Happy Birthday Laura Jane Grace!
Today is the beginning of Transgender Awareness Week, a week to take time and recognize the issues that face the transgender community and to help raise visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming identities. The final day in this week, November 20th, is Transgender Day of Remembrance:
The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgender people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.
This month I want to celebrate Laura Jane Grace, lead singer of punk metal band, Against Me!. Born November 8th, 1980, Laura has been in the music game a long time. In 1997, she started Against Me! as a solo project, eventually forming a highly successful band.For years Laura struggled with issues of mental health, stressors of family, and feeling like she was not able to be her authentic self. Only in the last few years has Laura arrived at a place where she felt safe and able to share her identity with the world.
Laura did an interview with Rolling Stone in May of 2012, publicly discussing for the first time the piece of her identity that she had been suppressing her whole life;
For as long as he can remember, Gabel has lived with a condition known as gender dysphoria. As the textbooks explain it, it’s a feeling of intense dissatisfaction and disconnect from the gender you were assigned at birth. As Gabel explains it, “The cliché is that you’re a woman trapped in a man’s body, but it’s not that simple. It’s a feeling of detachment from your body and from yourself. And it’s shitty, man. It’s really fucking shitty.”
“Your tells are so obvious
Shoulders too broad for a girl
Keeps you reminded
Helps you to remember where
You come from”.
On November 15th, her memoir, Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout, was released. The memoir is a collection of Laura’s life taken from journals she kept over decades, mixed with a narrative of her life and the history of Against Me!. Laura opens up about everything from the gender dysphoria she fought for years to her personal relationships that have been forever changed.
Against Me! has always been known for its politically charged lyrics and boundary pushing style but ever since Laura publicly transitioned their work has become even more connected to transgender visibility and politics. In protest of the HB-2 bill, that eliminated anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQIA folks, burned her birth certificate on stage in North Carolina. “Goodbye, gender!” she told the crowd.
Their newest album, Shape Shift with Me, is a collection of love songs, a political statement in it of itself. In this excerpt from an interview with Vogue, Laura discusses how a transgender person focusing on love can be a revolutionary act in our society,
After Transgender Dysphoria Blues, I think people were expecting another album about the trans movement, or about your transition. But—curveball—Shape Shift with Meis really a love album!
It’s funny. Doing interviews now, people are like, “Is this your most personal record?” It’s like, “Shut the fuck up. What does that even mean?”
Aren’t they all pretty personal?
Yes! So much with trans issues, or trans representation in the media, is focusing on the transition or the transformation. I just want to live. I just want to write simple songs that make me happy to write and to play, like a fucking dumb love song. It doesn’t have to even mean anything more than that it feels good to sing it.
There aren’t a lot of trans love stories represented in music—or in film or TV. Did that motivate you at all as you were making this album?
Completely. Totally. That’s one of the biggest fears a lot of trans people have if they decide to come out, that they’re making themselves unlovable and that they’ll never have a relationship again. Trans people, historically, have been viewed as some kind of porn fetish. But trans people should be allowed to express their sexuality and be proud of that in just the same way that everyone else does, and especially when it comes to representation in the media, whether that’s songs or movies. It’s just as valid and is just as beautiful. I really like dumb romantic comedies; that’s the way I can turn my brain off and let go. After coming out, I found it really hard to do that again, because I just feel really alienated by the whole thing.
Laura has only continued to become more vocal about her experiences for herself and to connect to others who may be struggling. Check out her advice for Transgender youth in a new interview. Stay up to date with information about the band, now on tour, and all of the amazing work Laura is doing, now on the book talk circuit, by checking out her social media pages; Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
This post is dedicated to every transgender person who has taken their lives, every transgender person who experiences hate just for being who they are, and every transgender person who finds the strength to exist in a world that tells you that you shouldn’t.
Happy Birthday Laura Jane Grace!