Rolling Stone reports that Tom Gabel, lead singer of Florida punks Against Me!, has come out as transgender. Gabel, who plans to take the name Laura Jane Grace and begin undergoing electrolysis and hormone replacement therapy within the next year, dealt privately with gender dysphoria for years before making the announcement. "I'm going to have embarrassing moments," Gabel told Rolling Stone, "and that won't be fun. But that's part of what talking to you is about – is hoping people will understand, and hoping they'll be fairly kind." She will remain married to her wife Heather, whom she credits for her support and understanding.
Gabel is not the first openly-transgendered musician - notably, electronic music pioneer Wendy Carlos released classics like Switched On Bach and the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange while she was still known as Walter, and modern-day artists like Antony Hegarty and Big Freedia identify outside of a traditional gender binary - but she will be the highest-profile musician to publicly transition. Transgender issues are complex and not widely understood by the public at large, but online response to the announcement has so far been very supportive; Against Me!’s Wikipedia entry has been updated with revised gender pronouns, and this morning Buzzfeed posted a list of positive fan reactions from Twitter.
Against Me! lyrics have addressed gender identity struggles in the past, sometimes obliquely, sometimes less so (on 2007’s “The Ocean,” Gabel sings "And if I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman / My mother once told me she would have named me Laura / I'd grow up to be strong and beautiful like her"). They began recording their new album, which some outlets report is tentatively titled Transgender Dysphoria Blues, earlier this year. It’s too early to gauge the full impact of Gabel’s revelation, but personally I have to give her credit for going public with her transition. Nobody ever became a punk rocker because they fit squarely into preconceived societal conventions, and by being true to herself while in the public eye Gabel gives plenty of struggling trans kids someone to identify with (as well as the Westboro Baptist Church something new to protest, probably).
A full interview with Gabel appears in this Friday’s issue of Rolling Stone. Here’s an acoustic performance of "Transgender Dysphoria Blues."