A victim of the Binary and Biphobia?
Introduction (2000): "The Suicide Of Kurt Cobain: A Victim Of The Binary And Biphobia?" was originally part of the chapter, "The Suicide of Kurt Cobain and Bobby Steele," in the 1994 book, The Gay, Lesbian And Bisexual Factor In The Youth Suicide Problem by Pierre Tremblay. The words "binary" and "biphobia," however, were not used when the chapter was written. The "binary" refers to the recent belief that only homosexual and heterosexual people exist, and this belief is likely implicated in the rising North American youth suicide rate since 1950, males having accounted for about 90% of the increase in youth suicide (Tremblay and Ramsay, 2000). Kurt Cobain self-identified as bisexual in a highly biphobic binary-believing personal environment which negated his perceived self-reality.
In the 109-page paper, "The epistemic contract of bisexual erasure,"published in the Stanford Law Review [53(2), 353-461], Kenji Yoshino evaluated the highly harmful results of the "binary" belief most negatively affecting bisexual people because they are NOT to exist, but individuals claiming to be 100 percent gay are also the great losers in the social construction for the following reason:
"As Naomi Mesey has argued, straights collectively attempt to preserve a 'heterosexual ethic,' that is, an ethic that heterosexuality has a monopoly on sexual virtue. In order for the heterosexual ethic to present itself as congruent with virtue, however, the homosexual ethic must be presented as congruent with vice. The survival of the heterosexual ethic is thus dependent on a binary world view of 'right and wrong, or health and sickness, or heterosexual and homosexual.' Mesey describes the martial rhetoric of homophobia as arising out of this dependence. She then astutely notes that the real enemy to the heterosexual ethic is not the named enemy of homosexuality, but the unnamed enemy of bisexuality. By deconstructing the straight/gay binary, bisexuality reveals that it cannot be isomorphic with the virtue/vice binary. It thus threatens the heterosexual ethic at the collective level as well as threatening heterosexual identity at the individual level" (Kenji, 2000: 404).My related commentary in a presentation on another subject was: "Therefore, 'gay' people were created and exist to maintain the status of virtue and power that heterosexual males continue to enjoy which, in turn. implies that 'being gay' is a double bind. Gay people were created by heterosexual males to maintain what has been termed 'hegemonic heterosexuality,' and gay individuals act accordingly. Why gay males and lesbians have crawled into bed with heterosexual males and females with respect to abusing bisexual individuals and desiring their non-existence remains to be analysed for all its implications."
In 1994, a highly placed [widely assumed] authority on homosexuality in Calgary had read my book but this did not do anything to alter his "binary" belief. For him, in the 'therapeutic' setting, a client was to be either homosexual or heterosexual because bisexuality was considered to be non-existent. In other words, all client claiming to be bisexual were to be 'worked' on to produce a result consistent with the therapist's beliefs. After he reported his basic belief to a group of about 30 professionals concerned about the welfare of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth, I wrote him a letter - copy sent to another M.D. - which outlined the serious problems related to his implemented "politics" with clients. I was especially troubled by the fact he had learned nothing from the potentially highly lethal social / personal environments which negate the possibility that bisexual individuals exist - as I had articulated in "The Suicide of Kurt Cobain." Kurt Cobain was also not been the only self-defined bisexual individual who committed suicide in Courtney Love's immediate environment.
If I was to write the piece again,
I would make some changes, but I essentially leave it as it was written.
In the Bibliography, URLs are given for references which have become available
on the Internet. An "Internet Resources" section was also added to the
web page. After scanning the internet for relevant information, the
writing of an Addendum (2000) is being considered.
Why would a highly talented, rich and famous musician who is married (heterosexual?) and has a 19-month-old daughter kill himself? Unfortunately, Frank’s diatribe against Cobain’s suicide does not enlighten us in this respect. He is so upset, in fact, with the idea that a man who had everything committed suicide that he attacks anything positive said about Cobain.
In response to people who believe that “the world has lost not only a great artist, but a visionary,” Frank counters with what he calls the “little perspective... required.” Therefore, “Cobain was bereft of any answers,” because he committed suicide, and this point is later emphasized. “FACT: Cobain had no clear picture of the meaning of life, especially his own."
Nonetheless, interesting unexplained information about Kurt Cobain was given in Frank’s diatribe. ”...Cobain has been repeatedly painted as a misunderstood seer so tormented by personal demons that the only plausible solution to his unhappiness was suicide. Which of course is a lie... He was a deeply disturbed self-absorbed individual... [with] emotional demons he reportedly wrestled since childhood."
Near the end of the article, for emotional effect and condemning purposes, Cobain’s wife and daughter are brought into the picture. “Here was a young man with the money and the opportunity to help himself. To help his wife. And to be there for his infant daughter in the years to come. Their loss is at the same time incalculable and palpable. More so since it was so unnecessary.” The end of the article follows. “Ironically, in taking his own life, Kurt Cobain may have made a statement far more vital and coherent than any he may have tried to make or any that were attributed to him while he was alive. The question of course remains: was anyone listening?"
Frank, of course, wishes us to listen and accept the message he spewed, but insight is needed, especially if we wish to better understand why Cobain committed suicide. Within himself, death was perceived to be the only solution to whatever was troubling him, but what was it? What was so bad that, compared to what he was feeling, death was perceived to be the only answer? Could his suicide have been related to the “demons” Frank noted to exist but never sought to investigate and describe? What were the demons Cobain had wrestled with since childhood?
In February, 1994, a homophobic woman (highly placed in a parent-support organization in Calgary) told me about the suicide of a Calgary man who had a wife and two children. His homosexual identity could no longer be denied, but only after he had ventured into marriage and having children, thus causing serious problems for others. The woman explained that his suicide was a positive result because his wife had received a considerable sum of money from an insurance policy, with enough to even pay for his children future university education. If something like a divorce had occurred, the results would not have been so positive (Note 116).
