Almost the very first thing Gothtopia did when we started the Gothic Council was oust somebody from it. Partly because, well, what good is a club if you can't deny entry to some people? Mostly because the person we ousted made the cardinal mistake of prefacing every sentence with, "I'm not really goth, but..."
Goth denial is rampant in the community, and it's very sad, really. No matter how many goth outfits they wear, how many times we run into them at the same shows, or how much we have in common with them they will insist that they are not goth, but some other subgenre... probably one you're not really familiar with. Yes, we have hipsters too, and yes, it is equally annoying.
Gothtopia is a confrontationalist in these cases, pointing out what is blatantly obvious to everyone. However, sometimes we worry we're doing damage to their fragile psyches. So we decided to summon the Gothic Council to answer the question.
Joining us this week is fashion designer Batty, Sarah Fanning of the Night's Plutonian Shore blog, Alethea Carr, co-organizer of the Age of Decay festival, living historian Morighanne Burns, stylist Carol Daeumer, and Jvstin Whitney of Church of Melkarth.
Batty: I usually deal with goth denial with a eye roll ... I am not here to be a goth counselor to people who are clearly whacked. I see people like this all the time. It's usually people who only like to claim being goth when goth is trendy and hip and in style. As soon as it's not cool anymore, they are on to the next big thing and hush-hushing they were ever goth like it was some sort of dork-plague they suffered.
We all know goth comes and goes in popularity in the media, and some people are fair-weather goths. I have even been guilty of a small version of this from time to time in my younger years, but honestly let's face it. Once you go black you never go back. You can pretend all you want. In the end they all come crawling back and just end up looking kind of silly.
I don't see fair-weather goths as ever being very productive or contributing members of our community. I am too old to see the point in denying aspects of my personality be it popular or not. Therefore I deal with people in goth denial by not dealing with them. Don't worry, we'll be seeing them again next time goth is cool again.
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Sarah Fanning: Denial? Not just closeted? Hmm... I would try taking them out to the goth club. But that may not be enough. You may have to get to the root of why they deny being goth. Is it some preconceived notion about goths that needs dispelled? Is it fear? Is it some external factor like a significant other who wants this person to be the Stepford ideal? I think resolving the underlying issue has to come first.
I was an unwilling Goth denier for a bit because of an evil bastard boyfriend.
Alethea Carr: Well, it's no good trying to argue with the not-a-goth goth. You've got to humour them, just nod and say, ""Oh, of course you're not a goth! Who needs labels, right? You're so much more than that." Just draw the line at calling them a special little snowflake or they'll catch on.
A casual invitation to the club, "Why don't you come along? I know it's not like you are one or anything, but they'd have some music you like, and the people are really nice." Or a little jaunt to the thrift shop, where you helpfully and innocently point out a black velvet jacket...
There are always the stubborn ones who never admit they're goths - what their motive is, I can't understand, as they'll freely accept the labels "male" or "female," "husband," "daughter", "computer guy," "Green Party advocate' "etc. - but most people who spend long enough immersed in the subculture have that epiphany one night: if it dresses like a goth, and it goes to goth clubs, and it dances to Sisters of Mercy, it's a goth! Anyone who denies it after that is just being disingenuous.
Batty has a good point in not engaging with the not-goth goth. After all, how do we expect uncommitted people to make contributions to the goth community? We are in a position that compels us to be relatively self-reliant and live a DIY sort of life - major media, record companies, clothing outlets, and so on are not going to be there for our artists and businesses. We need people who embrace a goth identity and give it their full support.
Batty: Exactly. I don't see the need in coddling or supporting people who don't support us or only support us when "it's cool." And label-deniers... well they have just always irritated me. I don't mind labels, it's not like they define us, but it does help others define us and understand us. I think a lot of people don't understand that you can indeed be more than one label without being a poser so they just deny them all.
Morrighanne Burns: Goth denial? Hmm... I'd be inclined to just ask them outright why they wear/do/ listen to goth type things but don't want to be part of the wider community? Chances are they have evolved from something slightly more acceptable and are not sure if they want to take the jump to "goth."
Here in Scotland, there is a problem with people of lower intellect not actually realizing that everyone who wears black is not goth. Metal, emo, beatniks, mourners... All goth. The other problem might have been past experience with gothier than thou goths who have been on the scene for a few years and think they invented it.
Carol Daumer: Every one knows the only way to truly be goth is to deny it's existence. Duh. You have to do something stupid like call yourself a "chromophobe" while you sit up all night making black latex roses. So what if you listen to Sisters of Mercy and 80s darkwave, you wear the highest black heels you can find and the most expensive latex?
The only solution to goth denial is ridicule. Plain and simple. Mock them at every available opportunity. The goth-in denial is just that sad 9th grader begging for attention we all used to be. They just never grew out of it.
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Jvstin Whitney: I prefer an intervention where we show them all their clothes and music collection, and then point out that this stuff is indeed and undeniably goth. If they don't accept it then they should be banished from the scene... assuming Carol hasn't killed it, of course.
Also, labels and stereotypes exist for a reason. If you can't take the ridicule, hit the weight room and/or put on a big girl skirt; actually, do both regardless of gender identity: no one ever harangues the trannie hookers behind Numbers because their arms are as big as most peoples' legs.