“how i learned to fight back” is the last track on the Black Circle Records compilation queer as fvck. Preceding selections range from the deceptively whimsical to the unsparingly ferocious, but “fight” doesn’t give so much an inch. The song is eight minutes of concrete and tilted-abacus drone that alternates between “subdued klaxon” and “intense fluctuation.”
It’s the sonic equivalent of pausing too long to snap a photograph, the focus sharpening, dulling, sharpening again. Yet despite this there’s resoluteness here, a representation of interior fortification that complements the name. To be human is to need to build emotional calluses; they are necessary to survive in what can be a cold, unsparing world and to overcome the self’s reaction to that world. But belonging to a gender or ethnic minority group demands that these calluses be thicker, more impenetrable, that one’s feelings be better defended.
Maybe this comes down to the psychological deadening of nerve endings or a psychic shield forged from relevant statistics, courtesy bordering on disdain, and pure titanium. So to fight back is not to fight physically—to match anyone insult for insult, for punch for punch—but to vanquish by denying aggressors and antagonists the satisfaction of taking their bait. “fight” suggests the difficulties in arriving at a sense of true balance in this regard; on a bad day, it’s easy to despair or lose your composure altogether. Here are two applicable clichés: “stolidity is a journey, not a destination” and “the struggle is real.”