Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rocks Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout.
Having listened to Against Me! For probably the last ten years and feeling some sort of affinity with some of the sentiment, the politics and the message of a need for open minds and acceptance present in the music, I was interested to read the biography of LJG. I wanted to find out about her life as Tom Gabel before she became Laura, and the identity she affiliated with when she wrote a lot of the music I listen to and how she’s got to where she is now. I was also interested in reading her diary entries about the days that she started to realise what she believed her true identity to be.
I think maybe I was naive about who this person might be, blinded by my respect for the music and what appeared to me to be an inclusive, often anarchist, message in the lyrics.
I should probably accept that I used to be an angry teenager and music choices often reflected this. I am kinder now, I place value on being considerate and admire the tenderness in those around me. I’m still angry for the injustice we all see everyday, everywhere but I’m grateful and I try to be kind if not for other people for myself so that I feel that I’m living with integrity. (It’s not selfless but it just comes from seeing the worst way to exist with other people) and yet I’m often not kind enough.
I probably didn’t actually know very much about this person either. I read the Rolling Stone article and the little cover piece from Guardian Guide. I loved the idea of Laura and her family trying their best to adjust and succeed in their new situation. I liked the honesty I expected if it didn’t work out but that at least she was on a path she felt might be the right thing for her and she could show her daughter that she has been true to her soul. ☁️
Once I got settled into the book I was enjoying it but I found myself continuously disappointed by their use and abuse of drugs, and the “I can’t handle this” attitude. I found myself searching for some sort of acknowledgement that this wasn’t a good choice. That these were mistakes. But there was nothing like that. I also found myself thinking that I don’t know what it must be like to be stuck in a body that doesn’t feel right – That you have unanswered questions about your own existence and maybe the departure that drugs provide is the respite or immediate salve to the discomfort.
I ended up really bored of the drugs about halfway through. The story of TG/LJG’s life was boring to me because of this repetitive damaging behaviour with very little analysis or explanation deeper than the surface idea of the immediate way out they saw in it. If it doesn’t go deeper than that then fine but it seemed to be counterintuitive to some of the anarchist and “awakened” ideals I think they’d see themselves affiliated with.
Around a lot of my peers i think I have a relatively open mind and I try to see situations from others point of view and understand the genesis and route of their actions. I also have experience of the way drug abuse is cyclical. In some way this helped me to be less judgemental about the drugs.
However, I do have one premise that I think is important and I try to use it in my work to treat people fairly.
> If you’re doing something bad and it hurts only you then that’s fine but if your actions and behaviour affect innocent and uninvolved people or people who have no option to tap out of your life, you need to stop it and should potentially be dealt with for it and you should apologise to those you’ve harmed.
One element that I couldn’t quite make peace with was the way they treated so many people who had done nothing to warrant such negative and abusive interaction.
At one stage somebody was providing a service to LJG – I think it was a pharmacist- who had no knowledge of anything other than the surface situation of providing somebody with some medication and explaining the side effects to them and LJG shouted and swore and basically verbally abused this person for a moment because of all the anger inside of them.
It felt like a lot of the explanation was just conjuring excuses for the behaviour rather than any sort of apology or remorse. I know they felt like a victim of so many parts of life – Dad leaving, school, Florida, police, the punks turning their backs due to this weird idea of a ‘sell out’ (which is just a search for success in line with the bands personal principles which has very little to do with anybody else. I was disappointed in those punks that attacked TG/LJG rather than just feeling let down but letting everyone get on with their lives.) Maybe this victimisation feeling is related to the inability they felt to be the person they believed they truly were but the way TG/ LJG behaves to me just smacks of a moody child or a teenager at times. On the flip side to this I did have to keep reminding myself of how young they were when all of these things were happening in their life.
I felt quite pleased for her to have told people about her true feelings and to have started on the road to transition. I know the title insinuates the ownership of usually derogatory terms like Tranny and Sellout which is a great attitude to be able to have to things that others can’t accept about you. But the behaviour towards others and the way out in the form of drugs is something that doesn’t sit right for me.
I’ve used initials for Laura Jane Grace from before and after her transition because she talks about her life without cutting out the person she used to be. She was Tom Gabel for a large part of the book and her story and this is the person who is the protagonist during that time.
I think this biography somehow doesn’t tap into the root of this persons life – she is still angry and unapologetic in good ways and in bad. I am probably a hypocrite for at times respecting her impenitence and at others dismissing it as denial.
I like to think her music and lyrics speak thousands more words than what she’s chosen to write about in this book. But the reality might just be that the way I interpreted her music is more appealing to me than the truth is according to her.
“Because of the shame, I associate with vulnerability, I’m numbing myself completely”
Against me! Because of the shame.
I enjoyed reading Tranny but I didn’t particularly like the character I was reading about. I enjoy biographies though I rarely read them so might try to tap into that a bit more this year.