The homosexual “demons” had caught up to this male, and he experienced many negative consequences. He told his wife about his long denied homosexual nature and fully realized that he was - and would be - hurting the ones he loved. A divorce would certainly negatively affect them, and he may have perceived living as a gay male to be totally unacceptable. Ultimately, he perceived his death as the best solution to the situation - his marriage and having children - which had resulted from the denial of his homosexual identity.
This man was not famous and his suicide therefore did not warrant a Charles Frank article. If such an article had been written, however, he probably would have emphasized that this married [heterosexual] father of two kids obviously knew nothing about life and the meaning of life; that he was certainly a loser; and that he had also been exceptionally cruel to his wife and children because he committed suicide. So much for someone having understood nothing because he lacked “the facts,” and the “little [REALITY] perspective” he would have needed to better understand why the suicide occurred.
In our society, as noted in a Newsweek article related to Cobain’s suicide and suicide in general, suicide is often thought to be “an enormously selfish act" (51: 46) The feelings of Cobain’s mother with respect to her son’s suicide reflect yet another common opinion. “The singer had been missing and his mother had feared that the most troubled and talented star of his generation would go the way of Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. ‘Now he’s gone and joined the stupid club,’ she told the Associated Press. ‘I told him not to join that stupid club'” (53: 46). Unfortunately, the belief that suicide is stupid or selfish, and that the suicide victim is a loser, does not help us to understand anything about suicide, when very specific reasons exist to explain why individuals kill themselves.
Who was Kurt Cobain? Could he have been a gay male? What would we have seen if we had lived in “redneck” Aberdeen, Washington (Pop. 17,000) where he grew up? Fortunately, about a year before his death, Cobain revealed important information about his teenage years in the first interview he gave to a gay magazine, The Advocate, at the end of 1992, or January 1993. ”...I've always been a really sickly, feminine person, so I thought I was gay for a while because I didn’t find any of the girls in my high school attractive at all. ...So I thought I would try to be gay for a while, but I'm just more sexually attracted to women... I mean, I'm definitely gay in spirit, and probably could be bisexual” (03: 40).
The 1981 Bell and Weinberg research revealed that, of all factors evaluated in their comparison of gay and heterosexual males, gender nonconformity (males having had a history of being gender nonconformable, or female-identified) was the most significant distinguishing attribute, although this does not apply to all gay males (08: 74-77). In Western societies, if a male is effeminate, and if he flaunts a homosexual identity, serious trouble can be expected. Cobain describes his adolescence. “I used to pretend I was gay just to fuck with people. I've had the reputation of being a homosexual ever since I was 14. [Or “got the gay tag,” as he notes later.] It was really cool, because I found a couple of gay friends in Aberdeen - which is amazing!” (03: 40) Was he only “pretending?” Because Cobain did “not find any of the girls in [his] high school attractive,” he believed himself to be gay. Why? Was it because he had homosexual desires and fantasies?
Adolescent males usually masturbate and have sexual fantasies, and a boy would certainly not believe himself to be homosexual if his sexual fantasies involved females. There are also more females in the world than the ones who happen to be in one’s high school, but Cobain was not sexually attracted to them either because this would have prevented him from concluding he was gay. Obviously, females were absent from Cobain’s sexual life, and the reason is not the one provided: “The girls in my high school] had really awful haircuts and fucked-up attitudes” (03: 40).
Cobain was a “sickly, feminine” boy not sexually attracted to females, and was therefore (as he would like us to believe) gay by default. As in saying something ridiculous like: “If I'm not sexually attracted to females, I must be gay.” He also wanted us to believe he was not sexually attracted to males, because he was supposedly only “pretending” to be gay. Is this true? If he was not sexually attracted to females, why did he opt for “[trying] to be gay for a while"? Why did he not try to be heterosexual instead? Is it therefore possible to believe that, after noting he was only trying to be gay, he was really “more sexually attracted to women"? Maybe, but this would only apply to the recent past.
Cobain gave himself the “gay” label in adolescence, and it was not because he was “more sexually attracted to women” at the time. He not only accepted the “gay tag,” but flaunted it to the point that his visibility put him into contact with known homosexual males considered a rarity in Aberdeen. He also knew, as all males do, that there would be a high price to pay for this. “I got beat up a lot, of course, because of my association with them” (03: 40). But not because he was gay as he would have wanted us to believe. Supposedly, he was not gay. He was only “pretending” to be gay! How many adolescent boys have we known who were only credibly pretending to be gay, sought out and welcomed male friends who were known to be gay (who seemed to be his only male friends), and were willing to accept repeated beatings which came with this pretence?
It is unfortunate that Cobain was not questioned by an insightful interviewer because important question should have been asked, and we cannot do this (as a good therapist would) because he is now dead. Nonetheless, he did give important information about himself in The Advocate interview. “See, I've always wanted males friends that I could be real intimate with and talk about important things with and be as affectionate with that person as I would be with girls. Throughout my life I've always been real close with girls and made friends with girls” (03: 40).
These were the girls he was also not sexually attracted to throughout his adolescence. The gay-identified male friends he met were also probably like girls, or like himself given his “feminine” self-definition. Were his gay friends and his female friends - with whom he could be “real close” - what Cobain wanted at the love/sex level? I doubt it very much on the basis of my knowledge of gay males who have described themselves to be “feminine” and had an adolescence similar to that described by Cobain. These males don’t have sex, nor fall in love with males who are like them, and especially not with real females with whom they often form intimate non-sexual relationships. It is possible that it is such males Cobain is referring to when he stated he wanted intimate, affectionate friendships with other males.
The above description is of a very stereotypical gay male, but something happened to this (closeted? gay?) male. It seems like he wanted to be “normal;” to get married and even have children. What kind of woman would such a male choose to be his wife, given the looming possibility that he may one day have to accept the truth about himself and reveal that truth to her? In response to the interviewer’s statement that his wife, Courtney Love, was “a fag hag,” Cobain replies: “Oh, she is. That was all she did for about five or six years of her life - hang out in gay clubs” (03: 40). In a May, 1994 OUT interview with Courtney Love (which had occurred before Cobain’s death in April) the “fag hag” label is better described. “It comes as no surprise to hear her say that she was raised by drag queens who taught her to be a drag queen herself” (119: 24).
