I’ve never reviewed any music on my blog before, but then again there haven’t been any records by bands I listen to that have mattered as much as this one. Punk has never quite lived up to its promise of being all-inclusive and all-accepting; sexism and homophobia have always been problems just as they are in other subcultures and societies. Maybe that’s why I find the candid honesty of Against Me!’s frontwoman, Laura Jane Grace, about her identity (and the concept album she’s written about it) so refreshing. It doesn’t feel like it was over year and a half ago when she came out as transgender and intent to start hormone replacement therapy, but here we are: it’s 2014 and the album is only now out.
Rough Surf on the Coast
Grace has always written about gender dysphoria in her music (see ‘Violence’ on Searching for a Former Clarity, ‘The Ocean’ of New Wave, and ‘Bamboo Bones’ on White Crosses to name a few), but never in such a personal, obvious, or unapologetic way. While other public figures with a pop culture status have had somewhat public transitions, Grace stands out since she spends more than half of a given year on tour, on stage, performing music and meeting fans. Short of putting her musical career on hold and withdrawing from the public eye to transition privately, there wasn’t really any other way to go about it but to be as up front as possible.
In terms of trans* visibility, it’s pretty significant. There are many strong voices who are very open about who they are, but Grace’s presence, visibility, and accessibility in the music scene over the past fifteen years makes her stand out more than others. Since Against Me! never became so huge that they stopped playing club shows, it’s typically been easy to talk to the band after a set and say hello – despite a brief major label stint that resulted in some more mainstream commercial success.
Both Grace herself and the record, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, matter in part for their degree of visibility. Continue reading