The LGBTQ movement and techno
In the realm of music, the term "techno" was first used to refer to a type of electronic music that originated in Germany in the early 1980s. However, the techno we know today was born in Detroit in 1988, following the UK release of the compilation "Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit".
At that moment, Detroit techno became a bridge between the city of Detroit and the rest of the world. Detroit techno includes the first techno productions by Detroit-based artists during the 1980s and early 1990s, such as Juan Atkins, Eddie Fowlkes, Derrick May, Jeff Mills, Kevin Saunderson, Blake Baxter, Drexciya, Mike Banks, and Robert Hood.
Today, this music genre is also known to be among one of the most accepting and diverse in terms of race and sexuality. But it was not always that way.
It took riots to get to the point where Detroit and its techno movement are today!
Detroit's electronic music was heavily influenced by the complex issues the city was facing during that time.
Black people would continually encounter intense discrimination in housing, as many white people prevented most African Americans from buying their own homes. This eventually led to the 1967 Detroit Riot (July 23, 1967), also known as the "Detroit Rebellion," and the "12th Street Riot", the bloodiest incident in the "Long, hot summer of 1967".
As an answer to the riots, changes were forced upon Detroit, resulting in increased hiring of minorities, which led to the White Flight. This gradual large-scale migration of white people from areas that were becoming more racially or ethnoculturally diverse was the reason for the growing economic decline of Detroit.
Eventually, the underground population had to develop a music genre that would mirror their struggles and emotions. Over the years, Detroit Techno became more than just a music genre that embraces the themes of Afrofuturism. It became a symbol of the marginalized groups, which also included the LBGTQ+ community, and to this day, it aims to be one of the most inclusive music genres in existence. However, things can always be better.
NYC queer techno artists and DJs talk about the issues they face today.
"As our crowd has gotten bigger and bigger, it's become increasingly difficult to find suitable venues for our events," says Volvox in an interview. "Since here in the USA we lack a general cultural awareness surrounding club culture like in Europe, it's much harder to find landlords and other folks in power who are willing to work with us.", she adds.
According to Katie Rex, nightlife as a whole faces many common issues across the board with venue accessibility, fees, and support from society at large.
"Where these problems are overarching, LGBTQIA+ people face these issues tenfold, since these are things that press this community in all areas of life. Our community is historically underground, so while we try to navigate safer above-ground situations, we're met with our vision being turned around by venues, fees being slashed in comparison to others, and massive backlash from social media platforms on content that we use for promotion. And this is me, speaking as a white cis-woman, these issues are even more amplified for QTPOC.", she says.
The techno community today still faces diversity-related issues. Sadly, it almost seems as if the situation is getting worse instead of better. As Joey Quinones notes, today's scene is dominated by white cisgender gays compared to a decade ago.
Knowing these facts undoubtedly makes us wonder: Could we possibly make a righteous comparison between the techno scene in the US and the one in Europe? The difference in the history and circumstances of the genre development makes it difficult to do so, but whether Europe faces the same issues as the US today or not is up for discussion.
"Techno was invented by people of color and made famous by Europeans/white people; the two needed each other to create what it is we have today." - points out DJ TT. Today, one of the most famous techno DJs in Europe and globally is Sven Väth. He is also a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Sven Väth - the face of the LGBT techno scene in Europe
Born in Obertshausen in 1964, Väth is known as the pioneer of the German techno, a DJ, a music producer, and a three-time DJ Awards winner, whose career in electronic music spans over 30 years. He is also known for using only two decks and a mixer for his extensive DJ sets, his most extended set having been 30 hours.
His career started with his single "Electrica Salsa" with OFF in 1986. It continued growing as he began running two famous nightclubs in Germany.
He was only 24 (in 1991) when he opened the dance club "Omen" in Frankfurt with Michael Münzing and Mattias Martinsohn. The same year he started the record label "Eye Q" in 1991 with Heinz Roth and Matthias Hoffman. In 1992, Sven also started the label "Harthouse Records." Unfortunately, the two labels declared bankruptcy in 1998.
In 1996, Väth started his own company, Cocoon, which encompasses a booking agency, record label, and a branch for events.
Cocoon began in 1996 as a series of parties that featured props of hanging cocoons filled with water, which inspired the name for his next project.
The parties, however, were not as successful as Väth hoped, so he decided to reopen the project in 1999 as a booking agency with the help of Talida Wagner.
Cocoon Recordings has helped many famous DJs, such as Ricardo Villalobos, Matt John, Dubfire, Tobi Neumann, Onur Özer, Raresh, Martin Buttrich, Loco Dice, Roman Flügel, Guy Gerber.
Väth plays a significant role in the development of techno music in Germany and Ibiza as well. He has been leading his own night at Amnesia for eighteen years and after-parties at creative locations around the island. In 2004, Väth opened the club "Cocoon" in Frankfurt.
How can things improve for the LGBTQ+ techno scene?
The artist LSDXOXO points out that marginalized bodies need to have more positions of power within this community for these spaces to exist.
"If people have more of a voice in what happens within the scene, they'd feel more comfortable being involved,'' he adds.
According to Justin Cudmore, when marginalized bodies see LGBTQ+ and people of color on lineups, it is a rallying call to people that identify as such that they are welcome there.
"I think that promoting diversity and intersectionality on lineups has benefits that extend to this. As a gay man, it's been inspiring since I was a teenager to see queer people celebrated and doing cool things.", he says.