“The best place to start would be at the beginning,” said Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! as she walked out on stage right here at The University of Washington this past Saturday night (the 22nd).
Where and when is the beginning of any of our personal journeys? Is it when we start understanding our own identities? Is it the moment that we first realize we are doing what we love? For Laura Jane Grace, the beginning was when she dropped out of high school and began writing songs. Sure, she may have been writing since she was a lot younger; but at age eighteen, Against Me! was started by Grace. Stemming off of many long years full of anger and angst, her music was based on DIY, anarcho-punk, and protest music movements.
I may not be a long time fan of her music, but listening to Laura play guitar and sing her moving lyrics on Saturday has turned me into a fan of hers for eternity. Starting out the show with one of the first songs she ever wrote, “Walking Is Still Honest,” I got a really deep sense of the type of music that Grace writes.
This song has beautiful lyrics, and lets listeners in on how it feels to realize truths in this world. At this point in her life, Laura was experiencing an extreme sense of gender dyspohoria—which motivated her to continue writing songs that were tremendously telling of her emotions, which would later inspire others who felt the same as her.
One of these songs, with completely awesome lyrics, is “Tonight We’re Gonna Give it 35%.” She even paused in the middle of this song to fill the audience in, saying “and this is the dysphoria part.” Along with getting laughs from the audience with her naturally hilarious demeanor, she seemed instantly relatable.
Another song she sang for us, “Pretty Girls,” really allowed listeners to develop insight into Laura’s thoughts and feelings at the time she wrote this. One line stands out, “Sometimes at night, I pray to wake a different person in a different place.” Whether or not we’ve experienced gender dysphoria, we’ve all experienced feeling uncomfortable in our skin—again making Laura a relatable role model to all of us.
As the night continued, I felt myself become absorbed in each song and story that Laura shared. The next songs on her set list were “Dead Friend,” written for Laura’s heartbreak over a friend passing away; “Two Coffins,” originally written for her daughter; “FuckMyLife666,” which is about coming out publicly in Rolling Stone and dealing with a breakup with her second wife; “Paralytic States,” where she shares that at this point in her life she was “never quite the woman that she wanted to be;” and then lastly she sang a cover of a song that she felt very connected to, “Androgynous,” originally by Paul Westerberg.
The latest songs that she’s written deal with the frustration of feeling pressure to change oneself to fit the mold of what society wants—whether that be a gender role or a major record label’s idea of what’s perfect to them. But the greatest part about this fantastic evening with Laura Jane Grace is that she made it clear that there isn’t simply one mold to fit into.
She left the audience with words of wisdom: she says with a laugh that she’s “a high school dropout, transgender, ex junky with a felony record” in the most reassuring way possible. I say “reassuring” because after years of battling all the challenges she’s had to, she’s coming into herself and on top of this, is inspiring and giving hope to people all around the world dealing with similar struggles to the one’s she’s endured.
At the end of the show, there was a question and answer session where fans were able to ask her just about anything. I decided to take the backseat and listen to insight she had to share. She had so many beautiful answers to these questions, but one really stuck out to me. When asked about Laura’s daughter’s knowledge of her being transgender, she said that her daughter is pretty good about understanding; however, what I loved about this was that Laura said she’s been trying to teach her daughter to “be true to yourself and to [not be] ashamed” of who you are. I just loved this—because what’s a better way to teach something than to practice what you preach?
That is exactly what Laura Jane Grace is doing with her life—as a parent, as a musician, as a transgender woman, and as an inspiration and a muse to all of us.