Read and Resist: Tranny by Laura Jane Grace

Welcome to Read and Resist, a blog series where I review books that amplify marginalized voices and address social justice issues. This includes fiction and non-fiction books (especially #OwnVoices), so if you have any suggestions, please let me know!

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If you find the title “Tranny” a little shocking, you aren’t alone. Like any good LGBTQIA+ ally, I balked when the cover popped up on my Goodreads feed. Tranny? Really? I mean, come on. It’s 2018.

Eventually, I succumbed to my curiosity and clicked on the title. After reading the description, I realized that Laura Jane Grace is, in fact, trans. Well. That certainly changed things. My self-righteousness was knocked down a few pegs, and I purchased the audiobook a few weeks later.

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Laura Jane Grace (previously known as Tom Gabel) is the lead singer of the punk band Against Me!. I had heard about Against Me! as a teenager–back when I had wistfully lusted after Warped Tour tickets–but I didn’t know much about their music, let alone that the lead singer was trans. Although she came out publicly in 2012 during a Rolling Stone interview, her book was released in 2016.

In true punk rock fashion, Laura Jane Grace holds nothing back in her memoir. In the first chapter, she recalls watching MTV and wearing her mother’s stockings in order to look and feel like Madonna. Of course, this was all hidden from her parents; even as a four-year-old, she knew her fantasy had to be kept secret. As a teen, she turned to drugs and alcohol to keep the gender dysphoria at bay. When she discovered anarchy and punk rock, she was inspired to start Against Me!.

At this point of Laura’s story, many chapters are taken from her journals. She recounts her first tours with Against Me!, her first marriage, and her struggle with addiction. Even as a punk musician on the road, she took every opportunity to express her femininity and research gender confirmation surgery. Laura’s second marriage and the birth of her daughter drove her to stop completely. It worked for a little while–but Laura soon realized that she couldn’t continue living as a man.

While Tranny focuses on Laura’s entire journey, rather than her current life as a trans woman, it is an incredibly important story that we all need to hear. She is brutally honest about everything–not just the struggles that come with being trans–and there were several passages that made me uncomfortable. I mean, how could I not be? Laura was a punk rock anarchist who has been arrested. She yelled at her pharmacist the first time she picked up her hormones (in Laura’s defense, the pharmacist was being an asshole). She had her first drink and first high before I had even thought about consuming alcohol. She prayed to God to turn her into a woman, and when that didn’t work, she prayed to Satan. Much of her story is heartbreaking, and that heartbreak only confirms what I’ve believed for a while now: trans and gender non-conforming people need safe spaces to express their identities. 

Listening to Tranny made my commutes much less rage-inducing, and I felt like I had a friend with me during those long morning drives.  My only complaint is that much of the book revolves around the music business–which I didn’t necessarily dislike, but it isn’t what kept me interested in Laura’s story. I gave Tranny four out of five stars, and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for diverse books.

I also recommend listening to “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” and “True Trans Soul Rebel”. Both songs can be found on the album Transgender Dysphoria Blues by Against Me!, and both are total bangers.

If punk isn’t exactly your thing (hi, Dad!), I’ve included the lyrics at the end of this post (content warning: both songs contain strong language, as well references to self-harm and gender dysphoria.). I also loved watching Laura’s web series, True Trans. As a cisgender woman, I will never completely understand Laura’s experience–but her work has opened my heart and mind in so many ways. I can only hope we continue to follow the light she shines in the darkness.

“Transgender Dysphoria Blues”

Your tells are so obvious,
Shoulders too broad for a girl.
It keeps you reminded,
Helps you remember where you come from.
You want them to notice,The ragged ends of your summer dress.
You want them to see you
Like they see every other girl.
They just see a faggot.
They’ll hold their breath not to catch the sick.

Rough surf on the coast,
I wish I could’ve spent the whole day alone
Rough surf on the coast,
I wish I could’ve spent the whole day alone
Rough surf on the coast,
I wish I could’ve spent the whole day alone
With you.
With you.

You’ve got no cunt in your strut.
You’ve got no hips to shake.
And you know it’s obvious,
But we can’t choose how we’re made.

You want them to notice,
The ragged ends of your summer dress.
You want them to see you
Like they see every other girl.
They just see a faggot.
They’ll hold their breath not to catch the sick.

Rough surf on the coast
I wish I could’ve spent the whole day alone
Rough surf on the coast
I wish I could’ve spent the whole day alone
Rough surf on the coast
I wish I could’ve spent the whole day alone
With you.
With you.

You want them to notice,
The ragged ends of your summer dress.
You want them to see you
Like they see every other girl.
They just see a faggot.
They’ll hold their breath not to catch the sick.

Rough surf on the coast
I wish I could’ve spent the whole day alone
Rough surf on the coast
I wish I could’ve spent the whole day alone
Rough surf on the coast
I wish I could’ve spent the whole day alone
With you.
With you.

With you.

“True Trans Soul Rebel”

All dressed up and nowhere to go
Walking the streets all alone
Another night to wish you could forget
Making yourself up as you go along

Who’s gonna take you home tonight?
Who’s gonna take you home?
Who’s gonna take you home tonight?
Who’s gonna take you home?
Does god bless your transsexual heart?
True Trans Soul Rebel

Yet to be born, you’re already dead
You sleep with a gun beside you in bed
You follow it through to the obvious end
Slit your veins wide open
You bleed it out

Who’s gonna take you home tonight?
Who’s gonna take you home?
Who’s gonna take you home tonight?
Who’s gonna take you home?
Does god bless your transsexual heart?
True Trans Soul Rebel

You should’ve been a mother
You should’ve been a wife
You should’ve been gone from here years ago
You should be living a different life

Who’s gonna take you home tonight?
Who’s gonna take you home?
Who’s gonna take you home tonight?
Who’s gonna take you home?
Who’s gonna take you home tonight?
Who’s gonna take you home?
Does god bless your transsexual heart?
True Trans Soul Rebel
True Trans Soul Rebel!

 

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