Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division: A Book Review

By Jon Ginoli

When I first saw the cover of the Pansy Division seven-inch For Those About to Suck Cock back in the 90s, I don’t remember how I reacted to it. Although there were bands I listened to that were absolutely against homophobia—Propaghandi, 30 Foot Fall, The Bouncing Souls—there were still notorious homophobes, like Guttermouth, (who Ginoli absolutely lambastes in his book—and rightly so). Even though my suburban sensibilities probably clung to the more homophobic sentiments within the scene as a very young tween just getting into punk, eventually the accepting voices within the genre had a greater influence upon my outlook, and now I have absolutely no respect or tolerance for homophobes of any kind. In fact, they fill me with rage. And it’s bands like Pansy Division that were unapologetic and blatant about gay rights that swayed me from one camp to the other all those years ago. And for that, I am forever grateful they existed. In Deflowered, Jon Ginoli describes his experience as the lead singer and primary songwriter of the band Pansy Division. Although he begins his musical career with the group The Outnumbered, he struggles to find a way to incorporate his sexual identity into his musical expression. Eventually he moves to San Francisco and takes out an ad in two alternative weeklies that reads, “Guitarist/singer looking for bassist and drummer to form openly gay rock band…” Bassist Chris Freeman responds, claiming he’s been waiting ten years to read an ad like that. Once the two join forces, they embark upon a decade-plus existence that burns through about a dozen drummers, undertakes several domestic and European tours (including two legs with Green Day at the height of the group’s earliest success), and release six albums and several EPs. The group’s tours are often hectic, draining, and teeming with both homophobes and willing sexual partners (the Pansy Division van is a veritable shaggin’ wagon). However, the fate of the group is intrinsically linked to the rise and fall of punk’s popularity, as its album sales and fanbase decline as the ‘90s reach their conclusion. Eventually its members grow weary of touring and become much less active—after hammering out four albums in its first decade, it only releases two throughout the next. Although Deflowered follows the rise-and-fall trajectory of a lot of rock and roll memoirs, the subject matter is much more compelling as it charts the unusual path of a band who took punk’s middle finger esthetics and aimed it squarely at homophobes in general, but also at the accepted homophobic elements within punk scene itself.

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