Cobain therefore chose, for a wife, a female who was “a drag queen,” or a female impersonating a male impersonating a female. As such, she would have been gay-positive, and would probably be very comfortable addressing gay issues. Before having noted Love’s “fag hag” nature, however, Cobain had explained: “I mean, I'm definitely gay in spirit and probably could be bisexual. But I'm married, and I'm more attracted to Courtney than I have been toward a person, so there’s no point in trying to sow my oats at this point. [Laughs] If I wouldn’t have found Courtney, I probably would have carried on with a bisexual life-style. But I just find her totally attractive in all ways” (03: 40).
This almost sounds credible, except that Cobain is making an important revelation both on the line and between the lines. If he had a sexual “life-style” before he met Love, it certainly was not heterosexual. In fact, as he admitted, he “[tried] to be gay for a while,” meaning throughout his teen years and probably into early adulthood. He then states that, if he had not “married” Love in 1992, the “life-style” he would have continued to live would have been “bisexual,” which is the revelation that he was (would still be) having sex with males, and probably with males only given his history of not having been sexually attracted to females (Note 117).
But Love changed(?) all this, supposedly because he reports being “more attracted to Courtney than I ever have been toward any other person.” What else, however, could we have expected him to say given that he knew Love would read the interview? In fact, at the beginning of the interview, she kept returning to where he was being interviewed under the pretext: “I'm worried about what [The Advocate interviewer is] going to write.” But this is not true. Instead, she is very worried about what he may reveal about himself in his first interview with a gay magazine. Her parting comments reveal the cause for her anxiety. “When she leaves for the third time, she says, ‘It’s a gay publication, Kurt, so don’t forget to tell them about the time you stole your tights out of your mother’s drawer.’ Cobain smiles, she laughs and sighs. ‘I guess I have that effect on men. Bye.’ And then she goes for good, pushing Frances’s stroller out the door” (03: 37).
Love had made Cobain very much aware of her anxiety and its nature, which is alluded to above, and was made explicit a year later in the OUT interview with Love. “My friend Roddy of Faith No More outed himself. He was my boyfriend and after that he was gay. Third guy that became homosexual after they went out with me. I don’t know what that means. I take it as a compliment, frankly” (119: 29). Did she suspect that Kurt, who had self-identified as gay in his teen years, was also gay? This is possible, but was to be denied. Love had married him, and their daughter was born 6 months later (39: 44), which means the marriage occurred when Love was about 3 months pregnant. This was to be his child, and he would have felt a great responsibility for bringing a child into the world. It is doubtful, however, that he would have married Love for this reason alone. She, in turn, would probably have not married him had she known he was gay. In The Advocate interview, he affirms what Love may need to hear and believe: ”...I'm more sexually attracted to Courtney than I ever have been toward a person... I find her totally attractive in all ways” (03: 40).
Yet, Cobain admits to having lived a “bisexual life-style,” which really means having lived a homosexual life-style given the fact that he was not sexually attracted to females. He was also giving himself the bisexual label by going as far as stating that he “could be bisexual,” (with a history of being 100% homosexual), and he did this with the full knowledge of Love’s feelings about “bisexuals.” “I don’t believe in bisexuality, actually. It’s a farce.” Schemel, the female drummer in Love’s rock group, Hole, agrees. “Neither do I. It’s a load of shit” (119: 28). That is, they both believe that people who give themselves the “bisexual” label are really homosexual, and that such people are essentially lying to themselves and to others. Schemel is described to be the “out dyke” in the group (119: 24).
In The Advocate interview, Kurt was obviously making an effort to “out” himself to Love, while still attempting to reassure her (in an unconvincing way) of his heterosexual status. He was saying she was still the one toward whom he was most sexually attracted, as he must have also told her to make the marriage possible. Was Cobain lying? Probably not, although he seems to have been deceiving himself, and therefore ‘lying’ to her. How could this have happened?
It is my belief that gay men who repress or deny their homosexual nature, for whatever reason, often need to find a special type of female who will sexually stimulate them. These females may be physically and/or psychologically “masculine,” which is the attribute these males need to be sexually stimulated. Having sex with a female is therefore possible and this permits them to believe they are not homosexual. In Love’s case, for three gay males who were in denial of their homosexual identity, she had been their last step on the “denial” road. They all found her to be sexually stimulating, probably because she is “a drag queen herself.” She had made herself into a ‘male’ impersonating a female.
During The Advocate interview, Love was manifesting concern that “becoming gay” - as in finally accepting that he was gay - would also be her husband’s fate. In reply to being told that three male had “[become] homosexual after they went out with [Love],” the OUT interviewer asked: “Is Kurt next?” She replies: “That’s what people think, but he’s straight as an arrow. He wishes he was gay” (119: 29). Love obviously needed to believe that Cobain was heterosexual, when she should have been asking: “How many heterosexual males wish they were gay?” After having been told that bisexuality was a farce, the interviewer could not help referring to Cobain’s Advocate revelation that he was bisexual. In response to this, she says: “People seem to think that I'm the butch one and he’s the femme one. ‘Oh, Courtney, butch top,’ but it’s, like, so the opposite” (119: 29).
Love was again emphasizing that Cobain was on top, and therefore 100% heterosexual in a very stereotypical way. This is also what the females I had sex with during my own transition could have concluded, but they would have been totally wrong. They were having sex with a gay male who was credibly pretending to he heterosexual (even to himself), also loved females and was planning to get married and be a father. The female I came closest to marrying then married a [gay] psychologist who, as she eventually discovered, spent weekends having sex with males.
Courtney has her own sexual identity problems, as determined from available information. She reports having “slept with about 15 women...” Yet she states: “I'm not gay [nor bisexual because that is a farce], but I like women... I don’t think I'm bisexual just because I had sex with girls.” She therefore believes herself to be 100% heterosexual even after reporting: “I have gay dreams all the time” (119: 28). The wise should only accept her belief with the same warranted suspicion we should have when hearing a self-proclaimed heterosexual male say: “I dream about having sex with men all the time, and also have sex with males, but it doesn’t mean anything.”
