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In Tranny, A Punk Rock Legend Reconciles With Her Past

Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace ’fesses up in her new memoirs.

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In 2012, Laura Jane Grace told a reporter something that she had been keeping secret her whole life. Two intensely anxious months later, the punk musician and lead singer of Against Me! came out to her fans and to the rest of the world as transgender in an article in Rolling Stone. By then, she had already talked about being transgender with her then-wife, Heather, and members of the band. Heather had greeted the news with immediate understanding and support, and her Against Me! bandmates responded with what Laura calls “the most comically awkward group hug, a horrible mess of pats on the back and overly extended stiff arms.” Her public coming-out culminated this past spring in burning her birth certificate onstage at a show in Durham, North Carolina, to protest the state’s exclusionary transgender bathroom laws.


In her new memoir, Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout, which was released yesterday, Laura Jane Grace tells us the story of how a wily, anarchist kid from Florida became an activist, a parent, and one of the godmothers of punk. The book, which is co-written with Noisey’s Dan Ozzi, is full of cringingly funny moments, like the band’s awkward group hug, but it is also full of sweet, nostalgic musical moments, like the time Laura played the Replacements’ “Androgynous” onstage with Joan Jett, after which the two women got stoned and talked about gender. Underneath the humor and the musical camaraderie, there’s an enduring undercurrent of shame and the failures of a health system that is unfit to serve transgender people—even when they’re white and even when they have money.

I spoke to Laura on the phone a few days after this year’s presidential election, which coincidentally fell on her 36th birthday. (“Worst fucking birthday ever,” she said right off the bat.) We talked about what it was like to fit her story between the covers of a book and about what the election will mean for her and other transgender people.

About four years ago, you came out to the world and to your fans in a profile in Rolling Stone. What is it like to wait for the book to come out? Is there a similar sense of anxiety?

I go from one extreme of feeling like, ‘Oh my god, what did I just do? I just ruined my life,’ to ‘Oh it won’t be that bad,’ to anywhere in the middle. But a lot of that has to do with feeling that I’m not trying to be boastful with it or prideful with it. A lot of this book is dealing with intense feelings of shame or reconciling with things about myself that I’m not proud of, or mistakes I feel like I’ve made in the past. So it’s weird to approach that in a celebratory or promotional way, you know? It’s an odd sensation.

What was it like to work with Dan Ozzi, and did you know from the start that you wanted to use journal entries from throughout your adulthood?

I really started working on it as I came out. I think a lot of that probably had to do with the thought of taking on transition or like trying to move forward. Maybe the best thing to do would be to reconcile with the past. And also here’s a great thing that I can do that’s a really isolated activity that I don’t have to deal with other people for.

I worked again on my own for about a year, and then during the last year is when I started working with Dan. (In 2015) I started writing a column for Noisey. Dan was my editor there. It was a really good working relationship. So I was just like, at this point, being that I’ve been working on this for three years, and I’ve completely lost sight of what’s what. Because that was my problem. It wasn’t like I was sitting there like, ‘What do I write? What do I write?’ It was like, ‘I have way too much writing, and I don’t know how to cut this down from 2 million words to 80,000 words.’ So bringing in someone else to help shape it and get a book out of all that volume was really helpful. Once I started working with Dan, it really started to come together quicker, and I couldn’t have gotten more lucky with that situation.

We get to read a lot in the book about fights that you got into, both as a kid and as an adult, on tour with Against Me!. Does this still happen, or is that kind of a phase of your life that’s over?

Knock on wood. Luckily, it’s a phase that’s pretty over. I don’t want any trouble like that anymore. It’s just not worth it.

There’s that moment when you write about a patronizing pharmacist trying to mansplain hormones to you, and it ends with you yelling, ‘Give me the fucking hormones now, you fucking asshole!’ I kind of found myself rooting for a fight a little bit.

Yeah, I think if I had been a little younger, I wouldn’t have had the self-control that I had. And if anything, transition really prepares you in those ways and you really have to work on your sense of self-control, because it’s not like every other time I’ve gone to the pharmacy after that people are really polite or easy to deal with or there’s never a hassle associated with just getting your fucking hormones. There’s always that kind of, ‘Wait, what, I’m giving you this?’ Yes, just give me what the fucking prescription says. That’s it. Just give it to me. You’re not the doctor. You’re just the go-between.

You talk a lot in the book about feeling a sense of responsibility to the fans and not letting them down. Do you feel a similar sense of responsibility to the transgender community now that you’re out? And what has it been like balancing those two factions of people?

You know, that was something initially for sure that I felt extreme responsibility for, and especially with coming out and being embraced. A year later, (I was) having a nervous breakdown and then feeling confined in the new box that I was in, but having signed a book deal, (I was) like, ‘Oh god, I just had a nervous breakdown, and I don’t know who I am, and I don’t fucking have any self-confidence anymore. Now there are all these expectations on me to be this out-and-proud trans person who has it all figured out and give all the answers in interviews or whatever.’

That was a complicated pressure where I didn’t know what to do, especially going into really public situations. Going in front of cameras and knowing that whatever interview you were going to give would kind of last forever. But at the same time, being forced to survive and being forced to be like, ‘You know what? This is me. Take it or leave it. I’m not going to apologize for anything. I’m not going to try to change myself in some way to appease you—whether that’s my voice or the clothes I’m wearing or whatever.’ I think that really a lot of that kind of taught me bigger lessons when it comes to transition—it was really an important part of that—that transition should be really a lot more about changing on the inside. And while there are physical changes that are sometimes desired by some trans people, that’s not clothes, and that’s not how other people perceive you. It’s got to be about the way you perceive yourself and working on yourself.

I think with memoirs, there’s kind of this assumption that there’s a beginning, middle, and end, and there’s a happy ending or some kind of a story of growth that’s neatly tied up at the end.

Which is another reason again why I had to have somebody else help me. Because I didn’t know how to end it. There was no logical ‘Well, then the band broke up,’ or, ‘Then I died.’ I had signed the book deal, and I just kept on writing. I needed somebody to tell me, ‘Stop writing now. It’s ok, we can just end this. Life can go on.’

Are there immediate ways in which you think the election results will change your life as a transgender person?

Not really immediate. I think that it really kind of just exposes more of what I already knew or what I already assumed—that the majority of white men are not fucking accepting or tolerant people and probably do not recognize my gender. It’s really a pretty bigoted world. When it comes to trans rights, that’s been an issue that’s being fought for and fought around throughout the Obama administration and before that. For the most part, you still have trans people who are facing health care crises and who are denied access to jobs or health care or whatever. That happens. That’s a reality. That exists now under Obama, and that will continue to exist under Trump, I imagine.

That’s not to say there haven’t been progress made and strides. Seeing the attorney general say that they recognize trans people—those are moments that I never thought I would see happen. So I don’t imagine that we’ll see that kind of progress under Trump or at least from the administration, but I really think that the progress that has been made within the trans movement should be attributed to trans people working and organizing, and that needs to continue to happen. If you want to look at any kind of silver lining, hopefully, people will be more agitated and organize harder and fight harder because there’s a lot more at stake under a Trump administration.

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On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Communities
Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

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Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

Lifestyle
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The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

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