Don’t be miserable, like Morrissey, let me do you underneath the Christmas tree.”) and “I Really Wanted You” (just a really cute, sweet song about a secret crush getting married). 

When you’re fifteen, it’s hard to appreciate the historical significance of “Fem in a Black Leather Jacket,” but looking back on it now, it seems crazy that mainstream teenagers, who went to a Green Day show, were subjected to thirty minutes of songs about gay sex. Whenever I think about it, it makes me happy.

Unfortunately, this documentary, (and the new book by Pansy Division’s singer Jon Ginoli) aren’t great. There’s some decent live footage, and we get the basic history of the band, and a few anecdotes, but that’s about it.

There’s also a strange obsession with documenting how many different drummers they had. I mean, we could be spending our time talking about the song “Dick of Death,” and instead we’re talking band logistics! Annoying!

But these are minor details. If the sudden onslaught of all things Pansy Division (film, book, new album, national tour) leads a few more people to appreciate the first sexually explicit gay punk band, then I lend them my support!

If you’ve never heard them, I’d recommend starting out with the CD compilation The Essential Pansy Division and working your way back from there. Or, send me three bucks and I’ll make you a mix tape! –Maddy (Alternative Tentacles)