Furthermore, after Love had sex with these women, her response to them always changed. The objective was to then “Get ‘em out of the door before dawn.” She attributed this to “misogyny,” but this is the common behavior of self-hating gay males (still in denial) who nonetheless need to have sex with males. As soon as orgasm occurs, the overriding need is satisfied and anxiety (resulting from socially induced self-hatred) sets in. They then must quickly distance themselves from the person they had sex with because this individual reminds them of their unwelcome inner (acted on) desperate wants and needs.
The marriage between Love and Cobain was therefore a marriage between a lesbian and a gay male who both needed to believe they were heterosexual. This applied more to Love than to Cobain who could at least accept the “bisexual” self-label. For Love, her female drummer, and possibly others in her immediate environment, the ‘world’ was black and white. One was either heterosexual or homosexual, and this was a world to which Cobain could not belong as a self-defined “bisexual.” Neither could bassist Kristen Pfaff, one of Courtney’s band members, because she was a self-defined bisexual, “but felt too tired to argue her point at 2 a.m. after a 12-hour press day” (119: 28). Not long after this interview, the two who did not fit into Love’s view of the world killed themselves. In early April, Cobain discharged a shotgun into his left temple, and Pfaff died from an apparent drug overdose about two months later.
In many articles, it is noted that Cobain’s serious problems supposedly began at the age of 8 when his parents divorced. “In interview after interview, and in his lyrics, Cobain cites the divorce of his parents... as the defining tragedy of his life. (He referred to the memory in his suicide note, writing that “since the age of 7 I've become hateful to all humans in general')” (71: 26). “His world collapsed in 1975 when his parents divorced. They later conceded that their children, especially 8-year-old Kurt, had been seriously wounded by the legal and emotional battles that followed. ‘It just destroyed his life,’ said Wendy [his mother]. ‘He changed completely.’ Retaliating for his unhappiness, Kurt sketched rude caricatures of his parents on his bedroom walls, captioning them ‘Dad sucks’ and ‘Mom sucks.’ Growing more angry and difficult to control [while living with his father, Kurt ended up living with a number of relatives and his grandmother was the only person who gave him unconditional love” (39: 41-42).
Kurt was a “sickly feminine boy,” or gender nonconformable, and such boys, (at least for the ones who eventually accept their homosexual identity), often recall having felt “different” by the age of 4 or 5. As a rule, they recognize themselves to not be what is demanded of them, but the results of this (in terms of early childhood behavior) remain to be suspected and studied. My preliminary investigation of this situation suggests that problems resembling ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and “hyperactivity,” “The Best Little Boy In The World” syndrome (Note 118), and even the seeds for a later life of delinquency, may be related to a manifested or repressed gender nonconformable identity (commonly associated with the later discovery of a homosexual identity) occurring between the ages of 3 to 6.
At an early age, and well before the age of 8, Cobain’s problems had begun. He was “a precocious, energetic child who loved to draw and to sing Beatles tunes. Cobain was diagnosed as a hyperactive pre-schooler. Doctors prescribed Ritalin, an amphetamine-based drug that then kept him awake until 4 a.m. To counter the drug’s side effects, he was also given sedatives. Yet Kurt remembered those days as ‘blissful times... I was constantly screaming and singing'” (39: 41).
Wanting to be loved by parents is a major need for all children, and it is a monumental issue for gay children and youth. The “coming out” process is, in fact, often characterized by incredible anxiety - often terror - at the thought of telling one’s parents the truth, because the possibility of being rejected and hated by them is dreaded. Kurt, however, seems to have experienced this rejection as the result of the divorce, which meant he then had little to lose by “coming out.” At the age of 14, he had done this, which was the product of an on-going mental process happening for years before the “coming out” event occurs.
Cobain paid a heavy price for being feminine, gay-identified (and flaunting it), and for being artistic. He supposedly became “hateful” because of the divorce of his parents, but it is possible that he became “hateful” because he knew he would be hated - that the world would hate him - if they knew the truth about his sexual orientation. By the age of 14, he was ready to be hated for what he was, and to also be beaten up a lot by the group of males he hated the most: the “jocks” who are stereotypically anti-homosexual and occasionally gay-bashing.
In mainstream media articles related to Cobain’s suicide, considerable information was given about his adolescence. He was described to be “pretty angry young man” by an uncle who never explained why Cobain was so angry (158). Newsweek reported that he had “grown up as an angry outsider,” but reasons were not given for his “outsider” status (53: 47). The same applies when he was described to be an “artistic loner who grew up in this timber town” (158). He “started writing poetry in high school but kept it secret,” again for unexplained reason. “'He [also] skipped classes all the time,” a librarian told me in 1992, “but he was always here reading everything. He asked for the most interesting variety of books, and he devoured them. But he didn’t want anyone to know” (84). [Gay kids are often terrified of anyone knowing what they are reading about in libraries, for a number of good reasons.]
The hints that Cobain was a gay teenager are numerous, but the mainstream media could not muster the courage to use the word “gay” or “homosexual” to describe him. The most blatant hint that he was a gay teenager was given in the Entertainment Weekly cover-story. “Cobain said he also suffered at the hands of high school bullies because he liked art and music and hated sports. ‘I was a seriously depressed kid.’ Cobain said last year. ‘Every night at one point I'd go to bed bawling my head off. I used to try to make my head explode by holding my breath, thinking if I blew my head, they'd be sorry'” (71: 28). Cobain was a troubled teenager, especially because he was a hated and rejected gay-identified feminine boy, as he described himself to be.
Sadly, in not one of the mainstream (read: heterosexual and traditionally homophobic) media articles was it mentioned that Cobain was a gay kid who even flaunted his gay identity, that he was beaten up because of this, that he was certainly often labelled “Fuckin’ faggot!”, and that he was a loner because almost everyone hated, rejected, abused, and hurt him. The word “feminine” used to describe himself as a boy (in The Advocate interview) was never mentioned in mainstream articles, although the euphemism commonly used in society to say the same thing is: “The boy likes art, music, and reading, but hates sports.”
