Against Me! singer Tom Gabel plans to become a woman
Most of the time, the news that comes out of the music industry is for more or less, predictable or at the very least, not too out of the ordinary. However, sometimes there is a story that makes you really think about it, enough to where you no longer think about the musician, band or label that's in the story. Last night was one of those cases when I got an email stating that the lead singer of Against Me!, Tom Gabel (who plans to now go by the name of Laura Jane Grace), had come out as transgender.
There's a chance that there might not be a backlash against Gable's decision but honestly, there shouldn't be even a discussion of negative connotations. That is the life we live in though, currently. Living with a few folks who know about the band, it was a predictable reaction by most accounts. Shock, confusion and wonder around, there was (and still is) so many questions that had to be asked.
"Are you kidding me, why are you reading The Onion?"
"That's not funny. New Wave is a great album, he's more of a man than I am."
To me however, it didn't shock me, not because of anything that Gabel had done previously, only because it doesn't strike me as something that should be debated and controversial.
You see, I know a little bit about being judged as I am bisexual. It doesn't make me an expert on how Gabel is feeling or will feel, or the authority to say there's anything right or wrong. I simply know how it feels, to be part of something that's not along the normal bounds of society, to have a social taboo, with no way to ever reverse that. There's certainly been progress when it comes to acceptance of others in the world but for the most part, it's still a subject that always makes someone uncomfortable. At times, it is simply not an issue, but for the most part, it eventually does become one. You're turned into something less than and not the same or equal.
I have a few transgendered friends and really, there's no significant comparison to the amount of mental strength it takes to know exactly who you are and what you are going to do about it. They're the exact same as all of my friends are, it's just another trait that seems to bring out the strongest of the strong in people.
About a year ago, I had been asked out by a transgendered friend and the first thing that came to mind, was yes. It was a short relationship broken up by each of us moving but I'll never forget how they were so shocked that I'd want anything to do with them and some of the comments we would occasionally get. It didn't have anything to do with what they were, it's who they are.
It's not a personal decision to feel the feelings that you do, not them, not me, not you. You feel what you feel, for the most part. Being transgender, straight, bisexual, gay, it's something you were born as. When we are born, it's automatically decided who we are, leading along the dominos of life, of what is and what certainly, you absolutely cannot be.
As music fans (I'd hope you are if you're reading this!), we know that most things are really never cut and dry. There's a million bands and seemingly, several more genres to fit them into, mixing and creating along the way. When music becomes simple and the same old stuff, an artist usually creates something that's not seen as what came before it, in the eyes of the general public. Sometimes though, a band/artist will change their direction completely and they'll create something that's unexpected and great.
Change is constant and as David Bowie once sort of said, it's time to turn around and face what you thought was strange. Who knows what will happen with Against Me! from here, maybe there won't be another album or maybe the band will go in another direction. Perhaps the band will go along as smoothly as they have for years, having released 5 LP's in the past, each of considerable quality.
No matter what happens with the band though, there is a human being at the center of this story, who decided that they were who they were and no one could change that. That, no matter the music that comes out ahead, is commendable and brave in this musical climate. The story of Gable is not a story of oddity or media fueled controversy, it is as real as news can ever get in this profession.
As someone who has had hate thrown his way, death threats and several other events pushed at him because of their sexuality or simply being different, I'll be rooting for her and the band, all the way.