Five Transgender Musicians That Rock Your World

Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!
Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!
John Gilhooley

Gender frequently plays a role in creating an image with music. Whether a song is dripping with the feminine empowerment of a two-bit pop act like the Spice Girls or throbbing with the stuffed trousers of any of the cock rock metal bands satirized by Spinal Tap, femininity and masculinity are frequently used to delineate artists and give them traits with which their target audiences can relate. However, the attribution of gynocentric and androcentric themes is just as contrived as the use of exploitative sexual imagery in order to sell any product; music transcends gender association, and the rest is just marketing. In order to illustrate this point, the Weekly is proud to present the following list of five groundbreaking transgender musicians. Generally speaking, these are important modern artists who neither demonstrate a gender bias in their music nor do they hold to the gender roles that society assigned them at birth.

Richard O'Brien

We'll begin our showcase with a rather obvious choice. While Richard O'Brien is well known to the cult musical and theatrical world as the writer of the infamous stage show cum movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show, in which he played the character Riff Raff, he describes himself as being transgendered. Specifically, O'Brien has said in interviews that he has difficulty reconciling gender roles and considers himself 70% male and 30% female. One of the central themes of his grand opus, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, is the breakdown of traditional gender roles and the embracing of transcendent ecstasy.

Laura Jane Grace

Laura Jane Grace was born Thomas James Gabel. In her early 30's, Grace came out as a transgender woman and changed her name. Grace had dealt with gender dysphoria since childhood; she discovered and felt validated by the confrontational and nihilistic aspects of punk rock music in junior high school and eventually formed the punk band Against Me! While the band's popularity increased, Grace struggled with the record label's adversity to her cross-dressing desire. Eventually, she embraced her femininity, came out about it, and has been undergoing various treatments in order to complete her transformation. As far as the music, she continues to perform with Against Me!, has done a side project, and founded both a recording studio and record label called Total Treble Music. The latest album by Against Me! is called Transgender Dysphoria Blues (2014), which suggests the struggle that a transgender individual faces in a world which so firmly embraces the assignment of traditional gender roles.

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