June 11, 2017


Future LGBTQ History Month: Laura Jane Grace's New Wave

Andrew Benge/Redferns
Andrew Benge/Redferns

Fuse is celebrating Pride Month by looking at a variety of rising forces who are creating Future LGBTQ History before our eyes. Today we're talking about Laura Jane Grace, frontwoman of Against Me!, who debuted in 2002 and soared to a new career chart high when 2014's coming-out album Transgender Dysphoria Blues hit No. 23 on the Billboard 100. The confessional, intense record also garnered the attention of a far broader spectrum of listeners than the punk act had ever seen.

The record was preceded by the landmark Rolling Stone profile "The Secret Life of Transgender Rocker Tom Gabel" in May 2012. Grace told the magazine, "Right now, I'm in this awkward transition period. I look like a dude and feel like a dude, and it sucks. But eventually I'll flip, and I'll present as female."

Fast forward three years later, and she was singing in Miley Cyrus' backyard with the Hannah Montana star and Joan Jett, filming a session for Happy Hippie, Cyrus' nonprofit working to "fight the injustices faced by homeless youth, LGBT youth and other vulnerable populations":

Speaking again with Rolling Stone, shortly after Trump took office, Grace suggested "fuck off" as her personal message to the President, laughing before adding:

"No, a personal message to Trump...I don't even know where to begin. He seems so unrelatable. The simplistic idea of saying, 'Oh, everyone deserves equal rights and equal protections'...I don't even know. I just wish this wasn't a reality."

Less than a year earlier, she burned her birth certificate at a North Carolina concert, protesting the state's newly passed bathroom law targeting transgender individuals. "Goodbye, gender," she said, smiling and waving at the flaming paper.

Grace, who has a 7-year-old daughter, published the harrowing, healing Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock's Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout last fall. The title itself isn't an endorsement for the word, she told interviewers:

The memoir goes from Tom Gabel's itinerant childhood through Against Me!'s touring-heavy ascendancy through the music business up to Laura no longer being able to live in hiding, fatally burdened by her gender dysphoria. Much of the book is told in painful journal pages taken directly from years of struggling to manage life from within a success-fluctuant band and an identity-consuming secret.

Late 2016 also saw another Against Me! record, Shape Shift with Me, the group's seventh. It's sensational on its own merits, but also lovable for bringing Grace out for a new round of press. No matter who she's speaking with or writing to, at length or not, she's candid and generous with sharing herself, her transition and her development as an artist and activist, identities she's inhabited all the way back to her teens as an anarchist headbanger.

Earlier this year, Against Me! opened for Green Day's Revolution Radio arena tour. This fall they'll headline their own two-month jaunt across North America, wrapping in their hometown of Gainseville, Fla. at The Fest 16, the latest incarnation of the United States' crown jewel of punk festivals. 

And just in case that's not full circle–y enough, they're playing their entire debut album, Against Me! Is Reinventing Axl Rose. Get the Guinness ready.

Tune in to Fuse and come back to Fuse.tv every day for profiles, videos, galleries and more on the individuals around the world who are creating Future LGBTQ History. Join the conversation with #FutureHistory and find Fuse in your area with our Channel Finder.