Grace played her first show as a woman last week to exuberant fan support. When she first confided her true gender identity to Rolling Stone, she wasn't sure what the public reaction would be like. Understandably so; when she was known as Tom Gabel, she always seemed to wear the hypermasculine visage associated with punk rock. Decked out in tattoos with bristly short hair, she's been belting out her trademark growls since 1997. Grace's rough edges haven't gone away with her transition, though. She still shows off her many tattoos and she still favors wearing the color black. She's just putting on a little more eyeliner now.
While she's felt female for as long as she can remember, Grace was finally inspired to come out after meeting a young transgender fan. She told the band about her true gender identity back in February and finally came out to her wife, Heather. Since then, she's experienced nothing but an outpouring of support. She'll remain married to Heather, who has been traveling with the band on tour along with their daughter Evelyn. Over the next few years, she plans to begin the journey to match her image with her gender identity. She's currently on week three of hormone replacement therapy and she is considering surgery to alter her appearance to be more feminine.
Grace plans to address her transition in the band's next album, entitled Transgender Dysphoria Blues. As no mainstream music has yet followed an explicitly transgender narrative, this record will be enormously important for trans and questioning music fans.
It seems that in this day and age, the biggest concern for transgender artists isn't that coming out will sully their image or enrage their fans. It's that once they're out, they face the responsibility of being a role model for the trans youth that follow them. But Grace seems more than equipped to handle the pressure. She's been nothing but forthcoming in the interviews that followed her announcement, revealing the long process of confusion and questioning that ultimately led to her revelation. For young trans kids (especially those involved in the punk rock scene), such a strong, honest role model is indispensable. I'm glad we've now got Laura Jane to fill that former void.