HIRS Collective isn’t about to bow to mainstream whims and serve up the homonormative presentation of what being queer looks like. The collective’s motto is: “Looks like hell, sounds like sh*t, queer as f**k.”
This stands opposite to the narratives in mainstream pop culture and media about LGBTQ folx which are often served to readers and viewers through a blurred lens, as it is often wealthy white men who hold the pursestrings of media conglomerates, magazines and newspapers. We’re presented with a narrow view of what gay and trans people look like through shows like Modern Family and Will & Grace. While some shows are slowly starting to show trans women as actual trans characters (i.e. Laverne Cox on Orange Is the New Black), show creators have yet to present a trans woman in a role as just a woman, period, showing that mainstream TV still cannot see trans women as women without an asterisk.
Formed around two semi-anonymous, Philadelphia-based founding members, punk act HIRS Collective also includes collaborators like Laura Jane Grace from Against Me!, Shirley Manson of Garbage, Marissa Paternoster of Screaming Females, Sadie Switchblade, RVIVR’s Erica Freas, Alice Bag and many more. Since the late ‘80s, the group has put out over 300 songs, but its sets are generally under 15 minutes of blistering, passionate punk.
This ever-changing and growing collective of punks make grindcore punk power-violence music that is about lived experience. It’s messy, chaotic, joyous, rabid — reflective of the realities of being part of the population that is still not entirely legally protected from discrimination but is living a radically loud and powerful life of agency as much as possible.
The music is anti-racist, -transphobic, -police discrimination and centers around survival. That’s a theme that is particularly relevant, as trans folks statistically face far higher rates of violence, homelessness and poverty.
By centering the experiences of actual queer people in such a raw, aggressive package, the HIRS Collective’s provides a cathartic space for healing, growing and loving. The music is a road map for a queer future with reflections on past and current challenges and systemic inequality and violence.