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Laura Jane Grace (born Thomas James Gabel, November 8, 1980) is an American musician best known as the founder, lead singer, songwriter and guitarist of the punk rock band Against Me!. In addition to Against Me!, Grace fronts the band Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers, a solo project she started in 2016. Grace is notable for being one of the first highly visible punk rock musicians to come out as transgender, after she publicly came out in May 2012.
Against Me! at the 2007 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
In December 2005, Against Me! signed to Sire Records, a subsidiary of the Warner Music Group. With increased mainstream exposure, Grace swore off cross-dressing and other expressions of femininity: “You go through periods of binging and purging. I was 25, we were about to go on a long period of touring, and I was like, ‘That’s it. I’m getting rid of all this. I’m male, and that’s it.'”
Against Me!’s first major-label album, 2007’s New Wave, brought the band mainstream success: It debuted at no. 57 on the Billboard 200; featured their first charting single, “Thrash Unreal”, which reached no. 11 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart; and was named as Spin’s album of the year. The song “The Ocean” directly referenced Grace’s gender dysphoria, with the lyrics “If I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman / My mother once told me she would have named me Laura / I would grow up to be strong and beautiful like her / One day I’d find an honest man to make my husband”. Though Grace anticipated “completely outing myself” with the song, no one involved with the band seemed to pick up on the lyrics’ literal meaning. She also wanted to cross-dress in the music video for “Thrash Unreal”, but the label’s A&R representative vetoed the idea.
In August 2007 Grace was arrested in Tallahassee, Florida, on charges of battery, following a confrontation with a coffee shop patron after Grace tore down an article about Against Me! that had been hung up and defaced to mock the band. Grace allegedly knocked a cup out of the man’s hand, then forced his head into the wooden counter. She admitted to intentionally knocking over the cup but denied hitting the man, and was released on bail the following morning. “We were playing at this place The Beta Bar,” she said, “and this coffee shop next door was having a protest show against ours. I mean… go protest the fucking war!”
Grace’s solo EP, Heart Burns, was released in October 2008. Timed to coincide with that year’s United States presidential election, the EP’s songs addressed the country’s political and economic climate, criticizing presidential candidate John McCain and the trial of environmental activist Eric McDavid. “I wanted to do something that was the complete opposite of New Wave in the sense of approach”, she said. “I didn’t want to really think about it. I didn’t want to obsess about anything. I just wanted to go in and play songs. I wanted to record because it’ll be fun, and that’s what this is supposed to be about.” Grace supported the EP by performing on The Revival Tour with Chuck Ragan of Hot Water Music, Tim Barry of Avail, and Ben Nichols of Lucero.
Against Me!’s fifth studio album, White Crosses, was released in 2010 and became their most successful, reaching no. 34 on the Billboard 200. By that September, however, Grace began taking week-long writing trips alone, checking into hotels dressed as a woman and writing a concept album titled Transgender Dysphoria Blues, about a transsexual prostitute. The record was positively received.
Against Me! cancelled a series of tour dates in October and November 2010 due to “a culmination of circumstances engulfing us”, and left Sire/Warner.
In 2011, Grace purchased an abandoned post office in Elkton, Florida, converting it into a recording studio called Total Treble and launched an accompanying record label for future Against Me! releases, Total Treble Music. The first album recorded at the studio was Cheap Girls’ Giant Orange (2012), which also marked Grace’s first experience as a record producer. Total Treble Studio closed in 2013 after being destroyed in a storm.
In spring 2012, Grace performed on the Revival Tour with Chuck Ragan and Cory Branan.
In July 2018, it was announced that Grace would release an album in the fall of 2018 under the name Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers on Chicago-based Bloodshot Records. The record, Bought to Rot, was made with bassist Marc Jacob Hudson and drummer Atom Willard (Against Me!, Angels & Airwaves, The Offspring). The release will include a tour with a three night weekly residency in Chicago.