The media attention in 2015 has ultimately fixed a public spotlight onto the private lives of transgender people – and yes, this has everything to do with the unveiling of Caitlyn Jenner’s beautiful transformation in the notorious Vanity Fair article published earlier this year.
After announcing to the world that she had finally come to a place in her life where she felt comfortable publicly admitting that she is transgender, Caitlyn launched the television show “I Am Cait”. During the show’s early episodes (the show has been renewed for a second season by the way) it is easy to notice that many of the transgender women who appear alongside Cait – have lived realities that are strikingly different from hers (100% devoid of the privilege and wealth that she has benefited from). The fundamental difference – the other girls have experienced intolerance and the many injustices that trans people face. Some very important messages were imparted and insightful (albeit painful) life experiences were shared – demonstrating the harsh truths of life as a transgender person in a world that (much of the time) truly doesn’t understand.
I began to think of the other high profile transgender people who have been brave enough to share their story with us before Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair debut delivered an influx of global attention into their lives. In the new rock world, one name immediately came to mind – and that name is Laura Jane Grace.
Laura Jane Grace is the vocalist, guitarist and songwriter for Against Me! – an awesome punk rock outfit that has gained the utmost respect of esteemed punk peers such as NoFx – and Bad Religion – who have been known to drop the band’s name in interviews. Against Me! have been active since the late nineties – with six studio releases to their credit to date.
Laura Jane came out as transgender in 2012 and admitted to a life-long battle with gender identity – one might think that for a punk rock musician this could be a huge risk to take – with a fan-base rooted in what has predominantly been viewed as a masculinity-driven exclusive genre. However, true punks know that while often categorized as an “anti-social genre” punk rock is actually an all-encompassing one – and thus intended to be inclusive of anyone considered “against the grain” (to quote a famous Bad Religion song).
In 2014 Against Me! released the album Transgender Dysphoria Blues – a 10 track exploration of Laura Jane Grace’s journey – the path of a girl trapped in the wrong body, struggling to find her way out. The album is true to form, with the Against Me! signature sound stamped all over it. The focus on transgender issues, the heartache and the struggle is likewise ever-present – contrasting a lyrical expression of suicidal tendencies, depression, feelings of incarceration and fear of violence against transsexuals – with an upbeat punk rock soundtrack.
The bottom line – not every transgender person is fortunate enough to live the life they rightfully should be entitled to – due to fear, intolerance and the threat of violence against them. Many end their own lives out of desperation and loneliness. Our fundamental role as decent human beings is to make it easier for our friends, loved ones and neighbours to be their true selves – without fear of persecution – and in return we hope the courtesy is repaid.
So – Transgender Dysphoria Blues – released the year before Vanity Fair brought global attention to transgender issues – check it out if you haven’t already, it’s good listening and if you take Grace’s lyrics to heart – you just might increase your personal awareness and likely transform a little too – into that “decent human being” who loves others for who they truly are.
To quote Laura Jane Grace “Stop, take some time to think – figure out what’s important to you…”