There’s a song at the end of Against Me!’s fantastic 2007 album New Wave called “Oceans.” The second verse goes like this…
If I could’ve chosen, I would’ve been born a woman/ My mother once told me she would’ve named me Laura/ I’d grow up to be strong and beautiful like her/ One day I’d find an honest man to make my husband…
... And on. Documenting his fictional family’s happy life by the seaside.
Now when us punks and jammers listen to music, it’s most often with a mind open enough to know that when Trent Reznor screams what he wants to do to us like an animal, we know he’s not actually coming to get us (until the next full moon).
But sometimes when a person cries out through song it’s very real – like when Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley and Shannon Hoon all called their own deaths by heroin’s hand (or Courtney Love's, depending on which documentaries you've watched).
Less than a week ago my internal clock yelped (that’s the noise it came with, I don’t build clocks) and I asked myself I wonder what Against Me! has been up to. Seems like it’s been a minute… Oh.
News of Tom Gabel’s long battle with body dysphoria and new plan to live as a transgender -- and eventually a full-on woman -- hit the internet late at night just a couple days ago and I’m still checking calendars to make sure that the first sign of the Apocalypse isn't recurring April firsts.
Poor Gabel – Now Laura Jane Grace – obviously hid her feelings well (except for that whole bluntly stating them in the lyrics thing), making this news not only incredibly surprising, but also the most punk rock thing I’ve ever heard.
She may not phone to ask, but The Jam Room supports Laura Jane 100%.
Laura Jane is boldly going where very few such public figures have gone and intends to get and stay there while we all watch – not only will Against Me! remain a band, but she intends on remaining married, as well.
This is what punk rock IS -- and what so many things should be: being who you are, saying what you think and actually making your own world happen no matter the consequences.
"What will happen to her voice?" we all wonder of the rock 'n' roll frontperson. Who knows? But questions like this are good -- and will be answered -- only because a person is facing their biggest fears and desires (why are fear and desire so often co-pilots?) like a hard core punk rock woman. The little problems along the way can and will be handled.
If the last chapter is over and a new one has begun, then we can all be glad and amazed that Tom Gabel plowed ahead so valiantly (and successfully) while dealing with these intense issues. (And before we go forgetting -- girls can rock just as hard and dirty as boys.)
With Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project continuing to grow and provide encouragement for bullied youngsters, and now President Obama and his Vice announcing their support for same-sex couples, this is excellent timing for LGBT youth to have an actual functioning celebrity move through the process of gender-reassignment in the public eye.
Since Laura Jane dropped the news with a Rolling Stone interview, we are left to hope that we will get regular updates from the field (and not just another Chastity/Chaz pic).
This also raises incredibly appropriate questions in another election year where politicians are already shouting:
“Between a man and a woman only!”
“I know you are but what am I!?”
“A happily married man!”
“Oh yeah? Well, please give your third wife my best!”
The fact is, things like this aren't political until somebody makes them so. They're life (tough enough) until some politician gets scared and legislates against it and some voter gets scared and votes against it and some kid sees how the folks are talking, gets scared and beats someone up to prove that he/she isn't.
If so much of the rest of life is allowed to be this mushy gray area where we amble along, every once in a while blinking and realizing how stupid we were two years ago, why must this gender issue be so black and white?
Are all the ladies attracted to Tom Gabel/Laura Jane supposed to suddenly stop loving the words, the songs, the tattoos and energy?
We already see that there are men who like men and women who like women and both who like both… Jurassic Park even taught us that sometimes spontaneous gender-flipping occurs in nature among the lonely, Ani DiFranco-loving brontosaur.
So why not a man becoming a woman who’s still with her woman?
That’s love. Human love.
And the most punk rock move of all time.
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