In tribute to Laura Jane Grace
Back then, circa 2008, it's Tom Gabel singing to an acoustic set with their band. The song, called The Ocean, twists and turns melodically, the voice is straining passionately. The song is fucking good already,
If I could have chosen where God would hide his heaven
I'd wish for it to be the salt and swell of the ocean . . .
I'm caught up in that urgent bass line but a second verse begins. With the benefit of hindsight, we're watching one of the most courageous sets of lyrics imaginable: a trans person in the closet, telling everyone what they really are, underneath,
And if I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman
My mother once told me she would have named me Laura
I'd grow up to be strong and beautiful like her
One day, I'd find an honest man to make my husband
My mind goes to now. The singer formerly known as Tom Gabel is called Laura Jane Grace. I have her autobiography, a page-turner titled by the insult Tranny. I'm aware she represents an unusually cool set of values: her suspicion of police, after being beaten up by them in adolescence; her anti-military feelings, on view during a concert while in the background the US military have set up a recruiting stall that Laura condemns in front of everyone.
Her transition, relatable in spite of the drug-fuelled rock 'n roll lifestyle, also has its own dynamics, not least how her international profile makes the closet a commercial necessity, until it becomes unbearable. Privately, Laura JG also has to contend with marriage and an infant daughter when she comes out. One compelling incident in her book is how her daughter tells her that she doesn't want her to be a girl anymore; Laura hides her tears and watches her daughter fall asleep. The marriage, meanwhile, disintegrates, and her own father becomes coldly distant; they don't speak to each other again. It's no surprise to me that it's Laura's mother who's far more accepting and loving. Yay to mums, everywhere.
I'm not a fan of punk, but there's something to be said for the anger and the DIY initiative where you give voice to your feelings, irrespective of how it offends or whether you're qualified to do it. Here I am with my DIY website and my DIY identity, realizing punk as an ethos is perfect if you're transgender. Thank you, in fact, Laura Jane Grace for your punk-enthused gospel: channel that anger, accept your fear; in the words of punk's first anthem, slightly twisted by me: hope I transition before I get old.