Laura Jane Grace to promote autobiography tackling punk and gender dysphoria at Circus

Wednesday, November 16, 2016 - 6:28pm

At the beginning of her memoir, Laura Jane Grace writes, “It was put to me bluntly that ‘little boys don’t play with Barbie dolls like little girls do,’ and that was that.” This moment was one of many that marked Grace’s earliest memories of battling gender dysphoria as a child, a battle that would continue throughout most of her life until 2012, when Grace came out as transgender. Her coming out reconciled her inner desire for femininity, internalized for years through sex, drugs and her own music — and was all detailed in her writings as any work of great rock ‘n’ roll literature should.

Grace started her journey of dealing with gender dysphoria at a young age, and tackled it by starting one of the most widely celebrated punk bands in recent memory, Against Me! In her latest work, Grace has taken her first dive into the world of literature with a memoir that explicitly captures her war with gender dysphoria, placed beside journal excerpts specifying the struggles and rewards of life as a touring musician. Her journey is called “Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout.”

“Privately I’ve always had aspirations to be a writer. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Grace said in an interview with The Michigan Daily. “I’ve always been a songwriter and a lyricist, but I’ve always been a fan of literature and an avid reader.”

In her book, Grace recognizes the importance of self-forgiveness and cleaning the skeletons out of her closet. This is another reason the book is so incredibly human — it’s a beautiful tribute to her past difficulties.

“It got to the point about four years ago where I kind of just realized that the physical and the metaphysical weight of everything was too much,” she said. “You know, like, the sheer amount of boxes of journals that were in my closet, I felt like we ought to do something with them, and that there had to be a book in it.”

So Grace, along with her friend, editor and co-writer Dan Ozzi, condensed a million and a half words of her journal entries into an eighty-thousand word story, detailing her rise from starting a small band in Gainesville, Fla. to becoming an icon not only in punk rock, but also in the LGBTQ community. For years, Grace has been fighting for her community through her punk ethos, and it only becomes more inspiring as it resounds throughout “Tranny.”

“Punk rock does mean something to me you know, and like I’m thankful for the influence it’s had on my life and I still think with a punk mentality,” she said.

In the memoir, we see Grace embody punk rock, using it as her armor, shield and weapon in her outward battle with society and inward battle with dysphoria. It’s an ideology she’s employed since she was thirteen, and one that has taken even greater precedence in the increasingly hostile social environment of modern America.

With recent political and social upheavals, Grace’s story of transition is more relevant than ever. Grace realizes this, and realizes 2017 will be daunting, delivering words of fierce encouragement — “the punk in me is saying, ‘fight back.’”

It’s a universal notion: hold on tight to whatever is important to you and use it to stand tall and fight back. It’s a crucial mentality to have in a world where not all identities are respected equally.

“The system is full of shit, and that’s why resistance movements need to be there, and that’s why protest music needs to be there and that’s why politically minded music needs to be there,” she said.

Grace is just as ready to destroy barriers with her art today as she was as a an anarchist teenager, and it’s a notion perfectly encapsulated by her journey in “Tranny.” The memoir is a testament to creating a better tomorrow by fighting both inner demons and those around you.

This coming Monday at 7 p.m., Grace will be in Ann Arbor at Circus Bar in support of the new book, and a ticket to the event includes a copy of the powerful memoir. Attendees will see Grace recount not only the rise of the iconic Against Me!, but also a story of self-discovery and finding inner clarity.