Laura Jane Grace is a Vice columnist. Did you know that? It’s called “Mandatory Happiness” and she uses her stories as a platform to speak about transgender issues, music, and other things on her mind. It’s a very alternative advice column that may rival Ask Polly for best advice column online right now.
This week, Grace made a long awaited return to have a conversation with friend and fellow punk musician and trans woman Stephanie McCarthy regarding her being the subject of a hate crime before performing at her own show. It’s pretty fucked up stuff and totally unbelievable. Grace does and excellent job of setting up the details of how the violence broke while contextualizing how normal or abnormal happenings like this are. The two are (unfortunately) even able to bring it all back to transphobia that occurred at an Against Me! show, too.
The biggest takeaways from this story isn’t the interview but in Grace’s great introduction, where she waxes on about Caitlyn Jenner and the Diane Sawyer interview. She didn’t get to see the television event since she was overseas but instead was “treated” to seeing how different trans representation and awareness overseas is. Take this, for example:
I was on tour in Germany when the Sawyer interview did air though, a country where you have to first be certified as mentally ill before you’re allowed access to gender affirming things like hormone therapy and surgeries. It stunned me when I first heard this and realized the implications. In Germany, the average person views me as mentally ill. Wow.
Uhhhhh…huh? That is fucking insane!! Part of me is like “That’s so punk rock you have to be like ‘Fuck you! I’m ill!’ to be trans!”—but what the fuck? What the hell is going on over there, in a country I would have pegged as remarkably progressive? Perhaps it’s just Berlin that I can attribute the wild freedoms I’ve heard of in Germany to. Fuck you, Germany.
Grace also wonders how much discrimination occurs in her own (punk) community and if anything wrong ever happens under her nose. Do people carry the messages of her experience out with them after her shows? Hopefully. To that, on a bigger scale around the world, does something like the Caitlyn Jenner Vanity Fair cover resonate around the world as we would hope? Ehhhh…maybe:
In the past couple of years, there has been a rise in trans visibility in the media, in the US in particular (though I see it outside of the US too), which is important and the Caitlyn Jenner Vanity Fair cover is definitely one of the bigger moments. Sometimes I’m skeptical though, and I wonder how much of that visibility translates into the general public’s actual education and understanding concerning trans issues and experiences and what the real needs are.
That’s exactly it. While Jenner’s very public coming out has been absolutely great and overwhelmingly positive, it cannot be overlooked that trans persons are very underserved. And if we don’t have our shit together for them here? Fuck, what hope is there for other countries?
Things will get better: I absolutely believe that. It’s important to put things into perspective and Grace does a really great job of doing that. It ain’t over until it’s over. Read Grace’s interview with Stephanie here.