The town of Aberdeen had been exceptionally cruel to their very artistic gay son, and many townspeople would ‘know’ they are not innocent with respect to Cobain’s eventual suicide. This was articulated in a July article related to a statue being made of Kurt Cobain, which was causing controversy in Aberdeen. “[Some] resent the way his hometown has been portrayed by the media - as a hard-bitten community of rednecks - and the implication that it somehow is to blame for his suicide” (136). The truth often hurts, but all North American towns and cities are responsible for the deaths of countless gay kids, given the estimate that about one-third of youth suicides involve gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth (Note 119), and that they have reported attempted suicide rates ranging from 20 to 50 percent. These adolescents are often depressed, become truant, drop out of school, and sometimes become involved in criminal activity; but what else can be expected from the incredible abuse of these boys? They are also at high risk for abusing drug and alcohol, which the most available ‘coping’ medicine for these kids.
"By his freshman year in high school, Kurt was smoking marijuana on an almost daily basis.” And, by the age of 18 when he began working as a part-time janitor in his high school, “he crashed where he could, living at one point under a bridge. Days were spent drinking and doing drugs. At night he vandalized cars and defaced buildings. Kurt’s pained, haunting voice and his talent as a guitarist saved him from a life of petty crime” (39: 42-43). Yet, while in high school, even though Cobain was not reported to be a good student, “he had won two state art scholarships [but] decided to skip college and live instead what he called the ‘Aberdeen fantasy version of being a punk rocker'” (39: 42-43).
In some ways, although he was a victim of his redneck homohating community, he fought back, and eventually did this with a special friend, Krist Novoselic, the bassist in Nirvana who joined up with Cobain “when they were still teenagers. The unlikely pair were united in their outcast status, the anger and the pain of which fueled their music from the start. The symbiotic relationship of Cobain and Novoselic was key to Nirvana’s success. They complimented one another, with Novoselic outspoken, verbose and comical. He helped bring out the brooding Cobain, who by all accounts was a loner before the two joined forces” (84).
Cobain and Novoselic, however, were doing much more than just making music. To retaliate with his community, Cobain would spend the night spray-painting “GOD IS GAY” on people’s cars and trucks. His great joy, as he reports in The Advocate, “was not actually the act but the next morning I'd get up early in the morning to walk through the neighborhood that I'd terrorize to see the aftermath. That was the worse thing I could have spray-painted on their cars. Nothing could have been more effective'” (03: 40). By 1985, at the age of 18, he was “arrested when he and... Krist Novoselic spray-painted HOMOSEXUAL SEX RULES on the side of a bank” (03: 36). At a concert, “Cobain closed his song ‘stay Away’ by howling ‘God is gay!'” And, when Nirvana appeared on Saturday Night Live, “Cobain and Novoselic made a point of kissing on camera” (03: 37). His explanation of this was: “We weren’t trying to be subversive or punk rock; we were just doing something insane and stupid at the last minute” (03: 38).
Is this true? Probably not, given that Kurt would have known this was the first time two males kissed in such a way on American television. Cobain was being subversive and it was probably very important, personally, that this kiss would be between himself and Novoselic. Interestingly enough, in all articles related to Cobain’s suicide, Krist Novoselic is only quoted once. “Kurt spoke to us in our hearts. That’s where the music will always be. Forever” (39: 39). Yet, he probably knew Cobain better than anyone, including Courtney Love, and he must have the priceless knowledge one would need to fully understand Cobain. Novoselic was the one Cobain would call when he was drunk, depressed, and wanted to quit Nirvana (03: 43).
Cobain was on the road to his death since pre-school when he was feeling “different” and was given drugs to cope with the symptoms defined to be “the problem” by parents and doctors. He was a special artistic “feminine” boy who would soon discover the intense hatred almost everyone had for him, and drugs would again become a way of ‘coping', to the point of eventually having a “$500-a-day heroin habit” (71: 18). He was described to be “self-loathing,” which is understandable if he was repressing his homosexual identity, wanted to be heterosexual, and even married and had a child to realize this objective. [A song track titled “I Hate Myself and Want to Die” was recorded for Nirvana’s last album “In Utero,” but it was deleted from the album (71: 18).] He also had another attribute. He had a “save the world” disposition commonly found in people, especially teenagers who are suicidal, and are abusing drugs and/or alcohol. (Personal communication with a counsellor who has worked with such youths for about ten years. Also based on other observations and inquiries I have been making in this respect.)
By the age of twelve, Cobain was facing a society dominated by right wing “Reaganite bullshit,” as he labelled it, and reported on this period of his life in The Advocate interview. “I was helpless when I was 12, when Reagan got elected, and there was nothing I could do about that" (03: 41). He therefore wanted a different world, and wanted to change the world into something more acceptable to himself. A message from Cobain on the liner notes for the album “Incesticide” reveals his unhappiness with a world which has been homophobic, racist, and sexist. “If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or women, please do this one favor for us - leave us the fuck alone! Don’t come to our shows and don’t buy our records” (03: 37; 39: 47). The problem with this, however, is that many homosexuals are homophobic and have a self-hatred problem, and most people are homophobic to some degree. Furthermore, the wise North American white person realizes that it is almost impossible to grow up in our society without being racist to some degree. We also live in a sexist society and are all infected with sexism to some degree.
Idealism is easier to preach than to practise, and one’s idealism may stem from the recognition that one is everything one despises in others. As I see it, Cobain had a serious problem with internalized homophobia (probably causing most of his reported “self-loathing"), and it eventually caused him to deny his once recognized homosexual identity. He was countering denial with strong anti-homophobic statements, as a part of him wanted to be gay. He also wanted to be a male who had sex with females, as the jocks he hated so much (and spit on whenever possible during adolescence) were notorious for doing (03: 40; 39: 42). Finally, his child was born, after having been against bringing a child into the world. “Two years ago I wouldn’t even have considered having a child. I used to say that a person who would bring a child into this life now is selfish” (03: 41).
