Goth started out as an offshoot of the dwindling Punk music scene in the United Kingdom in the early 1980's. Earlier musicians such as Siouxsie and the Banshees have a more noticeable punk influence, but as the eighties went on the Goth genre became more distinct. The Cure and Bauhaus began crooning about darker, more melancholic themes and political messages fell by the wayside. Think more "lullaby about unrequited love" than "screaming about the benefits of anarcho-capitalism."
Like any popular band from yester-year, Goth bands had followers. These (primarily) young followers, called Goths, translated the melancholic sounds of their favorite bands into an aesthetic and intellectual sensibility. Goth fashion is perhaps the most iconic of these aesthetic sensibilities, and is often what non-Goths will think of when they hear the word Goth. Intellectual pursuits might include traditional Gothic literature, appreciation of history and fantasy, and typically a more liberal political ideology. So, when people begin to like similar things, they form a subculture.
Fast forward to now: Today Goth is a subculture of people who may or may not listen to the music that "started it all." There will always be people policing the subculture and telling people that they MUST LISTEN TO THE MUSIC but it's best not to pay them any mind.
Someone went to the trouble of dividing Goths into different "types" that you might notice. Of course, it's very unlikely that a person will fit into one category with no interests in any of the others, but it's still a fun list. (Romantigoth with a hint of Geek Goth, at your service.) Despite what "type" a Goth might consider themselves most like, common attributes you might see in a Goth might be an interest in Halloween, Vampires, Horror movies and/or books, history (especially the Medieval, Rococo, and Victorian eras), graveyards, bats, art of a darker nature, anatomy and skeletons, the aforementioned Goth music, or any other number of things.
Of course, Goths don't have to limit their interests to things which fall under the Goth umbrella. There are no non-Goth interests that disqualify one from being a Goth. No, really, not even if you like bunnies and bright pink. Have you met Jillian Venters?
The media has an unfortunate relationship with Goth in that they love to blame things on us or stereotype us. Chances are, you've heard the stereotypes. Teenage, Satanic, self-harming, depressed, sexual-deviant "Freaks" who might snap and go on a shooting rampage is perhaps the most popular one. Unfortunately for Bill O'Reilly and the other fear-mongering newscasters, Goth is not any of those things.
Goth is not an indicator of religion (there are Goths in every religion, including Christianity), an indicator of sexual preference or orientation (there are as many vanilla, heterosexual Goths are there are kinky and LGBT+), an indicator of political ideology (though largely left-wing due to the Punk influences, there are conservative/right wing/Republican Goths), and it is not a cult. Goth does not and never will advocate violence, depression, self-harm, or any other pursuits of that nature. Goths can be of any age, from child to full-fledged adult. And yes, the adults are capable of having careers.
I'll end by saying that Goth is not usually a phase. Why? Because the Goth subculture can be one of the most accepting and friendly environments for someone who likes things of a darker nature. Goths are usually smart, creative, accepting, kind, and interesting. I consider myself blessed to be a part of this subculture.
Thank you for reading.
The Everyday Goth