Jane Grace has no interest in Thomas James Gabel, the
identity she went by before she transitioned to a woman
guy was angry, self-centered, combative.
true pr**k," Grace calls him in her new memoir,
"Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous
hope we never meet again."
no chance of that. Over the past four years, Grace has
held her own as the roaring frontwoman of Against Me!, a
punk band formed in Gainesville, Fla., in 1997.
transition has brought Grace and her band new attention
and new fans, whether they’re curious, drawn to
someone like them — or the fact that Against Me! is
arguably better than ever.
the change has also meant a new role for Grace. At 36,
she is one of the most public faces in the transgender
community — an estimated 1.4 million people — which
is gaining more acceptance with each passing day.
there’s been a real tipping point in the last couple
of years," Grace said, sitting in a dressing room
above the Showbox SoDo one day last month, when Against
Me! made a tour stop (with Bad Religion) in Seattle.
that’s something I felt part of," she said.
"Not something that I led or anything like
not — but she certainly made her mark.
first came out in Rolling Stone magazine in 2012,
describing her struggle to stifle the "her"
that first emerged at the age of 10, when she saw
Madonna performing on MTV and wanted to be her.
the magazine’s accompanying photo, Grace posed fresh
out of the shower, a towel wrapped around her head.
was an apt image: A person scrubbed clean, ready to
start life anew.
story solved a lot of problems for her, but also created
was nice to be able to have an article to point to and
say, ‘Read this, this should explain pretty much where
I’m coming from’ as opposed to having to have
countless conversations with people where you’re
coming out over and over again," she said.
at the same time, you have the pressure of having the
spotlight on you, coming out that way."
maintained some control of her story — and others’
— by starring in a 2014 docuseries for AOL called
"True Trans" that explored different aspects
of the transgender experience: Relationships, community,
parenting. The show earned her an Emmy nomination.
lot of the benefit of ‘True Trans’ was with letting
other people speak," she said. "Yes, I am
comfortable talking about myself, but at the same time,
I can only say what I know. When you don’t feel like
you have it all figured out, but you’re kind of
expected to? That can be pressure."
the while, Grace has continued to tour and write some of
her most personal, powerful music: 2013’s
"Transgender Dysphoria Blues" and this year’s
"Shape Shift With Me."
with the book "Tranny," Grace uses a lifetime
of personal journals to describe decades of anger,
confusion, resignation and courage, all set against a
book, written with Noisey’s Dan Ozzi, was Grace’s
just wanted to do it," she said. "Having kept
journals for that long, there’s the metaphoric weight
and then there’s the literal weight of that many
journals in boxes that you’re carrying
sold the book to one publisher, but let the deal drop
when she got a whiff of their plans.
felt like I was being pushed into creating something …
like a ‘Becoming Laura’ story," she said.
" I felt like, ‘That’s not me.’?" She
ultimately signed with Hachette.
was raised an Army brat, then moved to Naples, Fla.,
with her mother and brother after her parents divorced.
There were drugs, alcohol, fights with police — and
Against Me! started to take off, the touring life
brought more of the same.
all provided an escape from Grace’s gender dysphoria.
She fought and indulged the urge to be "her"
as Against Me! gained fame and signed to a major label.
continued to suppress the feeling, married and had a
when the dysphoria came surging back around 2012, Grace
decided to save her own life and become Laura Jane —
the name her mother would have given her.
boy, the man, the pr**k, was gone. Good riddance.
the title of the book speaks to a lot of
self-loathing," she said. "I feel like that
part of the transition process is breaking down your ego
and destroying your sense of self in that way so you can
of that, it’s hard for her to even look at her
look at it and see a lot of shame, still," she
said. "And I wish some things would have been
different. And I wish I would have been happier for more
of it and all of the amazing opportunities I wasn’t
able to live or enjoy because I was like, just f***ed
writes openly about the repercussions of her transition,
both personal and professional.
and her wife, the artist Heather Gabel, stayed together
at the start of her transition but grew apart. They are
now estranged but not divorced, live separately in
Chicago and share care of their daughter, Evelyn, now 6.
and her father have not spoken since her transition.
mother, Bonnie, is devoted and supportive.
fell away and bandmates moved on.
wasn’t because they were transphobic or
unsupportive," Grace wrote of her former drummer
and bassist. "It was just that things were
friend and guitarist James Bowman has been part of
Against Me! since 2001. Drummer Atom Willard and bassist
Inge Johansson joined three years ago, in time to record
"Transgender Dysphoria Blues," and watch Grace
grow into herself.
May, Grace burned her birth certificate onstage in
Durham, N.C., in protest of that state’s HB-2 bill,
which eliminated anti-discrimination protections for
gender!" Grace said, as she set the paper on fire.
have a platform and that’s what goes along with being
in a band and putting out a record," she said.
"And for so many years, the narrative surrounding
my band was if people thought it was punk enough.
to talk about this is real and feels actually
worthwhile," she said with an easy laugh. "I
don’t have to make up answers.
can just answer honestly, and that’s good."