When Laura Jane Grace came out as trans*, she shook up the punk rock scene. Now, her AOL series “True Trans with Laura Jane Grace” is shaking up reality TV.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on 10k Couples.
At 30 years-old, Tom Gabel had it all—a wife, a daughter, a successful punk band that had just been signed to a major label—but he still wasn’t happy. In fact, he was so overcome with feelings of shame and guilt, he turned to alcohol and drugs to ease his pain.
“I was numb. I couldn’t write; I couldn’t function,” Gabel said.
Those feelings of shame and guilt were due to a secret Gabel had been keeping since he was just a child. Gabel, now Laura Jane Grace, is transgender and has memories of gender dysphoria from as young as five years-old.
“The first time I had that moment, when I knew, was seeing Madonna on a televised concert,” she said. “And I thought: ‘Why not me?’”
After years of struggling with dysphoria and substance abuse, in 2012, Grace came to a decision about how she wanted to live her life. Grace and her wife, Heather, were raising their first daughter—and the singer had to face some challenging questions.
“Just thinking about the role model that you’re going to be for your child, and what’s the most important lesson you can teach them? Wanting to be honest was an example that I wanted to set,” Grace said in an interview with the Guardian.
So Grace made the brave decision to come out as transgender—first, to her wife of six years, Heather Hannoura, who was supportive. Then, to her band, Against Me!, who were stunned, but “completely cool.” And finally, in an interview with Rolling Stone, Grace came out to the world.
As a rising star in the punk world, famous for its angry, male-driven energy, Grace understandably had concerns.
“There’s the very real worry of: ‘What if someone attacks me? What if I’m on stage and someone tries to do something to publicly humiliate me?’” she said. “There’s that total fear, because I’ve been hit in the face with bottles in the past.”
But when Against Me! performed their first show since Grace’s announcement, a day after the Rolling Stone issue came out, Grace’s concerns were put to rest.
“It was the first time I had ever worn a skirt in public—and I would be doing so in front of a couple of thousand people,” she said of the experience. “Our set that night wasn’t our best, but it didn’t matter. I was breaking new ground.”
Not only have audiences been overwhelmingly supportive, but since coming out, Grace has had the opportunity to meet several trans* fans who have been inspired by her journey.
“I met trans men and women from all walks of life, all at various points in their journeys,” she said in an exclusive piece for Cosmopolitan. “Many said I was an inspiration to them, but they are an inspiration to me.”
Now, some of those stories—including Grace’s—are going to be shared with the world. Last month, AOL announced a new web series, “True Trans With Laura Jane Grace,” that will recount Grace’s story and follow her as she continues in her transition.
The series, which debuted yesterday on AOL, captures some of the most poignant moments in Grace’s journey—from coming out, to transitioning, to meeting other trans* people—and will explore the experiences of several other trans* people from across the country.
The show is also another way for Grace to inspire people who may be struggling with their own identities.
“Growing up, I never had a role model to show me that you can be trans and live a happy life,” she told Cosmo last year. “I hope that I can be that source of hope for someone out there who’s struggling.”
With “True Trans,” she’s definitely doing that. But the show is also a way for her to continue to explore her own identity.
“The opportunity I had while shooting this show was nothing short of tremendous,” Grace said in a press release. “Getting the chance to listen to other people tell their stories of how life shaped their identities and views on gender couldn’t help but further inform my own understanding of just how complicated and also how simple all of it really is.”
Because though the journey of gender transition can be difficult, as Grace’s own history of dysphoria and abuse shows, it all boils down to the universal pursuit of happiness.
“You can classify someone as trans, genderqueer, whatever you want,” Grace says in the show’s trailer. “But when it comes down to it, they’re just people.”
Check out “True Trans with Laura Jane Grace” on AOL. And let us know what you think!