Girls Living Outside Society’s Sh*t: when Music and Activism Collide

Zoe Carlisle, Staff Writer

They told us we were girls

How we talk, dress, look, and cry

They told us we were girls

So we claimed our female lives

Now they tell us we aren’t girls

Our femininity doesn’t fit

We’re f***ing future girls

Living outside society’s sh*t

Those are the daunting opening lines from the debut EP by G.L.O.S.S. (Girls living outside of society’s sh*t), a trans-feminist hardcore punk band based out of Olympia, Washington. Consisting of members Sadie “Switchblade” Smith on vocals, Jake Bison and Tannrr Hainsworth on guitar, Julaya Antolin on bass and Corey Evans on drums, G.L.O.S.S. quickly skyrocketed to popularity in early 2015 with the release of two EPs, Demo and Trans Day of Revenge. 

Originally from Boston, Sadie Smith grew up going to hardcore punk shows in her area. At the time, almost all of the people in the bands and in the audience consisted of middle class, cisgender straight white men. Smith felt the content of the music did not reflect the real issues of people in the margins of the scene, such as people of color or the LGBTQ community. G.L.O.S.S. was formed in reaction to that lack of representation and diversity within the punk community. In a retrospective article from KEXP covering G.L.O.S.S.’s iconic discography, the band’s mission and content were perfectly explained:

“Packed tightly into five songs, the eight-minute EP was like throwing an M-80 into a glass house with its powerful songs of rejecting validation from the straight boy canon and trendy mutant skinheads; decrying the performance of masculinity; crafting incendiary anthems for transfemmes, genderfluid folks, and outcasts tired of standing in the back of the venue. Spiked baseball bats beating down the structures of repression and the closets the straight white establishment force trans and nonbinary people into. Trans people being the targets of straight male bigotry and oppression. Supported by pummeling instrumentation and Sadie’s barbed wire-shredded screams, the G.L.O.S.S. demo was a homicidal rebuke of transphobia and all its disgusting sub ideals.”

From songs like the wild, mosh-inducing “Masculine Artifice” to the all-out vengeful “Targets of Men,” G.L.O.S.S.’s message never subsides. Wailing guitars rip through each track as Smith’s words bleed into your ears like a battle cry. In both EPs, the influence of the Boston hardcore sound circa 2002 that Smith grew up listening to is clearly heard throughout each song, made complete with sludging bass and crashing drums that anyone listening could lose their mind to. However, Smith makes it known that her music is not catered towards just anyone (read: cis men), as stated in their song “Outcast Stomp,” “This is for the outcasts/rejects/girls and the queers/for the downtrodden women who have shed their last tears/for the fighters/psychos/freaks and the femmes/for all the transgender ladies in constant transition.” In this song, Smith is speaking to the people that are usually pushed to the back of the venue, or maybe to her younger in-the-closet self, growing up in the scene. Nevertheless, it’s a positive message that she might have needed to hear back then, a message long overdue for people finding themselves on the fringes of the scene. G.L.O.S.S. aimed to put these people front and center.  “I consistently feel bowled over by the positive reaction to the demo” said Sadie in an interview with B*tch Media in 2015. “I have been brought to tears many times from letters, emails and conversations at our shows with other queer and trans folks who have been impacted by our songs… I think for trans women to be honest about their lives there [will] be a lot of pain and a lot of sh*t to dig up. Singing in G.L.O.S.S. is kind of like getting to be a superhero, like weaponizing a lifetime of anguish and alienation.”

G.L.O.S.S. disbanded in 2016 after turning down a record deal with Epitaph Records due to the label’s affiliation with Warner Bros. The band did not wish to contribute financially to a large cooperation. Soon after announcing this decision, the band also announced via a statement to Maximum Rock and Roll stating that they decided to bring the band to an end. The reason for this was the mental and physical strain that the members endured from being in the band that had begun to take a toll on their personal growth, home lives and community involvement.  The statement also explained that the buzz around the band and the polarizing effect that it had on people was beginning to overshadow the band itself, and that this was not a healthy position for the band and its members to be in. The members donated all proceeds from their records to a homeless shelter in Olympia, Washington called Interfaiths Works Emergency Overnight Shelter. 

Although the band’s largely short-lived, G.L.O.S.S.’s impact on the punk community will forever be prevalent. The work they did in creating a safe environment for trans women to express themselves through music was revolutionary.