6. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
“Your tells are so obvious,” shouts Laura Jane Grace in what’s maybe the most triumphant opener of the year. “Shoulders too broad for a girl.” It’s the first time she’s kicked off an album since she took her own name, her real name, since she told it to the rest of the world. “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”, from the album of the same name, might boast the most devastating first verse of an Against Me! record since Grace sang about her grandparents back in 2002 on “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong”. It carries the same weight.
Transgender Dysphoria Blues never shies away from that heaviness, but it also never stops feeling like a victory. Grace packs so much fear into these songs: fear of violence, abandonment, disappointment, change, and death. These aren’t rare shadows for people working through a transition, especially for women who were told for years that they were men. Grace stares them down with a fire that lights up hope in its wake.
Strangely enough, the album’s most hopeful song takes place in a pair of caskets. Grace wrote “Two Coffins” for her young daughter as a reminder that even if not all love is unconditional, hers would last through death. Is that morbid? A little — you don’t get too many songs about a beloved child’s “little moon face” that also imagine that face sealed underground. But death sticks around whether we imagine it or not. For Grace, embracing the possibility of the worst is a cornerstone of her courage.
The sixth Against Me! album is a landmark for a number of reasons — their first since dropping their major label, their first since Grace’s transition — but it’s also a massive declaration of triumph and, most of all, freedom. We close our own cell doors, or the world closes them for us. From the album’s first words, we know Grace has decided to kick hers down. –Sasha Geffen