Laura Jane Grace, 33
Against Me! front woman Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender in a May 2012 interview with Rolling Stone. The interview shed light on the singer’s identity and instantly became one of the more humanizing recent representations of trans people and the unique circumstances they struggle with, all while breaking down widely held misconceptions about what it means to be transgender.
“I'm not going to be this ultrafeminine girl with pink nails and a pretty pink dress,” Grace told Rolling Stone. “I'm going to be fucking fierce."
True to her word, Grace frequently takes the stage in all black, with her wild, wavy hair hanging down over her face and an attitude that screams, I can kick your ass and drink you under the table. The band’s live show is an aggressive, adrenaline-pumping exercise in not giving a fuck. An “ultrafeminine girl with pink nails and a pretty pink dress” Grace is not.
In January the band released Transgender Dysphoria Blues, an album of overt, gender-centric themes, featuring songs with titles like “True Trans Soul Rebel,” “FUCKMYLIFE666,” “Drinking With the Jocks,” and “Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ.” The album, released on the band’s own Total Treble record label, debuted at number 23 on the Billboard 200, marking the band's most successful launch (2010's White Crosses debuted and peaked at number 34).
Grace has long had a reputation for producing powerful, meaningful lyrics, but it wasn't until the release of Transgender Dysphoria Blues that she was able to address issues of gender identity so candidly. The album's lyrics are filled with the sort of angst fans have come to expect from Grace, only this time focusing on some of the struggles unique to those whose true gender clashes with their birth-assigned sex.
"Spread out face down on those stained, cheap hotel sheets / she spent the last years of her life running from the boy she used to be / cut her face wide open, shaved the bone down, then pumped her lips up exaggerated, a fucked-up kind of feminine," Grace sings on the heart-wrenching "Paralytic States." Later in the song, she sings, "Standing naked in front of that hotel bathroom mirror, in her dysphoria's reflection, she still saw her mother's son," and laments that the song's subject is "never quite the woman that she wanted to be."
These issues — self and social perception, a feeling of futility while struggling to finally find comfort with one's self — are relatable on a level above and beyond gender identity, though in this case, they're clearly in referencing it. This level of accessibility makes Transgender Dysphoria Blues arguably one of the most essential works of music to take on the topic of gender identity.
In April, AOL announced that Grace would be getting her own show, titled So Much More With Laura Jane Grace. The show, announced during AOL's NewFronts presentation, is a documentary series, following the singer on tour, and will feature discussions between Grace and other trans and gender-variant individuals.
Because of her powerful lyrics and unapologetic attitude, many credit Grace with saving their lives, for giving them the courage to embrace who they are, and to not feel the need to follow any single narrative of what it means to be trans. In interviews immediately following her coming-out, Grace talked about the lack of well-known trans people and how that affected her as a child. Thanks to Grace and others like her kids have an ever-growing list of trans figures they can look to for inspiration.