There comes a time when we feel like we are out on the fringes, out in the wild, away from anything that resembles the mainstream. For many, punk rock has been the music that suits this condition. It is a music that seeks to say something urgent and with an abandon of giving a shit about what anyone thinks.
It is also an early indicator of where the wind is blowing.
Against Me! might be a band that got many people through middle school and high school, but for me, they are band that I’ve only come to appreciate more with age. Laura Jane Grace is the reason. She writes some of the best lyrics of any songwriter around. She touches on everything from social issues to deeply personal songs to anthems about the human condition all with a complete disregard for any of the preconceived notions of what the punk rock song should be or should look like.
It is a poem or a speech or a rant attached to music.
But, on top of her lyrics, Laura Jane Grace is part of what is the essence of punk rock. Where the music might have become watered down and stripped of meaning with all the pop-punk and carbon-copy bands of the 1990s and 2000s. As well as splintered and re-splintered with sub-genre after subgenre until practically each band can fall into their own genre, Against Me! thrives in their simplicity and in what they choose to articulately sing about.
Laura Jane Grace is also part of redefining what is normal. Just over one year ago, Laura Jane Grace was Tom Gabel. Since she made her decision to become a woman around February 2012, she has come out to her wife of six years and her daughter as well as her fans and the public. The decision to live the rest of her life as Laura and to continue making music regardless of what people think is an important modern message that needs to be heard. There is no normal, we are only individuals living the best way we can.
Being a transgender frontwoman in an established punk rock band with a very dedicated following speaks in a way that is beyond making a social statement. Laura Jane Grace isn’t a transgender woman starting a rock band (all Hedwig references aside); she is a woman growing with a rock band. To realize that she had to be herself and become a woman, despite what people might think shows a certain amount of intimacy, trust and faith (as well as not giving a shit about what people say) in the band, their fans and the music that has been largely rewarded.
It is part of reassigning what is normal and illuminating what should not be taboo or misunderstood or hidden. Laura Jane Grace does not want to be considered an icon or a hero and she shouldn’t be. She should simply be an addition to what it means to be transgender.
It is simply a way to live; being transgender should not have to mean anything more than that.
Now, only one year after she made her decision, Against Me! is back out on the road playing to where the winds are blowing. It is a statement in itself to show that Laura Jane Grace is and always will be everything that Against Me! is. She is a brilliant lyricist who has her finger on the pulse of the way many in our generation see the world and she is still breaking teeth to make that message heard.
For more on Laura Jane Grace, check out her interview in Cosmo magazine about her first year living as a female.
If you are interested in getting into Against Me!, I recommend starting with the 2003’s As the Eternal Cowboy.