My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Thursday, 29 December 2011

30 Day Goth Challenge, Day 3

When did you come out the Goth closet? (If you didn’t then simply discuss the topic)

Well, since becoming a proper Goth I've never been in the Goth closet - Goth is not something I've ever only done at home, or hidden from people. Goth is too closely related to who I am as a person to be something I can take off as I peel off fishnet stockings, unlace my corset and wipe off my makeup, anyway, and I've never had much regard for the opinion of others so felt free to wear what I want. For a long time before I was Goth in terms of fashion, back in my babybat days and in the bohemian days between then and my proper Goth beginnings, I was judged as a freak, a weird person, a dyke, a witch, that crazy girl, etc. so I was under the rather angst-ridden teenage opinion that if everyone hated me anyway wearing weird clothes wasn't going to make anything worse, so I wasn't a closet Bohemian, Hippie or anachronism either.. I also was never particularly inclined to seek acceptance. I didn't see popularity as something to seek to feel validated or to improve my self-esteem.

As a child and teenager, I never felt I could relate to my peers, so quickly stopped bothering to try. I was a very serious, bookish, but also imaginative child and not very socially adept, and severely and violently bullied. It was easier to walk my own path than to be met with violence and hostility at any attempt to integrate. I became quite a solitary person, and quite content with the company of my imagination, but also sought people, younger and older than me, who were also a bit "different". I did have a few friends, but mostly ones who would not dare talk to me in the public arena of school. I was hoping that in moving to a new environment I would get a chance at trying to fit in, and therefore not be under constant attack and derision, so I tried briefly to fit in on starting my second secondary school, but the constant effort, fear of being found out and sheer boredom it entailed did not seem worth it, as it ate at me far more than being bullied had done, so I went back to being my inherently different self, which alienated people even before my breakdown. At my third secondary school, when I was a sixth-form pupil, I was told off for being friends with a first year. I responded that I didn't make friends based on the age of my friend, but on whether or not they were nice to me and we had things in common - the teacher told me I was very arrogant and should make friends with my classmates like everyone else. 

I did give up being a babybat temporarily because of external pressures. My best friend's mother, who was the closest thing I had to a mother in the absence of my birth mother, was very concerned about my new Goth appearance, and my interest in Wicca, she thought they were dangerous, and my Dad then got concerned too.At the same time, the school I was at was very conservative, and had me talk to the school chaplain, forbade me wear my pentacle pendant (I defied that in my school photo, where I look out with a defiant stare, wearing pentagram earrings and pentacle necklace visible), confiscated Gothic and Witchy possessions from my dorm and I got a lot of hassle from the staff over these interests. I could not give up my faith, that is part of my very soul, on that I would be intransigent, but I could dress a tad more acceptably, although I swiftly became Bohemian rather than mainstream. I was mentally unwell, under great academic pressure, had a difficult home-life and realised that to try and remain at least partially sane, and ease off pressures that would lead me to do something stupid, some compromise had to be made in the outward manifestations of my inner self. Maybe it was weakness, maybe it was a sensible decision in the circumstances. I was not yet fully aware of the subculture to make a true commitment to it, anyway, it was more of an interest, at that point, than a large part of my life. I may have stopped dressing as a babybat, but Goth had left its barbs, and I would spend the next few years drawn closer and closer to its beating heart.

I've moved places since then, moved out of the cliquish environment of girls-only schools, been through college, higher education and work, and found that as an adult people are either less judgemental, or at least less inclined to show prejudice openly. Wearing Goth, or any other kind of alternative clothes, in public will mean a few rude comments and if you're particularly unlucky, aggression from less enlightened people who think violence is acceptable. It also means I am visibly another alternative person, so when I meet alternative types who are strangers out and about,  and I talk to them, they're less likely to assume I'm going to do/say something judgemental, and thus it's easier to make new friends from the alternative world. It also means that non-alternative strangers who are curious, come up to me and ask about my clothes and sometimes conversations can grow from there and I can have a nice conversation with a stranger or make a new, non-Goth friend.

I find that being a visible symbol of my way of thinking is a bit of a filter - someone who's going to judge me over my Romantic Goth/ Aristo style is probably not someone I'm going to be able to get on with very well. I'm not saying I can only get on with other anachronisms, but that if someone is that shallow, they're probably not going to be the kind of person I'd be friendly with, because I don't like people showing a judgemental attitude towards others.

The closest I come to being in a "closet" is in my work life - if I'm at work I'm toned down (and tend to take my style advice from people like Sophistique Noir), and when I've been at places with a uniform, I've abided by that, but my being gothic is never a secret - I give people chance to get to know me first as Carolin the Employee, and gradually ease people into the fact I'm a Goth, because Goth is more than just fashion to me, it describes a lot of how I live my life and how I see the world, and I don't want people coming to assumptions (e.g must be depressed or take drugs) that can quickly be dispelled by simply knowing me first, rather than knowing me as a goth first. I'm never very Goth at work, at most it's a black trouser suit with metal buttons (I always replace plastic buttons) and a red, purple or plum blouse, some silver jewellery, my rather distinctive glasses, and maybe skull, cat or bat earrings. I can get away with skulls if they're discrete studs - people don't tend to look closely enough to see what they are. I still got a few odd questions by co-workers, mostly about whether or not I sleep in a coffin. I think that one is down to police procedural drama NCIS and the lovely Abbey Scuito playing to as many stereotypes as she breaks. I also seem to be the one who is treated as a depository of knowledge on anything weird.

Personally, I think it is healthier for people to be themselves, even in the face of prejudice from others. Giving into bullies and judgmental people only feeds their destructive behaviour because they think they have "won" if their victim panders to them. There is nothing morally reprehensible in having different tastes and a different way of thinking to other, only in harming oneself and others. There is nothing intrinsically harmful about being a goth, but being a bully, on the other hand, is harmful to the bully and his victim. If you are bullied, take strength in knowing that there is nothing wrong with you for being goth, and plenty wrong with the bully for them to think it is acceptable to seek enjoyment in intimidating and hurting other people.It is not your fault, it is the fault of the bully, nobody deserves to be bullied and shunned simply for being different. If people are judgemental, well, they are the ones missing out on being enriched by other perspectives. 

It is easy for me to say these things, and a lot harder to actually endure bullying, prejudice and judgemental attitudes, especially if you are young, and the bullying is not dealt with by the school, or the judgmental and prejudicial attitudes come from school staff, family or community or faith figures. While it is important to try to be yourself, sometimes it is best to wait until you are old enough to leave home, leave a constricting community and forge your own life the way you want it. It is good to fight intolerance and prejudice when you meet it, if you fight it in a constructive way, but some battles cannot be easily won, so pick your battles carefully. If you cannot be outwardly true to yourself, remain inwardly true.


"This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!" 
~Shakespeare, being wise through the words of Polonius being smug and self-righteous. 

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