Friday, 8 September 2017

Future Classics: Transgender Dysphoria Blues by Against Me!

Before I get started with this future classic column I must add a disclaimer. The album which I am nominating is not my favourite by the band it is by. A couple of years ago I did a top ten songs by the band and not a single song made it onto my list. I do however believe that in twenty or so years we will look back on this album and say "yeah, that album's a classic." I'm not sure why I'm being so cryptic about what the album is. You must have read the title of this column before clicking on it. For those who did somehow miss that, I'm talking about Transgender Dysphoria Blues by Against Me!.

I imagine that if you're reading this you know all about Against Me!'s storied history but I perhaps somewhat naively like to believe that on occasion non-punk people read these posts and might not know the band's back story. Against Me! were originally formed in 1997 in Gainesville Florida by Tom Gabel. They gained a massive and passionate following due to their raw punk rock sound, incredible live performances and their strong DIY ethics. They released their first three albums independently, firstly with No Idea Records and then Fat Wreck Chords. These albums were very well received and increased their reputation in the music world a lot. So much so that the major record labels came knocking. For many of their hardcore fans the band did the unthinkable, left their DIY roots and signed a two album deal with Sire Records. These two albums did extremely well commercially for the band but they got a lot of heat from old school fans accusing the band of being sell outs.

Then in 2012 everything changed.

Tom Gabel came out as a transgender person having dealt with gender dysphoria since childhood. From that point on Gabel would be living life as a woman and her name would now be Laura Jane Grace. On the 21st of January (my birthday) 2014 the first album by a Laura Jane Grace fronted Against Me! was released and was named Transgender Dysphoria Blues.

That history went on a bit longer than I had planned. Here's the reason I think Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a future classic despite it not being my favourite Against Me! album. First of all it's a painfully truthful and personal album. Without a doubt this is the most honest album lyrically that Against Me! have ever released. Laura was finally being true to herself and this came across in her songwriting. The big theme of the album is, of course, gender dysphoria after the coming out of Grace.

The punk rock scene, being as incredible as it is, again took the band back into their hearts and accepted them like they did in the early days. The album, in a way, mended old relationships between the band and the original fans. Gone were the accusations of selling out. So now Against Me! had all their old fans back, new fans they'd gained thanks to the major label releases and now more and more queer and transgender people were jumping on board with the band too. Finally feeling like they had a voice and someone so incredibly brave to relate and look up to. You can now go to an Against Me! show and see people from all walks of life coming together harmoniously and people's differences in lifestyles not mattering. Because it doesn't!

Laura Jane Grace's coming out and then the release of Transgender Dysphoria Blues to me is a real turning point for the acceptance of transgender people in mainstream society. Bringing the issue of gender dysphoria to the masses gave a lot of people strength to also come out and let the world see the people they really are. I think that is a quite incredible thing for a person and an album to achieve.

This column was written by Colin Clark.