Against Me!'s Tom Gabel Comes Out as Transgender; Internet Explodes with Support and Shock
Most listeners at that time took it as a statement of solidarity with women from a vocalist who made a career out of being vocally politically left and feminist. But on Tuesday, news broke that Tom Gabel very literally wants to be a woman... and is about to start undergoing treatment to physically become one. The news broke via Rolling Stone, to whom the one-time anarchist opened up to this month about the gender dysphoria she has privately dealt with for years.
The news came as an enormous shock to Against Me! fans everywhere, and websites announcing the news were flooded with extreme responses. Punknews.org reported the news objectively, (see editor's note below) but a few comments showed alarming ignorance and bigotry: "All of you tranny life changing faggots will burn in hell and ill pour the gas n light the match!" one reader (we use the term loosely) wrote. Another said: "Holy Shit! What a fucking weirdo! ...Go ahead and call me a "bigot" but there's nothing normal about this. Fucking stupid. End of Against Me! and the beginning of Against She!" Even worse: "Transexuals are STUPID. And they're fucked up in the head. You CANNOT change your sex. It is IMPOSSIBLE."
As one would expect from a band with a political and punk rock foundation though, there was a great deal of support for Laura, with many readers stepping up to defend her. Out of many supportive comments on the Punknews site, one went: "This makes me realize I know sweet fuck all about being transgendered. I hope I'm not the only one inspired by this to educate themselves, and I hope Laura documents her transition so I, and people like me, walk away with a better understanding."
Truthfully, what Laura Jane Grace has just done is incredibly courageous and will hopefully serve as an historic benchmark so that other transgender musicians can live as they choose, without fear of reprisal. Just as Rob Halford forced metalheads to become more accepting of homosexuality, Gabel's transformation into Grace is going to put transgender issues front and center in the music world for at least a little while, which can only serve to humanize trans issues for the huge number of people who remain ignorant of the trans community.
Grace is in an almost entirely unique position. The only other example of a rock star making this kind of transition in recent memory is Keith Caputo from Life of Agony, who posted photos of herself on Facebook last July, dressed as a woman, as she began transformation into Mina Caputo. Mina too has had to suffer the indignity of ignorant abuse prompted by the transition, but is doing a grand job of rising above it all.
And of course, Twitter did its job and blew up as soon as Rolling Stone made the announcement of Gabel's decision. Refreshingly though, there was an overwhelming show of support for Laura. Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda Tweeted: "I don't think I've ever done anything that demonstrated the bravery of Tom Gabel." Stuart Richardson, bassist with Brit rockers Lostprophets wrote: "tom gabel, keith caputo. bravo #lifeistooshorttohide".
Other supportive Tweeters included Tegan & Sara, as well as members of Fun., Broadway Calls, Senses Fail, and Circa Survive. The Gaslight Anthem went one step further and took the trouble to write an entire blog post on the subject, ending with the sentiment "Go live, Tom." Even MTV was vocally supportive, with News guy James Montgomery announcing: "This is the most punk rock thing imaginable -- being true to oneself, speaking out, no matter what the repercussions may be."
As the dust settles and fans across the globe wonder how this will change Against Me!'s sound and future, Laura Jane Grace should rest assured that, while there will always be bigots and haters lurking online, the vast majority of the music community is overwhelmingly supportive right now -- and rightfully so. We wish Laura, her supportive wife, Heather, and their two-year-old daughter nothing but the best for the future. What Laura is doing is beyond brave -- we should all be in awe of that and show our support.
*Clarification: An earlier version of this post mischaracterized the conversation on Punknews.org as being especially critical in its reaction to the news. The vast majority of comments on the site's story are supportive of Gabel's decision, and this post has been updated to reflect that. Punknews itself has an open comment policy and therefore has no affiliation with the bigoted responses.
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