Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Originally published June 15, 2012

Tom Gabel has said that he has known since he was a child that he was born into the wrong body. After years of feeling disconnected from his body he says he is now ready to become the woman he was always meant to be. Enter his new identity, Laura Jane Grace. Laura Jane (as I’ll now refer to her) is married to a woman (Heather) and has a two year old child. Rolling Stone published a really fabulous article about Laura Jane’s process of coming out as a transgendered person.

What touched me most about the article is not the very public way Laura Jane will be transitioning or what it will be like to have a rock group’s lead “man” become a woman but Laura Jane’s home life and the acceptance of her wife so completely. The article actually made me tear up a little. Here is a woman, Heather, who has never had a lesbian experience, who  although said she was always attracted to Tom because of his lack of machismo is willing to not only stay in the relationship and support Laura Jane but is willing to talk honestly about what the process entails. Heather has stated that she has no “vagina” experience but is willing to learn and ponders what it will be like to now be in a seeming lesbian relationship. The article covers in great detail, what it was like for Laura Jane to tell Heather and her band mates and the then still held fear she had in telling her parents (probably a “relationship ender” when it comes to her Dad). Laura Jane also winces at the idea of reassignment surgery – she’s avoided wisdom teeth removal for five years due to her fear of the surgery.

I have appreciated the honesty with which Chas Bono has come out and lived his life but I find Laura Jane’s to be even more thought provoking. She doesn’t come from a famous family and her rock persona has been one of a gravel voiced front man to a political punk group. It makes me think a bit of one of my favorite musicals, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and the sensitivity, anger and energy the title character would bring to her rock performances. See the movie. It is a mind blower.

I’m sure the dynamic of Against Me! Will ebb and flow. Laura Jane had her first performance as a woman last week in San Diego. Although the concert and the appropriately titled album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues has been well received there have been many awful things said about Laura Jane over our much loved internet. Everything from how this will be the demise of the bad to it being a publicity stunt to how mentally ill she must be.

Laura Jane is a true artist. She is living her life through her art and I am sure she is reaping the psychological benefits of openly being exactly who she is — day to day and on stage. She and her wife are a fantastic example to the transgendered world’s youth. They aren’t pretending to know all of the answers. They have said that they want to do right by their daughter and I think living authentically is the only way to do that. I thought that was what punk music was all about. Questioning authority (gender in this case) and being authentic – even if it isn’t pretty or comfortable for you.