Singer Tom Gabel of the band Against Me! reveals in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine that he is transgendered and plans to begin living as a woman. Not only is a revelation like this difficult on a personal level, I’m sure, but to do so on a public level in a major magazine is not only difficult but incredibly brave as well. Gabel’s Rolling Stone feature will hit newsstands tomorrow but you can preview his story below.
Against Me! singer Tom Gabel reveals plans to begin living as a woman in the new issue of Rolling Stone. Gabel, who has dealt privately with gender dysphoria for years, will soon begin the process of transition, by taking hormones and undergoing electrolysis treatments. Gabel will eventually take the name Laura Jane Grace, and will remain married to her wife Heather. “For me, the most terrifying thing about this was how she would accept the news,” says Gabel. “But she’s been super-amazing and understanding.” Gabel only told a handful of family and friends about her plan to transition before talking to Rolling Stone. Because this is the first time a major rock star has come out as transgender, the singer made a point of speaking openly about it. “I’m going to have embarrassing moments,” says Gabel, “and that won’t be fun. But that’s part of what talking to you is about – is hoping people will understand, and hoping they’ll be fairly kind.” The full story of Gabel’s transformation is in the latest issue, on newsstands this Friday (May 11th). In it, the singer tells Josh Eells about her history of gender dysphoria, the specifics of the transition process and what becoming Laura Jane Grace will mean for the future of Against Me! The full story will appear in the latest issue of Rolling Stone, on newsstands this Friday (May 11th.) We spoke to contributing editor Josh Eells about reporting the piece:
What was your first reaction to the news about Tommy?
It would have been surprising news with most bands, but especially with Tommy. I think the reason that a lot of people have been so surprised – at least from what I’ve seen over the last day – is that a lot of people saw the band as “masculine,” for lack of a better word. Their music is so aggressive and his voice was so deep and raw and all these these things we associate with maleness. It seemed like a very male band. It’s the kind of band where most of their fans are angry teenage boys, so it became especially surprising to me in that context. That obviously doesn’t have anything to with with how Tommy feels inside, but it’s sort of ironic within the context of this band.
Was she open to sharing so much personal stuff with you right off the bat?
At that point she had decided, “If I’m going to be comfortable with this story, I want to be comfortable telling all of it.” She was very open and honest and generous throughout the whole process. There wasn’t single question she wouldn’t answer. It’s a huge thing to tell a stranger – especially when you haven’t told your mother or father. But she didn’t seem nervous or like she was trying to hold anything back. She made it incredibly easy.
Do you know why she wanted to reveal this in such a hugely public way?
I’m not sure why she wanted to do it in exactly this way, but I think she wanted to not have a thousand conversations with people. This was a way to push herself a little. She said that so many times she’d make a goal to tell her wife Heather or the band, and she’d make excuses and put it off. This was setting up a deadline for herself. She knew this would come out at the beginning of May. Also, she just wanted to have something she could point people towards. Instead of having people e-mail and call over and over, she could just say, “This article explains everything and after that we can talk.” It was a good way to get the news out all at once.
Is she worried about the affect this will have on her career? How about on her singing voice?
She’s hopeful that the percentage of fans that won’t be cool with this will be small. She said, “I know our fans and it may be too much for some of them to take, but I know that a lot of them are open-minded and welcoming. I hope they’ll come on this journey with me.” The reaction I’ve seen has been almost all positive. As far as her voice, she’s not worried right now. So far the only kind of medical thing she’s having done is hormones. She says the estrogen doesn’t affect your voice. If she goes ahead with some of the cosmetic things – like tracheal shaving, which whittles down your Adam’s apple – there’s a possibility that might affect her voice. But she’s really hesitant to do that because of that. As of right now, she should sound the same, as loud and aggro and awesome as ever, just as a woman.
As I said, coming out like this is such an incredibly personal thing that I cannot imagine what it must be like to first, tell family and friends … and then tell the whole world. I can understand Gabel’s concern about how Against Me! fans might react but I applaud her for having the strength and fortitude to come out so publicly. I imagine the road ahead will be full of difficulties but it is my sincere hope that Gabel’s family and friends will remain true, loving and supportive along the way.