“Well, what does a woman sound like? That’s all interpretative or opinion. I mean, my voice is my voice. I don’t feel ashamed of my voice in any way. Especially with my singing voice. I think that it’s a misconception that HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) completely changes your voice. It doesn’t. So, this is the way I speak. That’s just what the deal is.” Laura Jane Grace from Against Me! is addressing the dramatic lack of change in her voice during hormone therapy, but both physiologically and metaphorically, Grace has become one of the strongest voices for women in music.
Grace is the ultimate punk rock heroine. Through her music and her personal life, Grace embodies all the intrinsic qualities that form the punk rock philosophy: politicized rebellion, anti-authoritarian ideologies, and personal freedom unhindered by societal expectations. And yet, through this raucous medium, Grace’s self-appointed surname is well-chosen. In an interview with Kevin & Bean, Grace spoke eloquently about her career as frontwoman of Against Me! and her transition from male-born Thomas James Gabel to a gender-identified female. Against Me’s upcoming album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, is a cathartic sonic journey into all her highly-publicized transition and the first single, “F**kMyLife666” is a message-imbued anthem of liberation.
Grace explains that the title of the song was something that their deceased friend Pope always said and is representative of his realness as an individual.
“Pope was a very authentic person and someone who to me demonstrated how you should really live your life, “ said Grace. “ [He] was definitely one of the steps in deciding to transition. Seeing the way he lived his life and, ultimately, the way he died a little too young. The song itself is about fears with transitioning and about periods of time in your life coming to an end and moving on.”
For Grace, it signifies the next chapter of her life after coming out to the world about her transition. As someone who has suffered from Gender Dysphoria from a very young age, Grace says her earliest memories were of the DSM-5 recognized disorder.
At 33-years-old, Grace isn’t just coming into this transition, as some may think. As longtime friend and band member, James Bowman, says “the signs have always been there.” 2007’s New Wave even included a song called “The Ocean” which refers to Grace’s Gender Dysphoria through the lyrics “If I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman / My mother once told me she would have named me Laura / I would grow up to be strong and beautiful like her / One day I’d find an honest man to make my husband.” The evidence was there, but people seemed clueless to how deep it went, probably owing to the fact that usage of the world “transgender” was so rare when those in Grace’s age group were growing up. Even she didn’t know that the description of transgender existed until later in life. But as views begin to progress. Grace says that the internet has became a great asset to those transitioning today. Role models, like Mina Caputo in Life of Agony, helped Grace transition, especially since Caputo also had to publicly answer questions and deal with repercussions from fans.
Though it wouldn’t affect Grace’s decision to transition seeing as that step was a matter of “survival” to the frontwoman, Against Me!’s fans have been overwhelmingly supportive of Grace’s path. Part of the reason is that Grace has been completely candid with the transition. People respect that.
“I feel like I didn’t really have an option also, to not come out and fully embrace it,” explained Grace. “That would have been more detrimental to start to transition without being open that I was transitioning. People would have probably been more homophobic or transphobic if they had seen signs.”
For now, Grace is dealing with a number of other transitions like her new-found skill as producer on the upcoming Against Me! album, the acquisition of a record label called Total Treble Music to put out Against Me!’s work, and just being a parent with a curious 4-year-old daughter.
“You have to stop thinking about it long-term and take it day by day,” said Grace of her personal life with her wife and daughter. “For me, a lot more of my fears lie in the parenting aspect of it and how that will continue to change as my daughter gets older and everything and just the way that will affect things with her and her friends. Going to school. Stuff like that. It’s scary. I don’t have all the answers. I’m not an expert on it necessarily.” Grace modestly repeats later that she does not “have all the answers” and is “a wreck,” but moving into this new phase of her life, musically and otherwise, Grace is an intelligent and elegant role model for many people in the LGBTQ community .
Grace reminds us that everything, your relationships with yourself, other people, and the world, are all a transition.
“Your relationship changes just like any relationship does and you kind of figure out what that means and figure it out as you’re going, too.”
Transgender Dysphoria Blues comes out on January 21, 2014 via Total Treble Music.
—Nadia Noir, KROQ