Black Celebration: World Goth Day 2023

World Goth Day May 22 is a celebration of the powerful and unique culture. / Illustration by Dylan Leedy

The look is distinct. A preferred color of black. The music is distinct. A sound of melancholy and poetic. The day is May 22. And World Goth Day a celebration of the powerful and unique culture.

For Beck Raymond, the goth culture is their home. “I always felt out of place in most of the social circles that I’ve been in. I didn’t really feel entirely comfortable, I would put up a front, and I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t” Raymond, leading member of the goth club at the University of California at Irvine, says. “As soon as I started meeting people who identified with the goth culture, and listening to the music and really getting involved in it, I think it definitely gave me that feeling of community that I was lacking.”

It is precisely this sense of community and belonging that empowers Raymond. “In most social circles, if you’re awkward or don’t really know how to talk to people, it is hard to get to know people.” They feel Goth culture lessens this discomfort. “When I was first kind of dipping my toe into goth culture, people were super accepting and welcoming. I didn’t feel the need to be someone I wasn’t. I could be myself, and dress however the fuck I wanted. Everyone was super supportive.”

Raymond says goth culture is able to transcend barriers that usually separate social cultures. Everyone is able to come together, no matter your age, your gender, or your expression because of the style, the music, the politics, and the history.

“Many other social groups are very exclusive and territorial. You have to fit a certain cookie cutter mold to be accepted and be involved” Raymond says. “I have gone to a couple warehouse events where there are super young people hanging out and having a good time with people that are decades older than them. I think that the way we’ve been able to cross age boundaries and not give a shit about what modern media tells us is cool and fun.”

With this ability to push back against society’s artifice comes a willingness to talk about sensitive topics. Raymond says the way the goth club holds a harm reduction event in hopes of both de-stigmatizing and encouraging safety when using drugs.

“We are very supportive of one another, and want to make sure everyone is safe and okay,” Raymond says. “In some other social cultures, people are afraid to bring up those conversations and afraid to discuss those kinds of things because it’s taboo.”

Illustration by Dylan Leedy

Being Goth isn’t just an alteration to your wardrobe, it holds a strong political significance and power. According to Raymond, a lot of the music and trends, such as the clothing style or the winged eyeliner, have a lot of history behind them. Being involved in the politics part of it is really important to Raymond. “In other social scenes you can be involved and glance over the political side of it, but with goth culture it’s prevalent, even in our music. A lot of goth people are also activists, human rights activists, and are constantly trying to support their community. I feel like the activism and political side of goth culture is also really important” Raymond says and celebrates the determination and resolution of people in the community to do good in the world. 

Despite all this, stereotypes and misconceptions often cloud the reality of true goth culture.

“People have lots of beliefs about goth culture, like that we dress very weird, or that we are all devoted to satan. I wish people knew that there was so much more to goth culture than dressing in all black and looking a certain way” Raymond says. The club meetings are a prime example of this. Whether it’s people coming to explore and try it out for the first time, people who are unsure where they fit, or alternative people who dress however they want. “People see us as these scary people, but at the end of the day, we are still working to better our society and make the community more inclusive and supportive for everyone involved.” 

Raymond returned to the sense of community that makes the goth culture truly special. “I want to be surrounded by the people in the community who support me and love me. I also want to be able to give that gift of knowledge, and share what the goth culture is all about. Whether it’s with the club or with my friends, I want to celebrate the culture.” 

This mission is precisely why Raymond so passionately runs UCI’s goth club. “I want to be able to do something that is lasting, and that will have an impact. My goal is to help create a new understanding and appreciation for goth culture and the people who are in it.” 

The agency, community, and belonging that goth culture provides its members is rare and intimate. It isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of society and subvert the mainstream narrative, which in the end has made for a powerful and inspirational social culture that embraces their differences as the superpower that it is. 

Illustration by Dylan Leedy