Before words like “sex-positive” or “leather phamily” or “femme” entered my vocabulary (let alone my experience), there was Goth.

The girls I crushed on in highschool were the hard-edged bi-chicks – one with waist-length hair, one who kept her short but dyed it two-tone green and black. The girls who listened to Garbage and Tori Amos, not to mention a whole wack of bands I’d never heard before (who is this “skinny puppy” you speak of?), who smeared their eye-liner on thick when they needed to feel powerful.

Goth was where I found bisexual – not as a thing that you had to make up your mind about, but as a legit reality. It was where I found a whole subculture of people who Got It that makeup could be armour, that blood-letting was a type of intimacy, that there’s beauty in going to the extremes.

It was where I first encountered a space where open sexuality, frank discussions about sex, polyamoury, and kink were on the table at all. I mean, yes, we were 16-22, and where therefore fairly inexperienced in the relationship department, so a lot of us were doing that stuff badly, but we were also doing them at all, and that counts for something pretty significant.

It was the first place where I encountered people who worked in the sex industry and, fyi, were also able to talk to other people – relative stangers on – about working as internet models or doing phone sex… and not have people jump down their throats about being Whores, but rather offer reasoned advice (when asked for) either as friends or as people who also worked in th industry.

Before I had a word for “empowered femininity”, I had a subculture where the straight boys wore their hair long, wore skirts (not kilts – although them, too – but skirts), wore as much makeup as I did; where feminine was seen as a good, and beautiful, and worth-taking-seriously thing to be.

Before I found kink, sensual hedonism, the holiness of body and breath and all the senses, I found a subculture that collectively revelled in music that throbbed through you ’til you couldn’t not move; in silk and leather and velvet, the soft and the slick – in a sensory overload of touch and texture[1].

I know I’m romanticizing things a bit. I pulled away from my local goth community in my early twenties in the name of Avoiding Drama, and gods know I remember at least a few evenings spent making catty remarks about the DJ’s choice of music rather than just getting myself onto the dance floor, which was where I wanted to be anyway. But Goth was the first sub/culture that looked and felt like Home. And it’s informed everything else that came after.

Ms. Syren.

[1] I know. As a bunch of broke teens and twenty-somethings, we were aiming for leather, raw silk, peu de soi, and velvet… even if what we actually had to work with was polyester-satin, stretch-velour, and PVC (if we were particularly wealthy at the moment). If you’re wondering why so much of Gothic Fashion comes in black, black, and more black, it’s less about wearing clothing that’s As Black As My Mournful Soul, and more because combining eight different textures into one outfit means that throwing multiple colours into the mix, well… Compare a baroque catherdral to a gothic one: They’ve both got the same ammount of business going on, but the monochromatic one is a lot easier on the eyes.