It should have been obvious to us all for years. In 2007's "The Ocean", Against Me! vocalist, Tom Gabel sang "If I could've chosen, I would've been born a woman..."
Most listeners at that time took it as a statement of solidarity with women from a vocalist who made a career out of being vocally politically left and feminist. But on Tuesday, news broke that Tom Gabel very literally wants to be a
woman... and is about to start undergoing treatment to physically become one. The
news broke via Rolling Stone,
to whom the one-time anarchist opened up to this month about the
gender dysphoria she has privately dealt with for years.
Gabel told Rolling Stone that, as of now, she would like to be known as Laura Jane
Grace -- Grace is Gabel's mother's maiden name and, as noted in the lyrics to "The Ocean," Gabel's mother "once told [Tom] she would've named [him] Laura" had she been born female.
The news came as an enormous shock to Against Me! fans everywhere, and websites announcing the news were flooded with extreme responses. Punknews.org reported the news objectively, (see editor's note below) but a few comments showed alarming ignorance and bigotry: "All of you tranny life changing faggots will burn in hell and ill pour the gas n light the match!" one reader (we use the term loosely) wrote. Another said: "Holy Shit! What a fucking weirdo! ...Go
ahead and call me a "bigot" but there's nothing normal about this.
Fucking stupid. End of Against Me! and the beginning of Against She!" Even worse: "Transexuals are STUPID. And they're fucked up in the head. You CANNOT change your sex. It is IMPOSSIBLE."
As one would expect from a band with a political and punk rock foundation though, there was a great deal of support for Laura, with many readers stepping up to defend her. Out of many supportive comments on the Punknews site, one went: "This makes me realize I know sweet fuck all about being
transgendered. I hope I'm not the only one inspired by this
to educate themselves, and I hope Laura documents her
transition so I, and people like me, walk away with a better
Truthfully, what Laura Jane Grace has just done is incredibly courageous and will hopefully serve as an historic benchmark so that other transgender musicians can live as they choose, without fear of reprisal. Just as Rob Halford forced metalheads to become more accepting of homosexuality, Gabel's transformation into Grace is going to put transgender issues front and center in the music world for at least a little while, which can only serve to humanize trans issues for the huge number of people who remain ignorant of the trans community.
Grace is in an almost entirely unique position. The only other example of a rock star making this kind of transition in recent memory is Keith Caputo
from Life of Agony, who posted photos of herself on Facebook last July,
dressed as a woman, as she began transformation into Mina Caputo. Mina too has had to suffer the indignity of ignorant abuse prompted by the transition, but is doing a grand job of rising above it all.