JAM: Tom Gabel’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues

by Mark Jacobo

If there’s one band I’ve listened to that’s helped me get through some tough times, it’s Against Me! I heard of them in high school, when my friend lent me a copy of Searching for a Former Clarity, and I instantly fell in love with everything about the band. Most importantly, I began to admire frontman Tom Gabel’s loud, harsh voice and thought-provoking lyrics. The album was about a decaying society filled with distrust and fear, with a small ray of hope at the end of the tunnel, and ended with the titular “Searching for a Former Clarity”, a ballad that tells the story of a man dying from either cancer, or AIDS.

Recently, Gabel has been featured in media outlets and in music magazines, particularly Rolling Stone, after coming out as a transgender. When I first heard about this, I was in complete shock. I couldn’t believe the photo of Gabel, featured in Rolling Stone, sitting cross legged in nothing but a towel, looking quite feminine. Apparently, the Gainesville, Florida rocker has suffered from gender dysphoria since childhood; he has never felt comfortable in a man’s body, and had always wanted to be a woman. Gabel even told Rolling Stone he prayed to God repeatedly to wake up a woman, and when nothing happened he began to pray to Satan.

After the shock of it all had subsided, I thought about several of Gabel’s lyrics that might have been clues to his gender dysphoria, of which he kept a secret until recently.

In the song “Searching for a Former Clarity”, he sings

Confessing childhood secrets

Of dressing up in women’s clothes

Compulsions you never knew

The reasons to.

In “The Ocean”, there is a more blatant lyric:

If I could have chosen

I would have been born a woman

My mother once told me

She would have named me Laura

When I first heard this lyric I admired Gabel’s open mind, and found it to be beautiful. Now, with Gabel coming out as a transgender, it makes much more sense and represents an even stronger force than it did before. Even the band’s name is about conflict against the self.

I fully support Gabel’s choice, and am actually excited to see what will become of Against Me!; Gabel will be undergoing electrolysis and will live as a woman for one year before deciding on having a sex change operation. Gabel states the hormones will not affect his voice.

“…imagine me,” Gabel told Rolling Stone, “six foot two, in heels, fucking screaming in someone’s face”.

Against Me!’s next album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, is currently being recorded and is a concept album about a transgender prostitute.

His bandmates, as well as his mother, and his wife Heather, all support his transition.

Tom Gabel will be going under the name Laura Jane Grace, being that “Laura” is what his mother would have named him had he been born a woman.

Courtesy of Rolling Stone magazine