Kristen Arnett on the Butch Punk Bands That Inspired Her

I was like, Oh, like, what if they kissed in it? The lead singer was a very butch lesbian. She doesn’t shy away from the body. Here, she shares some of the books, television shows and movies that helped her come into her identity. Her essays and fiction have been featured on Lit Hub, The Rumpus, Catapult, and many other outlets. And I was like, Oh, it’s because of Kim Deal with her twin sister and they just look superhot the whole time playing instruments. But it was the first time I read a character where it was how I wanted to write, because that book is so about place. Everybody was in the pit, kicking around, and this butch woman got her front tooth kicked the fuck out of her head and then, like, came out and then just started making out with her girlfriend. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

A huge one for me was Buffy. I loved watching the music video for “Last Splash.” I loved watching it and I couldn’t figure out why. [The main character] Bone’s a tomboy, she felt queer to me without Dorothy ever having to say anything about her being queer. It’s all these women in a pageant together, having like these different kinds of experiences. Buffy has this secret identity that people can’t know about, but it’s something that makes her really special. Drop Dead Gorgeous

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The Breeders

I was really obsessed with grungy girl-band stuff. She’s been a huge influence as a queer woman but also just as a queer writer. Dorothy Allison, as a writer, specifically, I feel like that’s so tied into who I am as a person. She writes about this very explicit kind of queerness, especially her essay work. And I liked it because it’s just the messiness that I associate with queerness. This is like one of the hottest things I’ve ever seen. I was at a show, and that was before I was out-out but when I was coming out. I started listening to Sleater Kinney, and I was leaning into more punk stuff, too. And then I would think about what it would be like to have more stories — make them more queer, more interesting. That was something that I watched that I wasn’t supposed to. When I was growing up, people were all listening to grunge alternative, and I always liked music like that. I love that they’re having a dynamic where I just want them to make out at any moment. It’s one of the first shows where not only was a gay character on it, but also it’s this idea of discovering who you are and then being empowered by it. Watching her write the kind of stuff that I thought about all the time was so incredible to me. Bastard Out of Carolina

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Buy The Baby-Sitters Club: Kristy’s Great Idea

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Drop Dead Gorgeous

I love the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous. While she’s currently working on a new novel, you can tide yourself over with her most recent short story, about lesbians and parrots, published in Oprah Magazine this April. Last Splash

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Dorothy Allison

The book that made me want to be a writer was Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina. They were my genesis into considering [my own work], because I would read those books and then I would think about them a lot. Her lesbian taxidermy novel, Mostly Dead Things, came out in 2019 to glowing reviews. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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The Baby-Sitters Club Books

The Baby-Sitters Club books were extremely queer for me. By Kerensa Cadenas@kerensacadenas

Photo: Maria Jones/Courtesy of Kristen Arnett

If you aren’t reading Kristen Arnett in any capacity — her fiction, her essays, even her tweets — you should probably change that immediately. It was also a movie I watched and didn’t understand that I liked it because I thought it was so gay. That movie is almost all women, and the movie was extremely gay to me. So I loved, loved, loved The Breeders. That was a book that not only made me want to write, but it showed me the kind of writing that I wanted to do, which felt so significant to me. As in her other fiction, her home state of Florida plays a crucial role in the story; local organizations like The Zebra Coalition, which provides services to LGBTQ+ youth, are hugely important to her. Obviously, I wasn’t thinking at the time about making them more queer. Dorothy is obviously hella gay, but it’s not explicitly a queer book. For me, so much of my queerness is tied up in how I try and express it even through work or trying to channel it out because it’s so hard for me, a lot of the time, to think about how to express feelings. It was an extremely queer root for me.

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