About a month ago, Rolling Stone reported that Tom Gabel, the singer of punk band Against Me!, was coming out as transgender and would begin living as Laura Jean Grace. Gabel’s wife, Heather, is staying with him. I’d been wanting to write this blog post for about a month, saving an entire of row of tabs in the tab attic for it. When Rolling Stone has an exclusive, they don’t put the articles online for a while, so I hadn’t actually got to read the full text until now. The timing of the announcement was fitting, the Wednesday after MCA died, and the same day President Obama announced his support of gay marriage.
I was curious to see the response, but support from other bands, GLAAD, and fans was quickly announced. The only negative comments I saw were on St.Augustine.com, a website from Gabel’s hometown.
This is an uncomfortable blog post to write. Against Me! was my favorite band for a couple years, so I wasâ€¦ I guess invested in the story. But talking about it with friends, I was self-conscious about the words I used. I didn’t want to call it weird or crazy because of the negative connotations of those words, but I also didn’t know what other words to use. Even in this post, I’m consciously trying to rework sentences to avoid having to use gendered pronouns. And I fully realize this discomfort doesn’t even rate on the scale of discomfort Grace has gone through in her life.
Here’s an open letter in the Guardian from “just another transsexual on the internet.”
All transitions are brave alike, but public transitions are each brave in their own unique way. I won’t lie, this is going to be hard â€“ and it’s even harder to do it in the spotlight of public opinion. But the opposite would have been hard too, you know. There are things I accomplished in my pre-transition life that now I find myself reticent to talk about, afraid to bring more complication into a life grown already more complicated than I ever thought possible.
Here’s an interview with the story’s writer, Josh Eells, who admirably handled a difficult and important story. Eells deftly helped illustrate the story by switching pronoun usage from he to she to mark the timeline of the interviews first with Gabel in NY, then with Gabel in Florida, and finally with Grace in Florida.
Do you know why she wanted to reveal this in such a hugely public way?
I’m not sure why she wanted to do it in exactly this way, but I think she wanted to not have a thousand conversations with people. This was a way to push herself a little. She said that so many times she’d make a goal to tell her wife Heather or the band, and she’d make excuses and put it off. This was setting up a deadline for herself. She knew this would come out at the beginning of May. Also, she just wanted to have something she could point people towards. Instead of having people e-mail and call over and over, she could just say, “This article explains everything and after that we can talk.” It was a good way to get the news out all at once.
Lastly, Against Me! fronted by Laura Grace debuted last week as the opening act on The Cult’s summer tour (they still tour?!). It’s a good crowd to play in front of to get their feet wet, a mix of people who don’t know anything about them, and diehard fans willing to pay full price to see their favorite band in a 40 minute opening set.
I’m glad things with the announcement seem to have gone well so far, there must be a sense of relief at not having to hide herself anymore. As the highest profile musician (person?) to come out as trans, it’s an incredibly brave step she took. Hopefully her announcement will broaden the conversation around transgender issues and make it just a sliver easier for other people in similar situations. It’s an important story, at least take a look at the article.