Before you go any deeper into this post, watch the following video featuring Tom Gabel and Against Me! Listen carefully to the lyrics.
And if I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman
My mother once told me she would have named me Laura
I'd grow up to be strong and beautiful like her
One day, I'd find an honest man to make my husband
We would have two children, build our home on the Gulf of Mexico
Our family would spend hot summer days at the beach together
The sun would kiss our skin as we played in the sand and water
And we would know we loved each other without having to say it
It turns out that Tom wasn't just spinning some fantastical metaphor with this song. For years, Tom has privately dealt with a condition called gender identify disorder, the unshakeable sense that you were born the wrong sex. In other words, although born male, Tom has always felt more female.
Tom has decided that he needs to be true to how he feels. Beginning next year, he will begin the transition from man to woman, complete with hormone treatments and electrolysis. He will adopt the name Laura Jance Grace and will remain married to his (her) wife Heather.
Tom will reveal all in an interview in the next issue of Rolling Stone.
Talk about brave. And although the article says that this will be "the first time a major rock star has come out as transgender," I'd beg to differ--at least on some levels. Tom has plenty of company.
1. Jayne County
Jayne was born Wayne Rogers and spent much of his music career in New York, flying in the same circles as Patti Smith, the Ramones, Lou Reed and the Talking Heads. In about 1978, Wayne became Jayne and began self-identifying as a woman. As far as I can tell, Wayne/Jayne is the first example of a transsexual rock singer.
2. Amanda Lear
Not much is known about the early life of this French singer. She was eother born in Hong Kong or Saigon in 1939, 1946 or 1950. No one knows anything about her partents, her upbringing or--crucially--her gender. There is evidence, however, that Amanda was born male (birth name: Alain Tapp), found work in a transvestite bar in Paris and later made the transition to female.
Amanda can be seen on the cover of Roxy Music's 1973 album, For Your Pleasure. She also had a modest recording career of her own.
3. Marcie Free
Marcie was born Mark Edward Free and served as the singer for several rock bands, including King Kobra, a glam metal group founded by drummer Carmine Appice. He, too, suffered through gender dysphoria before coming out as Marcie Free in November 1993. Although she retired from music, she returned with a band called Unruly Child. Their most recent album, Worlds Collide, came out in 2010.
4. Dee Palmer
Dee was best known as David Palmer, the keyboardist for Jethro Tull through the 1970s. Dee didn't come out as a transsexual until 2003.
5. Michelle Josef
Born Bohdan Hluskzo, he was an in-demand Canadian session drummer. Today, her resume includes work with Prairie Oyster, Jann Arden, Jack Dekeyser, The Good Brothers, Sylvia Tyson, Long John Baldry, Big Rude Jake, Wild Strawberries, Scott B. Sympathy and even Sharon, Lois and Bram.
6. Lucas Silveira
Born as a girl in the Azores, Lucas was aware she was different by the time she was three. Living first as a lesbian (and founding the Toronto band, The Cliks), she later underwent surgery and hormone therapy. Lucas is one of the most visible of all transgender artists.
7. Meryn Cadell
Alt-rock fans from the 90s will remember a series of hits from albums like Angel Food for Thought. Meryn made the transition to male in 2003 and now teaches at the University of British Columbia.
8. Rae Spoon
Rae was born a woman and raised by evangelical parents. After living as a trans man, Rae now prefers the pronoun "they" when self-identifying.
A Korean group whose official story says all four members are transgender. Their inspiration was Harisu, a Korean singer and actress who was born a man.
10. Wendy Carlos
As Walter Carlos, he was instrumental in helping Dr. Bob Moog promote his new instrument, the electronic synthesizer. After several best-selling classical albums including Switched on Bach, Carlos was hired to write the score for Stanley Kubrick's, A Clockwork Orange. Following that, he disappeared, re-emerging as Wendy Carlos after sex reassignment surgery in 1972. She officially came out in a 1979 interview in Playboy.