Last week, Laura Jane Grace, the lead singer of legendary punk band, Against Me!, set her birth certificate ablaze onstage in Durham, North Carolina in protest against NC’s HB2 bill, which requires transgender people to use public restrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates. The transgender rocker declared “Goodbye Gender!”

Besides the fact that this act of defiance was punk as hell, public protests like this are extremely important for the transgender community, a fact that Grace acknowledged to Buzzfeed in April.

“I think the real danger with HB2 is that it creates a target on transgender people specifically,” Grace told Buzzfeed. “When you feel targeted as a trans person, the natural inclination is to go into hiding. But visibility is more important than ever; to go there and have the platform of a stage to stand on and speak your mind and represent yourself.”

One reason visibility is key is that it’s easy for the masses to drown out this small community’s voices with uneducated accusations, such as the false claim that allowing transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choosing would endanger women and children, when in fact HB2 places people in the transgender community in actual danger.

To give a personal example of Grace’s impact, it was she that first got me really thinking about transgender issues after she came out in 2012. I had been listening to Against Me! religiously since I first saw them at Warped Tour years before. I had even met the band briefly at the Austin City Limits music festival on their New Wave tour, where for lack of any other sign-able surface I took off the sock I had been wearing all day in the Texas heat and had them sign it. (They were a bit disgruntled but were good sports about it.)

So, when one of my heroes came out as transgender, transgender issues became more real to me, especially following the release of Transgender Dysphoria Blues in 2014. In the title track, the pain resulting from Grace’s sense of identity conflicting with the way others perceive her is crushing.

“You want them to notice,
The ragged ends of your summer dress.
You want them to see you
Like they see every other girl.
They just see a faggot.
They’ll hold their breath not to catch the sick.”

It’s illogical and callous, but society, including our lawmakers, has a really hard time accepting people who are different than the majority. That’s why we cannot remain silent. What Laura Jane Grace has done is incredibly brave and important and awesome, but now it’s time for the rest of us to be her allies.


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