When Against Me!‘s Laura Jane Grace announced in Rolling Stone that she was transgender, the majority of the story focused on her life … with only a few paragraphs dedicated to how she broke the news to her bandmates.
This was understandable, of course, and though the details included in that RS story are scarce, they’re also incredibly endearing: On the drive from Laura’s St. Augustine, Florida, studio back to their homes in Gainesville, the AM! guys debated whether or not they needed to hit the gym “so that if anyone messed with [her], they’d be able to throw down.”
But, when Against Me! sat down with MTV News for their first interview since the Rolling Stone piece shone a spotlight on their band, they revealed that there was another reason the story skimped on particulars about Laura’s big revelation: Namely, to them, it wasn’t really all that big of a revelation to begin with.
“We went to the studio just to hang out, we weren’t even practicing, we were just having a meeting, and talking, and she just told us,” longtime bassist Andrew Seward said. “It was kind of simple in a way … [and then] on the drive back, because it’s 80 miles from the studio back to Gainesville, I was just going through past lyrics and stuff going ‘God, how did I not think of that?’ ”
“I didn’t want to be melodramatic about it when approaching friends … for me, it is a non-issue. It’s something that’s always been there for me, I’ve just never verbalized it before,” Laura added. “I didn’t really plan on it, I forget what exactly we were talking about, but I got to this point where I felt really frustrated that I wasn’t making the point I wanted to make, and I realized I wasn’t making it because I wasn’t fully explaining myself, and the part I was leaving out was this big integral piece of myself. So it just came out of my mouth, you know, and we were just sitting there and it was like, ‘So this is the way it is.’ ”
Still, Laura admitted she had no idea how her bandmates would take the news, or even if they’d still be her bandmates after she told them. All she knew was that, both personally and professionally, she was tired of keeping secrets … she wanted everyone to know she was transgender, repercussions be damned.
“I reached a point for myself where writing, I couldn’t focus on anything else but writing from a trans perspective or writing about trans issues, and as the album we’re working on came together, it became more and more apparent to me that, at some point, I was going to have to say something to the rest of the band,” she said. “Otherwise, if you’re taking the lyrics to these songs out of context [they’re] going to be misinterpreted … so we kind of reached that point where once we started getting in to doing vocals and you’re hearing the lyrics I was like, ‘OK, this is the deal. … There are going to be things that are going to be happening for me that, if I don’t tell you this right now will probably look more like I’m insane as opposed to this is what I’m doing.’ ”
And yet, no one did. And, after being assured by her bandmates that Against Me! wasn’t going anywhere — “It was just kind of like, ‘Let’s still do the band; let’s still do everything we normally do.’ That’s pretty much the extent of it,” drummer Jay Weinberg said — they’re hard at work on their new album; a conceptual record they’re calling Transgender Dysphoria Blues. It represents Laura’s most personal work to date, an exploration of her battles with shame and depression, and the freedom of her new life. And, with her band backing her, she can’t wait to bring the music to the masses.
“For me, the fear was, if I don’t do this and I don’t come out with this now, that the band can’t go on. It was just feeling like this is what I need in order to continue to be doing this,” she said. “Feeling like you’re stereotyped into this role of an angry young male, especially in the punk rock scene, was just suffocating to me … And feeling like so many of the things I was trying to express in my lyrics were being lost on people because it wasn’t being framed in the right context, I didn’t even want to do it anymore. … But now, I do.”