I wasn’t always a fan of Against Me! In fact, I was turned off by the idea of that band in the early 2000s. I refused to listen to them.
This was due in part to a group of obsessed punk kids I sparingly partied with at Kent State who played them over and over nightly, declaring they were the greatest band of all time. I never gave them a true chance. I was just annoyed I guess.
It was not until I caught Against Me! live at a small club that I started to appreciate them and realized those little punk kids were actually on to something. Soon after that show, I declared myself a fan. I have been ever since.
For years, I would catch them live any chance I could and even was lucky enough to shoot some of their shows at Warped Tours and also at the House of Blues in Cleveland. Being up close and personal while they played was always a treat for me as not only was I taking photos of a band I dug, but also really got to take in their stage presence.
Hell, Warren Oakes (Against Me!’s former drummer) used to smile directly at me every time I pointed my camera at him. That right there was just great.
I thought Tom Gabel was the coolest and not only loved the band he started, but enjoyed his style and swagger. I once tried to emulate him of sorts by buying shoes and black jeans like what he rocked. I still have the shoes today, but me in those black jeans are not anything anyone needs to see.
I had always hoped to catch him before or after a show where I could strike up a conversation with him and we would become fast friends. It was a typical fan expectation that never happened and I’m not mad about it. I am just grateful for the experiences I had being able to shoot Against Me! as they played songs I adored.
The last time I saw Tom Gabel play live, he had grown his hair long. Never in a million years would I have guessed his reasoning behind that. Soon after that show, Tom Gabel was gone, and Laura Jane Grace emerged.
Tranny: Confessions Of Punk Rock’s Most Famous Anarchist Sellout is an memoir by Laura Jane Grace, with help from Dan Ozzi, that tells the whole story.
Props to Grace for spilling her heart out to anyone curious to know about her life and all the shit she went thought to get there. The book takes it all the way back to a young boy with a broken family, a kept away secret, years of rebellion, and of course the start of a band. Throughout, Grace fought with coming to terms with a feeling embedded in her mind and made it a reality no matter how difficult the outcome would be for herself and others. She also talked about how the anarchist DIY punk band sold out and the hell endured trying to make it big.
Reading about the life and times of Against Me! from Grace’s first person point of view was fascinating enough, but learning about her coming to terms with her gender dysphoria was even more interesting, especially while building up a band and touring the world.
I cannot imagine how tough it has to have been for her to hide all of the feelings and essentially have an affair with herself, secluding the truth from everyone she loved including her wife and bandmates. With great detail, Grace shared memories of when she realized she felt she was a she and not a he. This wasn’t something that just happened overnight.
I do not wish to ruin anything for anyone who has not had the chance to read this book by going into great detail, but will say this: Some of the stories are funny, some are haunting, and all are honest.
Memories with the Rancid, Blink 182, Har Mar Superstar, and even Marilyn Manson really kept the pages turning for me. I smiled and even laughed out loud while reading some chapters while during others re-read sentences just to make sure I fully understood what had just happened.
It can’t be easy for a band who’s trying to make it big with the major labels while knowingly losing their fan base because of it. Add on top of that a member who is struggling with their gender identification and at the brink of giving it all up, I’m shocked the band didn’t just implode.
Fueled with drugs, depression, anger, and also love, Grace’s road to accepting herself was nothing short of futile.
It killed me to read how miserable she and the band were at times when they played in front of their fans, including me. It never occurred to me the facade all of the band members put on for the sake of their fans.
The triumphant moment within this biography, when Gabel turned into Grace and started telling others the hidden secret, was built up so well thanks to Grace’s recollections and Ozzi’s sorting out the years worth of journal entries.
The epilogue might have been my favorite part of the book as all of my previous questions I had while reading finally were answered. It was amazing to read that James Bowman was still happily around. I learned what really happened to Oakes, where Andrew Seward went, and what they all really thought of Jay Weinberg. I also found out what happened with the marriage and more importantly, what happened with their daughter. The last few sentences in the memoir put the biggest smile on my face.
I learned a lot about Grace in the book. I truly have a great about of respect for her in how brave she was to release this chronicle of her life. I am sure this was not an easy thing to do, but sharing her story is inspiring to me and I am sure tons of other readers.
Everyone owes it to themselves to read Tranny. It won’t hurt you, I promise. In fact, it’s probably one of the most interesting stories I have ever read about someone.