Portland is home to the ever-welcoming Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls, the band camp that helps cis female, trans and non-binary youth learn how to rock and express themselves from an early age. Promoting and fostering health, safety, camaraderie and music for youth is something we all can get behind. As a city, we could always put more resources towards promoting this kind of culture.
But what about folks who picked up a guitar or bass or drums in their twenties? Thirties? Forties and beyond? What if I’m 65 years old and just deciding that I want to become a rock ‘n’ roller—where would I go? Taking lessons is always an option, but where would you find what new rock ‘n’ rollers are really looking for: community?
We’re lucky here in Portland because Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls also offers a Liberation Rock Camp, a group that invites women, transgender and gender-expressive individuals to get together for a weekend of community and music making.
Similarly, on my recent U.K. tour, we ended in London, where I got to spend time getting to know more players and people in the DIY punk scene. A favorite stop was the DIY Space for London, an inclusive warehouse space for rockers of all ages. It was started primarily for older LGBTQIA+ folk who settled into their identities later in life, came out later and, as a result of sorting through confusing and tumultuous identity recognition, didn’t discover their own musical powers until later in life. Essentially, it’s a place for people who spent a large chunk of their youth realizing their identities and didn’t have the time or social invitations to jam with the guys.
I fall into this category: an awkward, queer teenager who oppressed my own sexuality and gave into gender norms because at the time it seemed easier than explaining myself to people. A victim of the gender binary and feminine expectations just like so many others, I wish I’d embraced queerness alongside my love for grunge and rock when I was 16. Alas, it takes time to figure these things out. The cool thing is: It’s never too late to rock and never too late to love who you love.
Olivia Awbrey is a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and activist from Portland.