Pansy Division helps ease stigma of gay stereotype

By Kevin Gibson

Chris Freeman's black-white checked skirt was as short as any cheerleader's, and the mechanic's uniform shirt he wore was tied off at the midriff and unbuttoned.

The name tag read "Dick" and a patch bearing the job title was just underneath. "Look," the bassist squealed into the microphone. "I'm the dick service manager."

Under any other circumstances, it wouldn't have been funny, but coming from Pansy Division, it was. Freeman, in all his effeminate splendor, had teamed up with guitarist Jon Ginoli and drummer Dustin Donaldson and turned the normally middle-of-the-road Backstage Cafe into a culture-shock explosion waiting to happen.

The explosion happened, but only through this California band's music.

What this trio exudes is not just homosexuality but humanity and humor. They've managed to take the stereotypes assigned to them by society and turn them into an act that even we heteros can enjoy.

A tune like "Dick of Death" – one of the first songs in Pansy Division's set – goes straight for the jugular, but once Ginoli smiled at the audience and announced, "Honey, I'm homo," any tension was lifted.

This band uses pop culture references (i.e. "James Bondage" and "Touch My Joe Camel") and slightly altered covers ("Rock 'n' Roll Queer Bar" a la the Ramones) to spread the word that being gay can encompass both of the word's meanings.

Especially in Ginoli's songwriting can be found the pain of what it's like to be different, unaccepted. Songs like "Deep Water," his account of being young and gay in a small Midwest town, and "I Really Wanted You" the dangers of falling in love with a straight guy, give vivid insight to the hazards that accompany being gay.

Best of all, the live show is great fun. Flowers (pansies, of course) cover Donaldson's drum set, Christmas lights circle the stage, and Ginoli's "every guy" appearance (except for the T-shirt that reads "Perverse") play off Freeman's flaming persona beautifully, and it's tough to deny Pansy Division's three-chords-and-a-side-of-fries musical approach. It's all hooks and humor and having a good time.

From making fun of Canadiens ("I'm stuck with a guy with hockey hair," Ginoli sings in one tune) to bashing politicians to exploring the real meaning of love ("they just mean sex"), Pansy Division knows how to take the stigma out of the stereotype.

If only that guy at the next table hadn't kept touching my leg ...