There are very few taboos left in Punk Rock. We’ve had cross dressing bands (New York Dolls). We’ve had abstinence promoting bands (Minor Threat). We’ve had homoerotic bands (Gay For Johnny Depp). And, we’ve even had neo-nazi punk bands. If there’s a minority led social convention, you can bet your life that they’ve got a Punk band representing them. The only social group seemingly unaffiliated to Punk Rock was transgenderism. ‘Was’ being the keyword.
Last week, Tommy Gabel of Against Me announced plans to undergo transgender realignment treatment, to become – physiologically – a woman. Gabel will undertake electrolysis treatment to lengthen hair and increase breast size, but is reticent at this time to undergoing surgery, such as vaginoplastery. As Gabel states: “I don’t give a fuck if I lose my penis. It’s just fucking scary because of the surgery. I’ve needed to have my wisdom teeth removed for five years, and I still haven’t.” Gabel, who will take the name ‘Laura Jane’, will undergo psychotherapy and live as a woman for a year, before contemplating reassignment surgery.“Right now, I’m in this awkward transition period. I look like a dude, and feel like a dude, and it sucks. Be eventually I’ll flip, and I’ll present as female.”
The question remains over what changes will resonate through Against Me’s future output. Gabel instantly poured cold water on the idea that a band fronted by Laura Jane would be in any way more timid than before. “However fierce our band was in the past, imagine me, six-foot-two, in heels, fucking screaming into someone’s face.” But the larger talking point would concern the direction the band will now take. Gabel – now, arguably, at peace with herself – may assumingly look to draw inspiration from a happier place. 2007’s New Wave saw a side of Gabel conveying impatience, rejection of the self and foresight of things to come. Up The Cuts (“Are you restless like me?”), American’s Abroad (“I hope I’m not like them, but I’m not so sure”), Gypsy Panther (“Coming home feels like surrender”), and most apt and slightly less subtle than the others: The Ocean (“If I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman”). The whole album expressed a lack of contentment - a condition that, with this new revelation, Gabel would be free from.
It’s unquestionable that Against Me will now take a new direction, but the matter remains over whether it will be a jovial one, embracing Gabel’s new found freedom, or a reminiscent one, with her reflecting on past events. Either way, it will have fans clamoring over each other to listen to.
Words & Thoughts of Nick Bryans.