Laura Jane Grace - Discovering Gender Identity in "Tranny"

February 9, 2017 - Laura Jane Grace 02/09/2017 Views: 43,361

"Tranny" author and Against Me! singer Laura Jane Grace talks about educating herself about gender identity and explains the impact her transition has had on her family. (8:18)

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Please welcome Laura Jane Grace!

-♪ -(cheering and applause)

-Welcome to the show.-Thank you. Thank you so much

-for having me. -Thanksfor coming out in the snow.

I'm surprised anybody is here.

This is fun. Thank youso much... thank you so much

for being here. I-I honestly donot have many incidents

where, like, everybodyin the building is clamoring

to meet the guest,and you're one of those people.

Everyone today was like, "C-CanI... Trevor, can I help you

with this interview, Trevor?Can I... can I..."

You-you have a lot of fans.

Uh, your musicis really popular.

Before we get into the book,let's just talk

about how hard it was for youto go from being an indie band

to signing with a big label.

You-you had fanswho came to your shows

and just stood quietly whileyou were singing the new songs

and just-just pulled the fingerat you? Is that...

-is that real? -Well, n... maybenot necessarily stood quietly.

But they-they werevery-very active

in voicing their disapprovalof-of our new songs or whatever.

Um, but that's kind of, like,oddly always been the case

of our band,where everyone's like,

"Oh, I hate the new record.I loved the last old record."

But it's always the same,of people saying that, you know,

where they always hate the newrecord, like the old record.

You should make two at a timeto confuse people.

Just, like, a new oneand then a double new one.

Like, is-is that a weird thingto do as a musician,

where you go into a spacewhere you have fans

who want to own you?They go, "We discovered you.

You are ours and you are niche."

And then when you blow up,some fans are like,

"I don't...I don't like you anymore."

How do you...how do you find that balance

between being, uh,still of the fans

and, at the same time,trying to pay your bills?

Well, I understand it.I mean, I'm a music fan myself,

and I've definitely had bandsthat, as they got bigger,

-I felt like my ownership ofthem was lost, you know? -Yeah.

And especially with the scenethat-that my band came from,

the DIY punk community,a-a scene that's, like,

staunchly anti-capitalist,as you start to make money

off of your art,you become suspect.

And I-I understand that.Um, it's just unfortunate

that sometimesit's hard to reason with people.

And when you're comingfrom a scene that teaches you

to think for yourselfand then you think for yourself,

you're like, "Hey, no,but I'm-I'm taking everything

I learned from youand I'm applying it now."

-Um... -That's funny.That's funny. It's a catch-22.

-Yeah. -Um, let's-let's talkabout the book.

Tranny-- a truly gripping tale.

This is... I mean,you read stories all the time,

autobiographies,but this is... this is powerful

because it is your story.

Living your life,journal entries,

and talkingabout your transition,

which is really a conversation

that a lot of peopleare having now.

Let's start with the title, Tranny.

Many people would say,why-why use that word?

Isn't that a slur?

Right. Well, it is a wordthat I always saw as a slur.

Um, but much of my bookis about self-loathing,

so I think it's-it's trueas a title, in that way.

And it's a complicated word,because, you know,

in the trans communityand, spec-specifically,

there's an older generationof trans people

who feel ownership of that word,have reclaimed it,

or feel like that they werethe originators of it

and have had no problemusing it.

And then there's a younger sceneof trans people

who've come in and want nothingto do with that word.

And I'm definitely of theyounger scene of trans people.

Um, but I feel likefor me to come in and then tell

an older trans person,like, "No, no,

you can't use that wordanymore,"

is not really my place.

So I feel like it's reallya-a word

that you as an individualhave to decide

-what your relationship iswith it. -Yeah.

And it was a word that I wasvery much, like, prepared,

like, how am I gonna reactwhen... the first time

someone calls me this, you know?

And then it turned outthat it was another trans person

who said the word to me,just in a conversational,

joking around manner, whichreally made me think, you know?

So I-I don't know.You know, as-as an artist,

as a writer,like, words that have power

-are always going to beinteresting to-to me, -Yeah.

and I want to explore that.

You definitely explored thatin the book.

