I am sure that all of you saw the truly courageous act that Tom Gabel did last week when he came out as transgender. I truly admire the courage that has been displayed, to come out in a Rolling Stone magazine interview is something that I am sure most people would not have to guts to do themselves. In the interview Laura Jane Grace (Tom Gabel, for the rest of this post I will be naming her by her new name that best reflects her true identity) says that she has struggled with transgender dysphoria most of her life and that she could no long lie to herself. She has tweeted that she is completely overwhelmed by all the love and support that she has received from family, friends, and the punk rock community; unfortunately the message boards have also been plagued by ignorant xenophobic comments, people have made it a point of calling Laura gay and ridiculing such an important and difficult choice like the one that she has decided to embark on. First of all, I think that it is important that we look at what trangender dysphoria is exactly, because a person is not necessarily gay if they are transgender; and secondly I think that it is important to send out our love and support to Laura as she embarks on what must be liberating and scary all at the same time.
What is transgender dysphoria? It is described as discontent with the biological sex and gender that is assigned to someone at birth. It is used by psychologists and physicians as the symptoms with transexualism, it is considered clinically distinct when it is noticed in children, as opposed as adolescence or adulthood, it is reported to intensify over time. Just like how gender identity develops in children, so do sex-role stereotypes (sex-role stereotypes are the beliefs, characteristics and behaviours of individual cultures that are deemed normal and appropriate for boys and girls to possess; if one wants more explanations about this I highly recommend the book Gender Trouble by Judith Butler, I find that this book should be read by everyone, it is truly enlightening and eye-opening ) which are influenced by family and friends, the mass-media, community and other socializing agents. Most cultures unfortunately still disapprove of cross-gender behaviour, it results in significant problems for affected persons and those in close relationships with them. In many cases, transgender individuals report discomfort which comes from the feeling that their bodies are “wrong” or meant to be different. One contemporary treatment consists primarily of physical modifications to bring the body into harmony with one’s perception of mental gender identity rather than vice versa. There is no official cause for Transgender Dysphoria, but many believe that it is caused by genetic (chromosomal) abnormalities, hormone imbalances during fetal and childhood development, defects in normal human bonding and child rearing, or a combination of these factors. There are many great resources on the internet that are available in case anyone would be interested in learning more about this, it is best that one educates oneself about what one does not understand.
Here are a couple of links to get you started:
GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) http://www.glaad.org/
Introduction to Queer Theory http://www.theory.org.uk/ctr-quee.htm
Alright, so, here goes… I must first of all say that I am truly humbled to witness someone taking part in such a courageous act, I have so much love for Laura and what she is doing these days and feel that education must also take center stage. At the same time that I have felt inspired by her courage, I have also been extremely disappointed by some of the punk rock communitie’s reaction. I know that there are close-minded xenophobic people in all spheres of our lives, but I have always believed that punk rock was that place, that safe place where we could all be ourselves and no one would judge us because we are being true to ourselves. I mean, I don’t know about your town, but in my hometown, the punk scene was made up of the outsiders that never felt like they fit in anywhere and it was these church basement shows which were a place where we could truly be ourselves without fear of being judged by our brothers and sisters; that is what the jocks and popular kids did all week at school. So, I am sad to see that even though there is a great outpouring of love and support for Laura, we are still met with hateful words and judgments on the message boards. To all the nay-sayers this is what I have to say to you:
Tom Gabel wrote music that made me feel alive, helped me through some hard and dark times, made me feel that I was not alone in this fucked up world full of oppression and hate; and you know what Laura, I am going to give that right back to you! For me this scene has always been about community and breaking all stereotypes and prejudices in society; so let’s keep smashing down those walls that divide us! And to the people that say that they will be boycotting future Against Me! shows because of Laura’s decision to live like what she feels to be right, stay the fuck home, we don’t want you around anyways! Would you want to live life denying to yourself how you truly feel? I know that I wouldn’t, and would hope to get the love and support of those around me. We all strive for liberation, from the shackles that keep us down in our everyday lives, once we start to become free (thanks punk rock, I owe you one!) we start to realize that there is so much more than borders, and that we are all just humans that want to be happy and free! Laura Jane Grace, may you live a life of ease and freedom!