Tranny by Laura Jane Grace

trannyI wasn’t familiar with Against Me!’s music going into this memoir, but I truly enjoyed Laura Jane Grace’s memoir Tranny. The narrative was interspersed with journal entries, the writing style held my attention and interest, and I appreciated her openness about her experiences as well as her own shortcomings.

It was eye-opening to read about anarchism within punk, how some really tried their best to live out their philosophical beliefs, but others claimed the label for optics without actually subscribing to that philosophy at all. I had assumed that most of punk musicians and fans shared a deep belief in living out anarchist principles, so this surprised me. It was also interesting to read about punk’s fraught relationship with major record labels, the pressure from fans to remain indie (and wow, fans got downright hostile about this), as well as internal pressures and the desire to have a steady paycheck (any musician, regardless of genre, can relate to the steady paycheck part…sigh). As they were being courted by bigger labels, the band thought long and hard about how to balance their ideals with the realities of living within capitalism.

I’m baffled and a bit frustrated by cis readers who complained that Grace really only talks about being trans at the end. I didn’t feel this way at all, and I’m not sure cis reviewers should be criticizing the amount of trans content in a trans person’s memoir, nor commenting on whether or not it was covered “enough”. I think the content cis readers expect (or worse, want) trans memoirs to have isn’t there until the end, sure. But trans readers will recognize pieces of their own stories all the way through. It’s there.

Tranny is a brutally honest narrative about what it’s like to deal with long-term dysphoria and how it can play out in one’s choices and behavior. Grace shows us the impact of constantly feeling you have to hide who you are, feeling shame about who you are, and carrying the weight of pretending to be someone you’re not. Some might find her narrative off-putting and offensive, but I think that could be because it’s outside their comfort zone of what they think the trans experience “should” look like.

This music memoir is perfect for fellow Xennials/”Oregon Trail Generation” readers, especially trans and leftist readers, and of course, punk fans.

CW for abortion, alcoholism, drug addiction, suicidal ideation, and intense dysphoria.