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Queer Comfort in My Chemical Romance

You know what they do to bands like us on Tumblr.

By Entertainment, Series

My Chemical Romance performing Riot Fest 2022. Photo by Jason Pendleton. Photo Illustration by Nidhi Shenoy.

For the past eight years of my life (an extremely long amount of time for someone who isn’t even 20 yet) I have let one thing take a huge amount of my time and energy, that thing being American rock band My Chemical Romance (MCR). One might ask, why? What is it about MCR that was so important to me that it allowed me to become one of many in their obsessive army of fans? Personally, I’ve always believed there is an ‘it’ quality to MCR that kept me completely infatuated, but I think the more real reason is that I have been a very weird person for most of my life, and MCR is a band that actively makes room for anybody who feels different.

In their 22 years of being a band (including the breakup years), My Chemical continuously made it clear that it was okay to be different — to be the one woman in a male-centered space or the queer kid who wouldn’t hide their queerness. And as a weird kid who spent most of my life hiding, MCR’s safe spaces felt like a breath of fresh air, and it felt really nice to actually breathe.

Recently, there’s been a growing association between fans of MCR and open queerness. This occurrence isn’t actually new, but it is becoming more present in the online spaces surrounding MCR, and those online spaces have also become much more active because of the band’s reunion tour. Again, a certain amount of queerness was always there, but now it’s become so much more open and talked about that it is more common to find queer or female fans of the band in online spaces than cishet men.This is unusual considering the demographics of the emo and punk scene My Chemical comes from.

The history of queerness within MCR’s fanbase was not by chance. In their second album “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge” (2004), there are multiple references to queerness, including overtly gay songs (see: “To The End” and “You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison”). This is likely a reason why MCR started gaining a queer audience during this time, along with the acceptance for outcasts, in general, the band has always had. The members of MCR were quick to notice and embrace both their queer and female audience.

There are several moments in their earlier tours where frontman Gerard Way would actively tease about his own sexuality in order to poke fun at the many homophobic people in the alternative scene during the early 2000s. This, along with the many interviews in which Way and Guitarist Frank Iero openly spoke out against homophobia and voiced their allyship, made it very clear exactly how MCR felt about queerness, which was far more than most bands would do at the time. Frank Iero could also be seen wearing a “homophobia is gay” shirt that he made himself.

This pro-queer sentiment still did not fade when fans began to question the sexualities of the members of the band. When fans made constant suggestions that the members of the band were in intimate relationships, the band members responded by laughing it off and making jokes about it themselves rather than denying the fan theories. By calmly making jokes and making the fan-proposed ‘ships’ seem silly, the band managed to shut down (for the most part) the rumors without sending out any sort of homophobic or anti-queer sentiment. It was a simple but very kind way of putting those ideas to rest.

In recent years, this allyship has not faded and has become an even stronger part of the core of My Chemical Romance. In 2021, Way had a cameo in the HBO documentary show “We’re Here” where they cheered on a first-time drag artist who was an MCR superfan who was about to do a performance to MCR’s song “Welcome to the Black Parade.” Last year, Frank Iero announced he would start making and selling binders (chest compressors used by transmasculine people) through his merch website for his solo work. Going past allyship Gerard Way revealed that his sexuality was unlabeled in a 2015 “The BoyZine” article, and in a tweet in 2015, they announced that they use both he/him and they/them pronouns. The band has loudly embraced the queerness within their fans.

The most recent and largest development in the world of MCR is their reunion and more specifically their reunion tour. During this tour, Way was very quick to use their platform to play with gender expression by dressing in overtly feminine clothing for his performance outfits. Though some of these outfits were clearly nothing but slightly more feminine Halloween costumes, many were regular women’s clothes. A great example would be the outfit Way presented 2022’ss Riot Fest: a women’s skirt and jacket suit with a headscarf and round black sunglasses. Way may have looked like a character plucked out of “Gray Gardens,” but that didn’t stop anybody from celebrating the band’s first festival in America since 2012. During these tour dates, Way even mentioned on stage that he felt more comfortable presenting however he wanted during their return because there was no longer a fear of rejection from the crowd.

MCR’s continued support of the queer community has made a place both online and in-person where people can feel like they are allowed to exist. For many of MCR’s fans, this wasn’t available to them before, and it’s amazing that after a six year long breakup (and two year long tour postponement) nothing has changed, and the band still loves and embraces their often-alienated audience.

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