Well, this was unexpected. Tom Gabel, singer for Florida punk band Against Me!, told Rolling Stone that he will soon begin the process of becoming a woman via hormones and electrolysis treatments. Gabel will heretofore be known as Laura Jane Grace and will remain married to wife Heather who, he said, has been "super-amazing and understanding."
"I'm going to have embarrassing moments," Gabel told Rolling Stone. "And that won't be fun. But that's part of what talking to you is about – is hoping people will understand, and hoping they'll be fairly kind." The singer said he has been struggling with gender dysphoria for years.
Gabel may have hinted at his plan as far back as 2007. On "The Ocean," the last track from the band's fourth album New Wave, he sang, "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."
The inevitable Internet commenter s**tstorm has already begun (Skim the Rolling Stone comments for a start.) But after the initial shock and surprise wears off, I'd like to think this won't adversely affect the band. Given Against Me!'s ardent fanbase, hopefully those feeling disenfranchised or marginalized—for whatever reason—will be galvanized by Gabel's decision.
Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon was the first musician to publicly support Gabel, writing on the band's site, "So Tom’s gonna be Laura now… and in 2012 I still find people on the internet commenting on another persons life how they insult and condemn a person for his choices.
"How about the people who go through this and never find peace and end up committing suicide? Would you rather that? Or maybe he could become a raging drug addict and ruin his life and family? Would you rather that? Or maybe we could have rules from a dictator where everyone gets killed for anything they believe against the government, oh wait that doesn’t work…
"How about you leave the guy alone. How about you let another human being make a decision about their lives without your snide prejudices and bigotry?"
The history of transgender musicians in rock is brief. In the late 1970s, NYC punk pioneer Wayne County became rock's first transsexual singer and began performing as Jayne County. In 2003, Genesis P-Orridge, founder of pioneering industrial rock group Throbbing Gristle, received breast implants to more closely resemble his wife Lady Jaye. After Jaye's death in in 2007, P-Orridge continued going under the knife to look as close as his late wife as possible.
Gabel will be able to gauge his fan's reactions quickly, as the band begin their U.S. tour on May 25 in San Diego.
Tom Gabel, "Transgender Dysphoria Blues"