Laura Jane Grace officially came out as trans on a Rolling Stone cover in 2012, but her story began long before that. For years, the lead singer of punk band Against Me! has been documenting her life through tour diaries, many of which chronicle events leading up to her transition. She’s currently on tour with her side project, the Devouring Mothers, for a series of shows that blend acoustic songs and live readings from her journals. We caught up with Grace in preview of her show at the Sinclair on Feb. 17.
I’ve been working on a book for the last three or four years. The basis of the book is tour journals that I’ve been keeping for the last 20 years. Last year, I kind of hit a wall sitting in front of a computer working on it, and I’m like “Fuck this, I’m going insane. I need to try and do this differently.” I had the idea of working some of it out in a live setting. It’s really a mixture of spoken word and musings using songs to tell the story too. We’ve been held up in the studio for the past couple of months working on a record, and I’ve still been working on the book, and this was a good chance to get out on the road and shake that up.
It’s a little bit different every time. That was part of it, that being able to read a journal in a live context, the immediate reaction from people really helped me with shaping the book with, like, “You know, maybe this scene was impactful to me, but it didn’t seem impactful when I read it to somebody else.” Or things that didn’t seem impactful for me did to other people. So, I kind of have it arranged where, depending on how things go, there’s the definitive hard start, but after that, depending on how things go with the crowd, I can veer off one way or veer off another way with whatever happens.
It’s really hard because it’s really an out-of-body experience. Like, you’re really super-nervous, and also, I’m reading my diary [laughs], so there’s this mental detachment thing that happens.
Right. I think too, in general, when people listen to music, oftentimes they’ll take their own interpretation of it, and that’s what resonates with them. And I’ve found that also happens with journal writing and just straight writing. The things that will resonate with other people are things that they identify with, which may not have been the original intention for the writing, or may not have been the singular focus in the writing. So, it’s crazy going back and reading things you wrote like 10 or 15 years ago and realizing the miles down the road it took to get where you are now. It’s something to kind of give context to a song. There’s this well-known song off our album Searching For a Former Clarity, and there’s this is the journal entry that coincides with when I wrote that song, and where I was at mentally, physically, everything.
That’s a real mixed bag, because on the one hand I think yes, there needs to be trans people in the media, the more visibility the better, because that helps to normalize it, to an extent. But then at the same time, there’s nothing really normal about Caitlyn Jenner. But then at the same time, what is normal? What does that mean? Honestly, too, I really try to stay out of it. Like I saw the Vanity Fair cover, but I didn’t read the article. I’ve never watched an episode of The Kardashians; I’ve never watched an episode of Caitlyn’s show. I’ve met Caitlyn, but I don’t want to know anything about her story, just because I get the gist, I support her as a trans person, and as a human being. I don’t know. I will say I wish she didn’t say stupid things like being against gay marriage. Like, what the fuck are you doing?