Heaven forbid a songwriter write about something major happening in her life.
Next week, punk band Against Me! will release a new album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, and on Monday morning, the record became available for pre-release streaming via NPR.
The record’s title, and some of the lyrical content, reference lead singer Laura Jane Grace coming out as a transgender woman in 2012 and her subsequent transition. It also apparently lead a bunch of bigoted bros in the comment sections of punk sites to avoid the album because “it seems like that’s all they sing about now.”
Let’s get a few things straight here. As far as “all they sing about,” well, that’s not completely true. It’s one of many topics they cover. The two-song EP that they released last year, which, as far as I know, is the only new music they’ve put out since Laura came out, is about her gender identity. And those two songs do appear (in different form) on the full-length album. As do eight other tracks, some of which are about gender and transition, and some that aren’t.
But honestly, if the entire thing were about her gender identity from start to finish, that wouldn’t be bad at all. In my opinion, songs that are written from a place of rawness, honesty, and vulnerability are often among the best. This record supports that, too — it’s a really great album all the way through.
I’ve also seen the argument that this isn’t a “relatable” topic. Frankly, I don’t care. No, as a cis woman, I do not know what it feels like to struggle with your gender identity, come out, and begin to transition. I cannot relate to this subject. But I also cannot relate to songs about a lot of topics. There are a lot of punk songs about drug addiction, living in slums, and watching your friends die. I have no personal experience with any of those, but I can still enjoy the songs and the bands that make them. I don’t even want to think about what boring white suburbanite bands I’d be stuck with if I could only listen to people with whom I identify. And why shouldn’t punk kids who may be struggling with their own identities have an album that speaks to them? The cis, straight, white, male view is definitely not the only one that matters.
None of the excuses of these dudes really holds water. So I guess that just leaves us with transphobia. They are claiming they “can’t relate” or it’s “all they sing about” because really they think Laura’s transition is icky or weird so they don’t want to hear about it, but they don’t want to come right out and say so.
I guess the moral of the story is that bros need to get over themselves. If you used to love a band and suddenly don’t because the vocalist is transgender and dares to sing about it, that’s a serious problem with whatever is going on inside your head. It also means you’re missing out on music you’d probably enjoy.
But hey, if it means one less transphobic bigot that I have to rub shoulders with at a punk show, then by all means, isolate yourselves.