On her first release since coming out as transgender, Laura Jane Grace shares some deeply personal feelings about identity via two acoustic numbers that serve as primers for Against Me!’s upcoming album.
Released Jul. 16th on Total Treble Records
True Trans is the first Against Me! release since bandleader Tom Gabel came out as transgender in May 2012 and changed her name to Laura Jane Grace, going through hormone therapy and other steps to transition to life as a trans woman. This experience obviously had a huge effect on her music, being the subject of Against Me!’s upcoming sixth studio album Transgender Dysphoria Blues for which this EP serves as a primer. As if that wasn’t enough of a seismic upheaval, the band has also experienced significant lineup changes in the 3½ years since their last album, White Crosses, with only Grace and guitarist James Bowman remaining from the pre-transition lineup. With all this going on the album has experienced multiple delays and re-recordings, so True Trans is simplified, just Grace with a guitar giving us an acoustic taste of two of the album’s songs.
Obviously both of these numbers are extremely personal, dealing with Grace’s struggle to come to terms with her transgender identity and express it to the world. The cover art itself is a commentary on the popular perception of trans persons, appropriating the image of Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs to show that this record is challenging the portrayal of the “scary tranny”. “FuckMyLife666” brings up deep feelings about the confusion and difficulty of the transition process. “Silicone chest and collagen lips / Would you even recognize me?” asks Grace, venting frustration while simultaneously looking ahead to a hopeful future: “No more troubled sleep / There’s a brave new world that’s raging inside of me”.
“True Trans Soul Rebel” is the catchier number, with some nice hooks, distant “ooh-ooh”s, and Grace asking “Does God bless your transsexual heart? … 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”. A high point is when she nails a high note on the final chorus; her voice hasn’t changed significantly as a result of the transition (something she’d worried about when researching the process), but it’s softer here for the acoustic setting, leaving out the grit and snarl she usually displays when rocking electric.
True Trans does the job of whetting fans’ appetites for the upcoming album, and shows that these songs have not only deep lyrical honesty but also strong songwriting that should make for some killer full-band electric versions on the finished record, slated to come out in January.