Something had happened, however, to the boy who “always knew to question things. All my life I never believed most things I read in history books and a lot of things I learned in school" (03: 43). This is an indication of exceptional intelligence, and it may explain why he didn’t do well in school. His world view was therefore probably not what others believed, thus adding to his isolated “loner” status. Cobain also perceived the world in very negative terms, but changes were being made to his “world view” during the last two years of his life, leading to “the lesson” he reported to have learned: “I don’t have the right to judge anything.”
Cobain had therefore become very different from the highly judgmental individual he had been. “I used to be way more of a radical than I am now” (03: 41). He was also changing in other ways: “I try to be optimistic, and things do look like they're getting a bit better” (03: 41). Yet, an important part of his mind had not changed its perception, and ‘it’ was relentlessly reminding him of this fact, thus challenging the overriding views he had acquired to justify bringing a child into the world. “I have apocalyptic dreams all the time” (03: 43).
Throughout his adolescence, Cobain had lived in pain. He was gay-identified, flaunted his gay identity, was hated and often assaulted, and was therefore a loner. He nonetheless survived this, but he did not survive his heterosexual marriage (possibly resulting from his desperate - homophobia-based - desire to be heterosexual), and bringing a child into the world (which is another way of ‘proving’ that one is heterosexual). He had survived credibly “pretending” to be gay, but did not survive his less credible impersonation of a heterosexual; and Love was a part of the nightmare he had ventured into. He was becoming everything he was not, and his life was becoming increasingly unbearable. As noted in his suicide note: “It’s not fun for me anymore. I can’t live this life” (39: 41).
On March 4, in Rome, Cobain had made his first suicide attempt. ”...he had sunk into a coma after overdosing on a mixture of tranquilizers and champagne.” For the four weeks after his return from Rome, he “backslid into his old drug habits” (39: 41). On March 18, “during a domestic quarrel,” he had locked himself into a room with a gun. Courtney called the police who removed three handguns from the home, but Kurt had denied having suicidal intentions. “Courtney [then] agreed to so-called tough-love intervention and, with several friends, confronted Cobain on March 25 about his drug use. ‘I told him,’ she said, ‘You've got to be a good daddy. We've got to be good parents.’ But the intervention backfired when Cobain bolted 36 hours after checking in on March 28 to the Exodus Recovery Center, a drug-treatment facility in Marina Del Ray, Calif” (39: 41).
Cobain used a shotgun to kill himself around April 5, 1994, and his body was found on April 8. Courtney’s “tough-love” intervention had failed. In fact, this was possibly the worst thing to do with Cobain. Bringing up the idea that he must “be a good daddy,” that he had brought a child into the world, was near-center in his internal dilemma. Furthermore, from what I have learned about drug and alcohol abuse treatment centres, and even about suicide prevention centres, (on the basis of personal experiences and related studies), it is expected that the ‘experts’ will probably do the opposite of what should be done to help highly intelligent and creative people like Cobain. This especially applies when they are dealing with a once gay-identified feminine male, now repressing his homosexual identity, who is married, has an infant child, and also has a “save the world” disposition. He seemed to be saying:
This world must change, because there is no way I can continue to be a part of it. Compared to what I'm feeling, death is a welcomed alternative. Death is my only choice. I can’t continue to live in this world.
The explanations for Cobain’s death were many, as is often the case when a famous person commits suicide, and social ‘politics’ always enters the picture. For example, the “shattered family values,” represented by the divorce of Cobain’s parents, is presented to be at the root of his problems (71: 26). As it has become trendy to believe, serious personal problems must be the result of having grown up in a “dysfunctional family.” “Alcoholism and dysfunctional marriages plagued the [Cobain] clan.” “Depression has, in fact, run in the family. Two of Kurt’s father’s uncles committed suicide in the late ‘70s...” (39: 41).
Not forgotten were the people who blame suicides on the abuse of alcohol and drug. “But the singer’s self-destruction streak seems to have been bound up inextricably with drugs (53: 46). Why would Cobain be on drugs? “Cobain always had a fragile constitution (he was subjected to bronchitis as well as the recurrent stomach pains he claimed drove him to a heroin addiction)” (53: 47). The use of drugs, and being depressed, are also to be linked. “Between bouts of heroin abuse, he was subjected to episodes of depression” (51: 46). Kurt also committed suicide because he “just fell in with the wrong crowd” (158).
Most of the above were then combined with the fact that Kurt had become successful and ‘obviously’ could not cope with it. “Cobain’s life began unravelling not long after his band hit the charts, bringing him attention he couldn’t seem to handle” (51: 46). “Pieced together, Cobain’s final days from a chilling portrait of what happens when young, talented, seriously depressed musician finds himself at the center of a multimillion-dollar business” (39: 44). To this, another fact was added. “The rumor mill had it that Cobain and Love’s marriage was on the rocks.” That this was a “troubled marriage” (51: 46; 53: 46). “During his last weeks, rumors were rampant - that Love was on the verge of leaving him and that the band might break up” (71: 18).
The very idea that Courtney, now his grieving widow, could have been causal in Cobain’s suicide is not to be taken lightly in order not to worsen an already painful situation. Therefore, Cobain’s suicide is presented as inevitable, and that Courtney (and his marriage to her, including his child) had a positive effect on him. Jack Endino who worked on Cobain’s first Album, Bleach, in 1989, counters the idea of Love being causal in the suicide. “If anything, I think she kept him around longer than he might have otherwise. There’s no doubt whatsoever that they loved each other, and that he was devoted to Courtney and the baby, which makes it even more baffling that he'd end it” (71: 24).
