So yeah, I actually read a book for once in my life. I don’t really want to call this a review, but I guess that’s what it is. I mean, how do you seriously review an autobiography? Like, “Oh I think you’re cool, but you’re life was pretty boring… I’ll give you 2 Stars.” Boring is not the case for this book, or I probably wouldn’t have finished it.
Anyway, here are some words about the memoirs of Laura Jane Grace (of Against Me!).
First, I want to say that the title of my blog post is a quote from the book and not my feelings or “review” on it. Who said this in the book? Read it and find out!
Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout
Like I said, I read a whole book. For people that know me, this is a big deal. So I must have enjoyed it or got something out of it. I chose the autobiography of Laura Jane Grace. For those that have no idea who she is, she is the lead singer of the band Against Me!. If you read the title of her book you would know that she’s also transgender, anarchist, and possibly a sellout depending on who you ask.
The Gist of the Book Is This
Laura Jane Grace started life as a Army brat by the name of Tom Gabel. Tom felt as if he should have been born a woman since he was five years old. He started a punk band that was well liked, but with every album they released some of their older fans become more bitter because they were becoming too mainstream. I’m talking about stuff like standing still during new songs with middle fingers raised high in the air, vandalizing the band’s merch, and stealing the band’s gear because they weren’t “DIY Punk” enough. Mix this with some hardcore drugs, a couple of marriages, and holding onto the secret of being transgender for almost thirty years and you have the simplest explanation of this book. It has what I would consider a happy ending with Laura accepting herself with who she wants to be, and as a result of this Against Me!’s audience grows and they have their most recent album (at the time) chart higher than any of their previous ones.
Of course, there are a ton of other highs, lows, and interesting stories within the book. Laura extensively kept journals throughout her life and I would say maybe half of the book is directly quoted from those journals. I implore you to read it if you’re interested.
If I had to say what I gathered from this book, it would be to be yourself, whoever you feel that is. It’ll save you a lot of strife in your life that could be years or even decades long. This is something I’ve known for years, but it’s not a bad thing to be reminded. While some may not accept you for who you are, the people who care about you will. And if they don’t… I say fuck ’em (this is quite literally what I’ve told someone before).
Laura didn’t learn this lesson until much later in life, but it’s understandable. I’ve felt this way about things before too, on a different scale. It’s like vomiting. It feels 1000 times better when it’s out there and it’s over, even if it’s not the result you were totally wanting. I’m not trying to get all preachy, and trust me, I know it’s easier said than done.
I also think that her writing volumes upon volumes of journals is just awesome. It’s a good way to see how you felt in the past without the filter of time, as sometimes you can remember things different over the years. It can also help others or yourself in various ways if a situation calls for it. I started one myself a couple of years ago after to release some pent up emotions (which despite what some people say, I do have). Unfortunately I only really wrote in it at that time and haven’t really touched upon it much since. I’ve considering burning it as Laura apparently did with hers after she wrote the book. Don’t get me wrong, I can let go of things, but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded how much better things get. But I digress…
After reading this, Bruce Springsteen sounds like a cool guy and Joan Jett sounds like one of the best people on this planet. Also Jay Weinberg sounds like a total rock star, in the worst sense of the term. I was also glad to read that half of the band split for other reasons than because Laura Jane transitioned
I don’t know if I could have survived living Laura Jane’s life. And not just the holding onto a huge secret for 30 years part. The drugs, the 911 house, anarchy, people constantly hating you for being a something you’re not (a “sellout”), and just living Gainesville in general to name a few things.
Actually let me expand upon that sellout part. They were getting hate from the community when they signed to indie labels like No Idea and Fat Wreck Chords. I think getting more exposure and money for doing the things you love doing and not altering them because of that does not make one a sellout. All the evidence I’ve read does not point to this band being that. I enjoyed the stories of them playing the major labels to the best of their ability and it working out for them. Look at them now… I think things worked out alright in the end.
God bless your transsexual heart.
My (Brief?) History with Against Me!
As a bonus, I’ll tell you my brief history with this band. I think the first song I heard of theirs was From Her Lips to God’s Ears (The Energizer) that was on a Warped Tour compilation CD. Despite the politics, I liked the sound of it but didn’t think much of it more than that. It was good enough to where I wouldn’t skip the track on the CD. Then (in my world anyway) they started gaining more play through songs like Stop! and especially Thrash Unreal, which was they first time I saw them in perform on the main stage of 97X’s yearly festival show. A show to which Laura described as “terrible” and “absolutely awful” in the book for various reasons. I didn’t really pick up on them further than that, but I liked seeing them. The next time I saw them was at the same show, but 3 years later as the headliner of the side stage. Again, didn’t look into them much after that, but still liked them. After that, I heard the news that the lead singer came out as a transgender. My reaction was pretty much just that I hoped they kept making music and that Against Me!’s sound wouldn’t change from what I already liked about them.
Here’s a couple of pics from the 2010 show.
I picked up Transgender Dysphoria Blues about a year after it came out. I was going through the new vinyls at Mojo’s (a record store near USF), and saw they had a special pink vinyl edition of this there. Me being a sucker for special editions, asked my sister how it sounded. She approved of it, and since I trust her judgment most of the time for things like this, I went for it. Listened to it and then it was one of those albums that I could just keep on repeat without skipping a track (which I pretty much did for the next few weeks). I loved it! And to sum up my history, this led me to seeing them perform two more times and another album that is also fantastic.
Here are some more select photos from the last two times I saw them perform.
I’d like to go more in depth with Against Me! in another post as I certainly have plenty to say about their last two albums, but I wanted to talk about Laura’s book this time.