Posted in Arts, Top Arts

Tranny is so much more than a book about a band

Even those who aren’t fans of punk will enjoy Laura Jane Grace’s memoir

Laura Jane Grace - People.com performance

I love a good band memoir, and 2016 has been a great year for me in this regard. Legendary punks NOFX released their book, The Hepatitis Bathtub, earlier this year, and I read it three times (and saw the band twice) during my nine-day trip to Southern California in April. After devouring their contribution to the literary world, I eagerly awaited Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace’s new memoir.  .

For the uninitiated, Against Me! has been around since the late-’90s, when they began as an anarchist punk band in Florida. The band’s line-up has had many changes since they formed, but the most significant change is with respect to its lead singer, Laura Jane Grace. Grace was born Tom Gabel and lived as him until 2012 when she came out publicly as transgender and announced she would be transitioning to living as a woman. Grace’s struggle with gender dysphoria (“a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because there’s a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity,” as defined by the NHS in the UK) is the subject of her memoir.

After uncomfortably Googling “tranny laura jane grace” and placing an order on Amazon, I received Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout in the mail the day it came out. Amazon same-day delivery is a beautiful thing.

While neglecting schoolwork, I finished Tranny in less than 24 hours. That’s not to say I’m an exceptionally fast reader or that the book is short; it’s just that good. It’s less of a tell-all about the band’s history — although the book does follow their journey from Tom Gabel’s initial solo effort to one of their most recent releases, Transgender Dysphoria Blues — and more of an extremely personal account of Grace’s internal struggles with gender dysphoria as she grew up in conservative Florida.

The most revealing parts of the book were excerpts from Grace’s journals that she’s kept all her life. There’s some humour at times, like a mention of Grace and a friend’s stoned plan to turn part of their tour bus into “Cookie World,” but more often it’s heartbreaking to read about the constant conflict she felt between her masculine, punk-rock exterior and, as Grace put it, “her” — the woman she truly felt she was.

Tranny has reignited my love for this band. As I now listen to their old songs for what feels like the hundredth — maybe thousandth — time, I have some insight that I didn’t have before. Many of the lyrics I hadn’t given a thought previously now have meaning to them. Knowing so many of a musician’s personal stories fosters a new type of relationship with the music I already loved so much.

I would recommend Tranny to any Against Me! or punk fan, to anyone who’s questioned or struggled with their gender identity, or to anyone looking for a new perspective on an often misunderstood music genre.

True to my modus operandi, I’ll probably re-read it twice before the end of the month.

advertisement