Assumptions are only “baffling” when they don’t tally with the major fact that Cobain killed himself with the full knowledge that he had a wife and child. He was therefore saying: “Death is better than this!” Yet, no one wants to take the blame for someone’s suicide, even when it is clear, especially with respect to the suicides and suicide attempts of gay and lesbian teenagers, that parents, teachers, peers, religious leaders, and all of our traditionally homohating society share the blame. This includes mental health professionals who are usually not given the education needed to understand these youth and therefore often cannot provide effective “quality” services certainly not made available to Cobain.
Unfortunately, suicidologists, “in almost all cases, ...agree that there is an underlying psychiatric illness - primarily depression, followed by alcoholism and substance abuse” which is at the root cause of suicide (51: 48). But “the real cutting edge of suicide research is in biochemistry.” Some evidence suggests that low serotonin levels may exist in the brains of people who commit suicide (51: 48). If so, then no one is therefore responsible when a suicide occurs. [I disagree with this for a number of reasons, but I will not argue the point at this time.] A description of Cobain’s music suggested the existence of a mental disorder. “His music was manic and depressive, often within the same song. It also revealed an intense scalding passion to reinvent his life and become something else, something better. If he could make it through his morass of self-doubt, self-loathing, anxieties, and indulgences - as he indicated in his last interviews - then any of us would make it through our own” (71: 22).
Tragically, those who hope to reinvent their lives are people whose lives are already an invention, as in being ‘unreal'. For so many gay individuals, the progression toward mental health has not been a matter of reinventing one’s life, but rather the process of reaching within, to discover and accept their denied Selves so that a life essentially reflecting their inner being results. Some accomplished this task, while others have failed miserably, only to attain a “reinvented” self. Some, like Cobain, seem to invent [or venture into] a life even more removed from their inner Selves, the result being unbearable alienation characterized by self-hatred.
Cobain was obviously not comfortable with the idea of being gay, and knowing his definition of “being gay” would be necessary to better understand him and the problems he had in this respect. Furthermore, we should also know the nature of his relationship with Courtney, especially at the sexual level. This would include knowing the type of heterosexuality he had, if any, which enabled him to perform sexually with a female. It is possible he had a very misogynist sexuality, like the one I once had. [This ‘heterosexuality’ vanished as soon as I fully accepted my gay identity.] The females I interacted with, however, because I was female-identified (to some degree) and considered them to be my equals (as Cobain did), would have never suspected this part of me existed. Such a ‘heterosexuality', when it exists in the mind of a male who is female-identified (and reflects a love for females), may create a monumental conflict for these [gay] males in intimate relationships with females.
Maybe, someday, a creative, insightful individual will do the work necessary to give us a good understanding of Cobain and others like him, so that we can eventually end to the carnage of these individuals. He did not deserve to die. Nor was he the “asshole” Love repeatedly deemed him to be because he committed suicide. On a tape recorded message for an outdoor candlelight vigil, Love broke down. “[She] interrupted her reading and cursed herself for submitting Cobain to the ‘tough-love bullshit.’ In a cracking voice she said, ‘He always said he was going to outlive everybody and live to be 120... He’s such an asshole. I want you to yell ‘asshole’ really loud.’ Toward the end of the reading, she asked the assembled fans to chant. ‘say ‘you're a fucker.’ And then say that you love him'” (39: 44).
Cobain is dead because there was no one to really helped him, and I don’t think he ever believed that anyone loved him. His death was therefore a freedom from the world we have traditionally inflicted on individuals like him. He was not mentally disordered, and it is not Cobain who is the “stupid” one, the “fucker,” the “asshole,” and the “loser,” for these words only apply to US. In fact, to believe Cobain was a loser implies that WE are winners. Is this true? Why? Is it just because WE have not committed suicide, when maybe WE should have? Could it be that WE are nothing but “the living dead” pretending that what we live is LIFE? Cobain said, “I can’t live this life [anymore]” (39: 41) because what he was living was not LIFE. What he was ‘living’ was more like death to him, and he simply made himself into what he had become.
Take care Kurt. Someone should have
been there when, as a teenager, you ended up in your room crying every
night, thinking that killing yourself would make them feel sorry. You knew
they were all to blame for how you felt, but people live in denial. Haven’t
they refused to accept their role in your death? They are the fuckers,
the assholes, and the stupid ones, very much revealed by their eventual
failure to recognize their true “loser” status. WE are the ones who lost
you, as WE have lost so many others without understanding the “WHY?” so
often noted in articles related to your death. Most of US don’t want to
understand, which is why mainstream newspapers pay columnists like Charles
Frank to write articles which will guarantee our continued (desired) ignorance
about suicide. The often reported ignorance of many suicidologists also
continues with respect to the suicides of gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth.
buried beneath the noise of his music and his life” (53: 47).
He was a “feminine” gay-identified
boy who “got
NOTE: - The “gay” information related to Kurt Cobain which made the above ‘psychological autopsy’ possible is located in two gay and lesbian magazines: The Advocate and OUT. As a rule, only gay and lesbian people buy these magazines available in some stores in Calgary, but they are not available in the Calgary Public Library (Note 120), nor at The University of Calgary library. Therefore, if non-gay people were researching information to better understand why Kurt Cobain may have committed suicide, they would have probably not have encountered the “gay” information used above, thus severely limiting their understanding of the situation; unless they had acquired the reading “between the lines” expertise gay or bisexual historians have been developing. Writing and speaking “between the lines” has been a homosexual tradition in homo-negative societies. The censorship of homosexuality-related information about famous people, and especially for the ones who became famous for highly positive reasons, has been the rule. So has the denial that a youth was gay, lesbian, or bisexual, especially after he/she has committed suicide, and even when there is abundant evidence to this effect. The suicide of Bobby Steele in Edmonton, Alberta, is such a case.
The second part of the chapter, The Suicide of Bobby Steele, is available in another web page.
Note (2000): In Calgary's
GLB community, I had a long history of using the word "gay" with respect
to myself but I would commonly qualify it with variations of: If, however,
a researcher was was studying me and he/she was being scientific, I would
be defined as "bisexual."
