Posted: 1:07 pm Thursday, August 4th, 2016
INTERVIEW: Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! discusses how her life and career changed since coming out as trans
“I am truly terrified,” Laura Jane Grace says of her upcoming memoir Tranny: Confessions of Punk’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout. Controversially titled, to be sure, possibly to reclaim certain epithets thrown her way in a negative context over the years. “I don’t know if you’ve ever kept a journal or a diary. Would you willingly let someone read that? Cause that’s the feeling I have in my chest, that I just printed up a couple thousand copies of my diary and I’m gonna let the world read it,” she adds, laughing.
Stream the interview here:
The November 15 release of that memoir caps a very busy fall for Grace and her long-running band Against Me!. Their seventh studio album Shape Shift With Me arrives on September 16, and a years-in-the-works tour with Against Me!’s agit-punk fore-bearers Bad Religion kicks off two weeks later. “They’re last on the bucket list of punk heroes from when I was a kid going to shows in St. Pete at Jannus Landing,” gushes Grace (who grew up in Naples) after citing past AM! tours with other venerable punk acts like Rancid and NOFX, “and to be able to re-do it after… having to pull out of a tour a couple years back has a good feeling of making good on something.”
Personnel changes revitalized Against Me! following their 2013 withdrawal from a scheduled tour with Bad Religion. The chemistry and cohesion the new rhythm section – Inge Johannsen on bass and Atom Willard on drums – brought to Grace and Against Me!’s longtime guitarist James Bowman followed the band from their tour dates in support of the excellent, visceral 2014 album Transgender Dysphoria Blues right back into the studio with a spirit of collaboration undocumented on AM! records going back through New Wave. All those releases credited “music and lyrics by Tom Gabel/Laura Jane Grace.”
And, of course, Grace’s decision to publicly reveal her gender dysphoria and plans to transition in a 2012 issue of Rolling Stone set this phase of her life and career in motion. “It saved me,” she says.
Grace also made news this past May for burning her birth certificate on stage at a North Carolina show in protest of that state’s controversial HB2 legislation, which requires transgender people to use only bathrooms that correspond with their birth gender. While many artists cancelled shows and boycotted the state, Grace went ahead with scheduled Against Me! shows to make a statement. I asked her what she would say to those people who thought forcing people to use certain bathrooms is an important political issue? She told a very interesting story:
My first incident of transphobia was at soccer practice with my daughter right after I came out in St. Augustine, Florida. She goes running of towards the bathroom and ran into the men’s room because that was the room she was used to going to with me… A guy stepped out… blocked me from going in and said “Wrong restroom.” So my daughter’s in the restroom, I have an ID that says male, and I’m being blocked. So when you turn people into the gender police, that’s what really happens. The illusion that trans people are predators needs to be thought. ‘Everybody Poops’ (laughs) to quote a children’s book… the key is people need to be educated.
Considering the purpose of HB2 and other legislation like it, I hope you see the irony in Laura Jane Grace’s story.
Here are two songs from her January 2014 acoustic set in our 97X Green Room, plus some older performances!
“True Trans Soul Rebel”
“Black Me Out” (NSFW language)
“I Was A Teenage Anarchist”
“Up The Cuts”