Against Me!'s Laura Jane Grace: "I'm Figuring This Out as I Go"
In later years, her decision to go full-on with that feeling -- which she'd come to accept as her true self -- came relatively easy. Grace's "authentic" existence, further and further from the painful detachment and crippling shame and guilt she'd lived with in her previous life as a man, simply beckoned and would not, could not, be denied. And at least going by some of the lyrics in songs like the new album's title track, "True Trans Soul Rebel," or "FUCKMYLIFE666" ("No more troubled sleep/There's a brave new world raging inside of me"), facing this new life entails a lot of pain, hefty doses of anger, a touch of despair, and sheer loads of utter defiance.
How does one punk-rock musician's "new" identity change the way he/she views the meaning of life itself or the texture and dynamics of his/her relationships with friends, family, and fans or in the way they'll be dealing with, you know, come what may?
"I've become more aware of how precious time is, and I've become more appreciative of my friends," she says. "I've realized I need to be more prepared for the future."
That's a future, she says, that none of us can predict. "I feel like I'm heading into a great unknown much more so than I ever have before in my life."
A few particulars regarding Laura Jane Grace's transitioning, because you know you want to know: Yes, she's getting hormone injections, which means she's growing breasts, and her hips are getting a bit wider. And yes, she is in fact a married father in the process of gender reassignment, and that entails both hormonal and perhaps eventually surgical adjustments. As far as her sexual relations with her wife, it's probably best just to think of them as a lesbian couple. And beyond that, maybe it's none of your damned business.
Or is it? If Grace has agreed to fully publicize her coming out as a woman, maybe the whole thing is out of her hands at this point. It does, after all, raise a lot of questions.
Should someone in her position be shouldered with the responsibility of being a "role model" as such? Shouldn't she be allowed the freedom to experience her transformation to her truer self as a strictly personal undertaking, secondary to the reality of her influence as an artist? Or is her new self somehow inextricable from the music she creates?
"If by sharing my story it helps someone in their journey," she says, "then I'm happy to do that. But I always try to stress to people that I don't know all of the answers. I'm figuring this out as I go, trying to live one day at a time. I'm also human. I have my flaws. I've fucked up in the past, and I'm sure I'll fuck up again in life."
Fair enough. Meanwhile, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, on which Grace is joined by longtime guitarist James Bowman, ex-Offspring/Rocket From the Crypt drummer Atom Willard, and former the (International) Noise Conspiracy bassist Inge Johansson, is a joyous, heartbreaking, deeply felt, and, yes, liberating blast of punk-rock noise. All the fanboys and fangirls might enjoy musing a bit about how Grace's transition to her fully flowered womanhood -- and is that a "feminine" self, and if so, just what does it really mean to feel and act "feminine"? -- will directly color the music itself, if at all. (We note that Grace, by her choice, still sings like a big, bellowing "man.")
She is still sussing all that out. "As for how all of it will affect the music? I'm not sure. I do know that I won't have any shortage of life experiences to draw from. It's going to be a long time before anything in my life feels stale or routine."
Against Me! With the Sidekicks and the Shondes. 7:30 p.m. Sunday, January 26, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $17 plus fees. Call 954-564-1074, or visit cultureroom.net.
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