That is, when answering questions related to homosexuality, an individual may respond "intellectually" (or in ways they believe to be "politically correct"), and their "real feelings" about homosexuality may not be revealed / detected. This situation is akin to an American white racists who seems to be accepting of African-Americans until it is discovered that their responses are "conditional." Their 'acceptance' only applies as long as Black people "stay on their side of the tracks." Their extreme racist perceptions may therefore only become apparent if an African-American family becomes their neighbor, or if one of their offspring reports that he/she will marry an African-American individual.
Cher's true feeling about homosexuality revealed themselves when homosexuality manifested itself close to home, in the form of Chastity revealing that she was lesbian. Kurt Cobain also seemed to be very accepting of homosexuality, but after having identified as gay, he 'denied' being gay and 'sort of' stated that he was bisexual. Courtney, however, denied the possibility of bisexuality, meaning that Kurt had to be either gay or heterosexual , and she believed that Kurt was 100% heterosexual, maybe to avoid the possibility that their marriage had been a sham. If Kurt was not heterosexual, however, as he may have led Courney to believe, and he was coming to terms with this self-reality, he would have been recognizing himself to have been living a lie, not only with respect to his public persona, but also with respect to a part of his life noted to be the most important to him: his wife and daughter.
We each 'live' in our own minds, which is where Kurt also made the 'decision' to terminate his life, thus placing in jeopardy all the "positives" - the importance - that Kurt had affirmed to exist with respect to Courtney and his daughter, Frances Bean. Or maybe not! Maybe the two were so important that his own existence became intolerable because of what he had been increasingly recognizing about himself, which permitted him to say:
“I mean, I'm definitely gay in spirit and probably could be bisexual. But I'm married, and I'm more attracted to Courtney than I have been toward a person, so there’s no point in trying to sow my oats at this point. [Laughs] If I wouldn’t have found Courtney, I probably would have carried on with a bisexual life-style. But I just find her totally attractive in all ways” (03: 40).Kurt uses his responses to Courtney to somehow 'explain' why he did not continue with, or venture into , a "bisexual life-style" which means engaging (maybe having been engaged - although this had been denied) in same-gender sexual activity. Implied, however, are Kurt's sexual desires for males which would be the motivator for him engaging in homo-sex. He may, however, have had a history of problems with his same-sex desires because, in a 1992 SPIN interview, he reports having contemplated a venture into male prostitution:
Kurt: I always wanted to move to the big city. I wanted to move to Seattle, find a chicken hawk, sell my ass, and be a punk rocker, but I was too afraid. So I just stayed in Aberdeen for too long, until I was 20 years old.The implications of the above are most interesting. I have encoutered gay / bisexual males who had such desires as adolescents and young adults, others who did venture into prostitution, and still others who used prostitution as a way of coming to terms with their sexual desires for other males. This was accomplished by beginning with a situation where they say - to themselves and others - that the sex they are having with males is "for money" and therefore it does not imply that they are homosexual or even bisexual in any way. At the same time, however, they are experiencing all the sex with males that any gay or bisexual could ever want, with a bonus: they are also getting paid for it.
SPIN: Forgive me for being uneducated, but when you said "chicken hawk"- Kurt: A chicken hawk is, like, an older gay man.
SPIN: Okay. Kurt: Who sells children, like in Oliver Twist, you know. (Spin, December, 1992)
As noted above, when I have the time, I will write the Addendum, factoring in the various parts of Kurt's life - as possibly / likely interpreted within his mind - which, in total, made his life unbearable, especially to himself. My own experience with the medical usage of morphine will also be reported on, especially with its recognized effect on my mind in terms of severing an inner connection that some individuals need(?) to survive: the same connection which causes them to experience great emotional strife and to also be creative in many cases.
The implication of an adolescent male who challenges his immediate world with concepts like "Homosexual Sex Rules" and "God is Gay" - and the latter became a part of the lyrics in the song, Stay Away (Nevermind Album, 1991) - will be addressed. Most significant is the statement "everyone is gay" which was part of the song "All Apologies" in the 1993 album "In Utero." Related comments are made in "The Lost Interview" by John Savage.
GUITAR WORLD: Your lyrics contain some provocative gay references, in particular the line, "Everyone is gay" from "All Apologies." Is that a reflection of that time?Kurt's statement that "everyone is gay" was therefore a reflection of his ongoing beliefs, with the implication that the conclusion also applied to himself. Not explained, however, is how he had arrived at this conclusion, especially about "everyone." Few on this planet, would have a mind "creative" enough to explain what Kurt had conceived / perceived to be 'reality' - which may have been quite significant in his death. The concept that "everyone is gay" also means that Kurt did not code the meaning of "gay" as it is currently defined, which also indicates that he had recognized 'something' about male 'heterosexuality' that few 'heterosexual' males would be willing to acknowledge. Some related insights are available in the Tremblay and Ramsay (2000) paper, "The Social Construction of Male Homosexuality..." which contains significant challenges to the "assumed" "100 percent male heterosexuality" status for most males.
KURT COBAIN: I wouldn't say it was a reflection of that time. I'm just carrying on with my beliefs now. I guess it is [provocative] in a commercial sense, because of how many albums we've sold.
Article Listing: - http://www.interlog.com/~jenj/SUMMART.html .
Kurt Cobain's Suicide Note: - http://www.burntout.com/kurt/articles/grant03.htm . An original copy of the suicide note: - http://www.hotshotdigital.com/WellAlwaysRemember.2/KurtCobainNote.html .
The Fallout of the Burnout by Malcolm Jones Jr. (Rock: The sad, sordid last days of Kurt Cobain), Newsweek. April 25, 1994: - http://members.aol.com/mystryxia/mags/newsweek1994.html .
Kurt Cobain - Hero or Zero? by Billy Bob Hargus (November 1995): - http://www.furious.com/perfect/cobain.html .
Remembering Kurt by Gavin Edwards, Details, June 1994: http://www.interlog.com/~jenj/Det9406.html .
Kurt Cobain: Short Biographies:
http://peve2000.iwarp.com/photo3.html - http://apologies.tripod.com/kurt.html .