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© Helicon Magazine 2019

University of Bristol

 

The queer biker

By Faith Newcombe

Lock up your daughters (or maybe your sons), the bikers are coming to town!

 

1960s America was, in every sense, a tumultuous landscape: LSD, the moon, Vietnam, the (actual) dead Kennedys, and the hell-raising, swastika-toting biker gang graced its glowing TV screens in quick succession. The most infamous of the latter was the Hell’s Angels, whose collision with counter-culture icons Thompson, Ginsberg and Wolfe has cemented them in American mythology, the way a pink star belonging to your least favourite - but equally sexually aggressive - president is afixed to the Walk of Fame. But, though they may have peppered every headline in the country after a string of female rape charges, the gang had an unmistakably homoerotic undertone. As an all-male criminal group on the fringes of society, it's not surprising to learn that members’ desires frequently flouted heteronormativity. However, while the Hell's Angels’ inherent queerness was undoubtedly sexual it became, too, an act of self-alienation from contemporary masculinity; an initation into “freak”-dom. Kissing another Angel became a sure-fire “square-jolter”, and those who wouldn’t comply were treated with “a gentle sort of detachment”. Their motto, paraphrased by yours truly, was thus: if there’s anything scarier than a nest-bearded, lank-haired outlaw, it’s two nest-bearded, lank-haired outlaws kissing.