10 things we learned from Laura Jane Grace’s autobiography, Tranny

Laura Jane Grace's autobiography is out now
(Image: © Getty)

Pieced together from over 20 years’ worth of her diaries – and including extracts from them – Tranny, the autobiography of Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace, is a revealing portrait of the singer which charts her lifelong struggle with gender dysphoria and how the artist formerly known as Tom Gabel dealt with it. Here’s what we learned from reading it.

1. HAIR METAL HAD A HUGE IMPACT ON HER GROWING UP

As a child, Grace was really into the likes of Poison, Def Leppard and Bon Jovi. But it was Guns N’ Roses who had the most impact, both for their music, but also their androgynous aesthetic. “Hair was big, clothes were tight, lines were blurred. I often couldn’t tell if band members were boys or girls and I liked that.”

2. SATANISM OFFERED AN ESCAPE

As a teenager, Grace frequently wore women’s clothes in secret. She made a blood pact, using a knife and a bird feather, with the Devil in the hope that she’d wake up “not a girl, but a fully grown woman”. It didn’t work.

Against Me! in 2014

Against Me! in 2014
(Image: © Taylor Hill/Getty)

3. NOTHING FELT WORSE THAN BETRAYING HERSELF

In 2004, Against Me! were on tour in Italy when they encountered three transsexuals outside a roadside food truck. As other members made fun of them, Grace laughed along, “the whole time knowing the truth about myself, that I wished I were so brave”. In the book, she admits that she’s been called a sellout many times, but “this experience, that moment – that’s what it feels like to truly sell out”.

4. NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS ARE MADE TO BROKEN

On New Year’s Eve, 2004, Grace made a commitment to being both sober and male, which meant no more cross-dressing. One night in February, she discarded a huge bag of women’s clothes in a supermarket dumpster in an attempt to follow through. Neither resolution lasted a particularly long time.

5. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN GIVES GOOD ADVICE

Against Me! came under a lot of fire for signing to Fat Wreck, which “pure” punks considered a sellout move, so the backlash was even more vitriolic when the band signed to major label Sire. This resulted in a period of turmoil and stress for the band, and much internal insecurity for Grace. Cue an unexpected letter from The Boss, who’d been to see the band play, which offered invaluable words of advice: “If you’re not reaching out beyond the audience you have to the greater audience you might have, you’ll never find out what your band is truly capable of, what it’s worth, and how much meaning you can bring into your fans’ lives.”

6. GRACE’S JOURNALS OFTEN GAVE BIRTH TO LYRICS

Many entries Grace made in her journals would later reappear as lines for Against Me! songs. The most poignant of these was something she wrote about her late friend and occasional lover, CC, after she was murdered, and which ended up becoming part of the song Because Of The Shame: “There are so many things that I regret about my relationship with CC, so many reasons to feel guilt. Because of the shame I associate with vulnerability I am numbing myself completely. Can you hear me right now?”

7. THE ROCK IS A FAN

After appearing on The Tonight Show alongside Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Grace gave the former wrestler-turned-movie-star a copy of White Crosses, the band’s latest album at the time. Although the performance itself didn’t go too well because of a camera malfunction, Grace says a major consolation was “watching [The Rock] drive off the Burbank lot in his huge SUV with the windows down, blasting I Was A Teenage Anarchist and nodding along”.

8. THE FIRST PERSON GRACE CAME OUT TO WAS BRENDAN KELLY

Grace had struggled with gender dysphoria for the majority of her life, but despite a few lyrical hints, it was something that she kept secret until 2011. The first person she told was her friend, The Lawrence Arms vocalist/bassist Brendan Kelly. A few months before, after reading into those lyrics, he had asked her on his local Chicago TV show, “So, Tom… do you put on panties when you’re at home?” “I’m panicked now,” Grace admits in her diary about telling him, “but it was such a relief to speak those drunken words last night, to emotionally unload on someone, anyone, relief.” Soon after telling Kelly, Grace came out to her (now ex-)wife, Heather. The feeling in doing so was unlike anything else ever experienced. “I had sampled every barbiturate and narcotic from A to Z in my lifetime,” she writes, “but this was a high I’d never felt before.”

9. GRACE STOPPED HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY TO WRITE TRANSGENDER DYSPHORIA BLUES

Grace started taking hormones to help her transition to female, but her “body was reacting violently to the mixture of alcohol, anxiety, and hormones”. As a result, she stopped taking them in order to finishing writing Transgender Dysphoria Blues. It left her feeling incredibly depressed and near-suicidal, but after two weeks, the album was done.

10. WHEN SHE FINISHED THE BOOK, SHE BURNED ALL HER JOURNALS

While it was her incredible dedircation to keeping a diary that helped Grace retrace her feelings and her journey for her autobiography, when it was finished she decided to burn them all as a symbolic gesture for moving onto the next stage of her life as a woman. “I’m at the final page of this journal. When I get home, I’ll toss it atop the pile with the rest. Dozens of books, filled top to bottom in ink, teeming with my every thought, fear, and emotion of the last three decades. I’ve decided to burn them all, a funeral pyre for Thomas James Gabel. A true prick. I hope we never meet again.”

Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout is out now through Hachette Books. Against Me! tour the UK from December 6.

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