The punk band Against Me! released their new album Transgender Dysphoria Blues this week, and are already racking up some great reviews.
It's been four years since the band released their last album. This was, in part, to give lead vocalist Laura Jane Grace time and space to transition, a process she began in 2012. The album has been received positively, with Time magazine calling the album "impressive" and memorable because "it brandishes a genre saturated by empty, male-centered politics" with a fresh "be yourself" message. Rolling Stone called it "inspiring" and gave it 3.5 stars out of five, Charlotte Richardson Andrews of the Guardian gave it 4 out of 5 stars, Tyler Kane at Paste Magazine "really, really loved" it, and The Atlantic's Nolan Feeney sees Transgender Dyshporia Blues as an optimistic survival guide.
The significance of Transgender Dysphoria Blues couldn't be more pronounced. Jon Caramanica of the New York Times explains the "new questions" the album - and Grace's performance of it at a shwo in Williamsburg - raises about gender dynamics and music. Sasha Geffen at Consequence of Sound describes the title track as Grace's "chance to be specific... in a culture where being visibly trans in public is often read as justification for physical violence." The album certainly has the potential to begin a conversation about trans politics and people.
About the "folk hero" status she gained from the media attention surrounding her transition, Grace said in an interview with Radio.com:
"Part of coming out and being public with it is that I was really isolated where I was in St. Augustine (Florida). I didn't know a single other transsexual or transgender person. So having the opportunity to meet people, just through being open... If they're looking for support from me, I'm looking for an equal amount of support from them."