Laura Jane Grace interview: Punk’s transgender pioneer on her struggle for acceptance by Fiona Struges 23 August 2015

It’s not her furious sound or punk attitude that has brought Laura Jane Grace face-to-face with hostility. It’s simply that she is a woman. As she prepares to rock out at the Reading Festival, the singer tells Fiona Sturges about the struggles of transitioning from life as a man – and the courage given to her by a new set of fans

In May 2012, Tom Gabel, the singer of the US punk band Against Me!, gave an interview to Rolling Stone magazine in which it was revealed that he was a transgender woman who was beginning a process of transition, and who, from then on, would be known as Laura Jane Grace.

It was with astonishing candour that Grace told of the pain of a life lived in disguise, and of the love and support she had received from her wife Heather, her young daughter Evelyn, and her fellow band members since coming out. The next night she performed a concert in San Diego in full make-up, to the overwhelming approval of fans. After a lifetime of misery, Grace could finally be herself.

“There was a surge of momentum,” she recalls. “It’s almost like you’re pushing this rock up a hill, and you finally reach the top and then it just rolls down. At the time I was just willing to tell anybody; it felt great every time I voiced it.”

But when the tour finished and the media frenzy died down, Grace was left with the aftermath. There were the hormone treatments wreaking havoc with her system, at one stage leaving her with a parasitic infection in her intestines that caused flash fevers and short-term paralysis in her arms. There was the band, thrown into disarray after her bass player and drummer left in quick succession. (Grace says neither exit had to do with her coming out.) And there was Heather – alone with their daughter again as her husband, now wife, crisscrossed the globe, her head spinning with questions, among them one put to her by Rolling Stone: “So, now you’re a lesbian?”

“Yeah, they said that,” sighs Grace. “And that was, I’m sure, the reaction she got from a lot of people. So she’s put into this position where she’s questioning herself. And, you know, every relationship is complicated. I don’t want to attribute [our problems] specifically to me being trans, though I’m sure it did play a part. But I’m in a band and gone all the time, and I definitely withdrew. It caused our marriage to break down.”