“Do you share the same sense of defeat? Have you realized all the things you’ll never be?” The lead singer of Against Me! sang these words in the chorus of “Ache with Me,” a cut from their 2010 album White Crosses. These lines would become more significant in the four years between its release and their follow-up album, 2014’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues.
Laura Jane Grace came out as a transgender woman in 2012, recontextualizing many older Against Me! lyrics, such as the second verse from 2007’s “The Ocean,” which starts with, “If I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman/ My mother once told me she would have named me Laura.”
Transgender Dysphoria Blues means a lot to many people: a brutally honest punk ripper that wrestles with the artist’s feelings about being trans. It isn’t just an album about that, however, also dealing with the dissolution of her marriage. According to Grace’s memoir, released in 2016, their divorce was largely caused by her transition. As Transgender Dysphoria Blues tackles existing in a world not made for her, she delves into the pain of the sun setting on a once-affirming love.
The connection between these two themes is made immediately apparent on the album’s opening title track. The verses feature explicit depictions of gender dysphoria, while the pre-chorus sweeps in with the agony of not being seen as you wish to be viewed: “You want them to see you like they see every other girl/ They just see a f*****.” The chorus is where the real hurt is hidden. Grace repeats, “Rough surf on the coast/ I wish I could’ve spent the whole day alone,” several times before adding the phrase, “with you.” In the face of all this suffering and unacceptance, she just wants companionship.
This concept of desiring affection is brought up throughout the album, such as on the banger that is “Unconditional Love,” in which she repeats over a thumping punk anthem: “Even if your love was unconditional/ It still wouldn’t be enough to save me.” This is ultimately a mute point, because it is conditional.
Nowhere on the album is the loss of this relationship more starkly depicted than on “FUCKMYLIFE666.” The verses see her again mixing her feelings of dysphoria with the pain of growing apart from her wife, while the chorus sees the cruel culmination of this realization: “All things made to be destroyed/ All moments meant to pass.” The futility of the situation is fully realized at the end of the tune with, “This too will soon slip out of reach/ This too will soon come to an end.” This cut is the saddest on the album, but features one of the catchiest riffs of their entire catalog.