And one of the things I wastouched by when reading it was

how candid you were with sharingthe confusion and the pain

that comeswith the decision to transition.

You have people in today'ssociety who ask the question--

which is horrible,

and yet you understand sometimeswhy some people ask--

they go, "Well, how do you knowthat you're trans?

How do you know that you don'tjust have mental problems?"

What do you say to somebodywho asks that question

and genuinely isn't tryingto be hurtful?

I understand it.

You know, I mean, like,

I probably didn't hear the word"transgender"

until I was, like, 19 or 20,

so I spent a good period of timein my life

wondering,okay, am I schizophrenic?

You know, like,do I have, like, twin souls

living inside of mewarring for control?

Um, so, like,you know, the idea

that you haveto come fully prepared

with an understandingof the word "transgender,"

what it means to be transgender,

even when you are transgenderis not realistic.

And I say it all the time that,you know, I think

-that really the problem isa lack of education. -Yeah.

You know, if you think backto school, like,

and what a joke sex ed was.It's never explained...

Like, there isno gender identity class.

Or, like, the differencebetween gender identity

and sexual identity is neverreally explained to you.

So if that was never explainedto your parents

or their parentsor their parents, like,

how can you expect most peopleto have an understanding

of genderand the way that works?

When you speak to somebody,

if you meet someonewho is uninformed,

as many of us are,especially when it comes

to conversations that are notcoming to the fore,

how do you deal with someonewho asks a question, like...

You know, if someone says"he," "she," "they," "Z,"

but if they get it wrong, like,

is there a wayto start a conversation?

Is there, you know,an understanding

that you almost have to developon behalf of other people

who may not be quickto grasp the concept?

Well, you know,I think that it's really easy

if you're ever confused withsomebody to just take them aside

and politely say like,"Hey, what are your pronouns?"

-That's not... you know, that'snot rude in any way. -Yeah.

Um, a writer friend of mine,Kate Bornstein, I feel like--

I was talkingabout this earlier--

has a really great attitudeof it,

of, like, how much egois involved with that.

So, if someone misgenders me,like, I don't react.

I would spend all my dayreacting

if I were to react to every time

someone said "he" or "sir"or something like that.

But when you really, like,start to examine it

and why those thingsand those constructs

are so important to people,

you realize it's more on them,and it's not on you.

Like, if you call me "he,"if you call me "sir,"

that doesn't challenge my graspon my gender.

But if I tell youthat I'm trans,

or that I'd like to be,you know,

referred to with femininepronouns, oftentimes you'll find

other peoples' reactions arelike, "What do you mean?" -Yeah.

You know, like,that it challenges

their idea of what gender is.

I was so, um, so touched bycoming to meet you backstage,

and you have, like, just...

You obviously, you know,you've got people you work with,

but you've gotyour family back there.

And one of the thingspeople don't seem to realize

in anyof these conversations is,

everyone speaks about the conversation,

about being transgender,

everyone talks throughand at transgender people,

but what is it likefor an actual family?

You have a daughter,for instance, a seven-year-old.

I met her backstage.She's got cute dimples, and...

-(laughter) -No. I'm partialto dimples. Sorry.

-(laughter)-And... and...

I was really touched by howyou talked about it in the book.

How do you navigate that world,and what were some of your fears

when transitioning with regardsto, you know, your family now,

thinking of how to protect themin a world that's hostile?

I mean, it's... Those areongoing, constant fears

that I am, like, you know,

figuring outhow to handle each day.

But when it comes down to, like,you know, my daughter and I,

it's not that big of a deal.

Like, for her,there is no conflict of saying,

-"Dad," but also saying"she" and "her." -Yeah.

It's just, you know, ourfamily's a little different.

I'm different, you know,and that's okay.

But for kids, I feel like

all they want to know isthat you love them,

that you're going to be there.

(cheers and applause)

I, uh...

I really enjoyed the book.

I thank you for allowing meinto your life,

and I hope many peoplewill join in on the journey.

It's a beautiful explorationof what a human being is,

so thank you very muchfor joining us.

Thank you very much.My pleasure.

I really appreciate it.

Laura's book, Tranny,

and Against Me!'s new album, Shape Shift With Me

are both available now.

-Laura Jane Grace, everybody.-(cheers and applause)