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‘You want me to surrender my identity?’ Laura Jane Grace, transition and selling out

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For the first decade of their existence, members of the Florida anarcho-punk band Against Me! were consistently accused of selling out, whether because of stylistic choices they made, the record label they chose or the venues they played. Recriminations came both from former fans, who at times attempted to disrupt shows and even threatened violence, and journalists – mainstream as well as niche – who published accusations against the band and at times advocated action against them. By 2012, when Grace came out as transgender, she had been deeply affected by years of relentless personal assault. This article considers how the categorically punk notion of ‘selling out’ informed the gender transition of Against Me!’s frontwoman, Laura Jane Grace. As we discuss, Grace’s understanding of anarcho-punk ideology, dating back to her earliest expressions of it, included gender liberation. What is more, her fears about selling out were entangled with her choice to stay in the closet for so many years, as can be seen through her song lyrics, her journals and her later discussions in her memoir. This article examines how, for Grace, failing to own her gender identity was, as she has since claimed, what it really meant to ‘sell out’. Owning her identity and helping to create safer spaces for transgender individuals in the punk scene, Grace re-aligned herself with her core, anarcho-punk ideals, which demanded open and unfaltering personal integrity.
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Keywords: Against Me!; Laura Jane Grace; anarcho-punk; gender identity; memoir; transgender studies

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Assumption College 2: North Carolina Central University

Publication date: June 1, 2019

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  • Punk & Post-Punk is a journal for academics, artists, journalists and the wider cultural industries. Placing punk and its progeny at the heart of inter-disciplinary investigation, it is the first forum of its kind to explore this rich and influential topic in both historical and critical theoretical terms.
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