Months ago, we prematurely included Transgender Dysphoria Blues by Against Me! as one of our 100 Albums That Changed Your Life zine. Ahead of its time, perhaps, but it simply felt as if it was going to be something incredible, dealing with issues so rarely touched on upfront in rock music.
The first album since Laura Jane Grace came out as a woman, admitting she’d been struggling with transgender dysphoria throughout her life – this is not a reinvention of the band. In fact, it musically feels like an album that brings together their years of work. Take a look at their back catalogue and you’ll find subtext about the issue that is now being tackled head on, in an honest, no holds barred approach.
The struggles are laid bare, with the opening title track even stating, You want them to see you like they see every other girl, they just see a faggot. From isolation, suicidal thoughts to breaking down the misogyny in bro culture through punky onslaught of Drinking With The Jocks, this is a journey that takes you down every dark road before seeing the light.
Take this song by song and you’re looking at, culturally, not only a brilliant record, but one of real importance. There are still moments that side-step Grace’s story, the political shade-thrower Osama Bin Laden As The Crucified Christ being an aggressive yet brilliant twist on the record. But it’s a balance, and one well struck.
Black Me Out is a farewell and a fuck you, Grace powerfully decrying, I don’t want to see the world that way anymore, I don’t want to feel that weak and insecure as if you were my fucking pimp, as if I was your fucking whore. It’s defiant, and it’s someone reclaiming themselves after a battle; that alone takes a hell of a lot of strength.
Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a thrilling album. It lays bare an honest struggle that so many face, yet few can necessarily find real catharsis over in music. Against Me! have brought out an album that keeps the band present, but really relays Grace’s struggle through musical brawls and melodic soars. Many people are honest in their music, but this is lyricism as frank as it comes, and it’s a truly incredible and inspiring album.