About Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers
Laura Jane Grace is an American musician best known as the founder, lead singer, songwriter and guitarist of the punk rock band Against Me!. In addition to Against Me!, Grace fronts the band Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers, a solo project she started in 2016. Grace is notable for being one of the first highly visible punk rock musicians to come out as transgender, after she publicly came out in May 2012.
Grace was born at the U.S. Army School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, in Chattahoochee County, Georgia, the eldest child of United States Army Major Thomas Gabel and Bonnie Gabel . Grace has a brother named Mark, who is six years younger.:4 The family moved frequently between military bases due to their father's military career, living briefly in Fort Hood, Texas; Pennsylvania; Ohio; Germany; and at a NATO post in Naples, Italy during the Gulf War. When she was 8 years old while living in Italy, Grace bought her first guitar from Sears mail order with money saved from mowing lawns. Grace initially took guitar lessons from an army officer's wife, but ended up teaching herself how to play.
When she was 12 years old, Grace's parents had an acrimonious divorce, which led to Grace and her brother moving with their mom from Naples, Italy – where their father remained – to Naples, Florida to live with their maternal grandmother. In contrast to her time in Italy, Grace has said that moving to Naples was a difficult adjustment. Constantly bullied at school, Grace was drinking alcohol and taking drugs by age 13, substances which included pot, LSD, and cocaine. Grace was arrested for possession of marijuana at 14 and went on to struggle with addiction for years. Grace also regularly skipped school, eventually dropping out of high school.
While in junior high school Grace became a fan of punk rock, attracted to the nihilistic and anarchistic ideals of the genre. At age 13, she played bass in her first band, known as both the Black Shadows and the Leather Dice as they had never agreed on a name. The band was formed with members of her youth group at church. Their first gigs were at church talent shows playing Nirvana and Pearl Jam covers.:5–6
An arrest at age 14 crystallized her aversion to authority: having gone to the beach on Independence Day 1995 to watch fireworks, "I walked up on the boardwalk, and a cop was like 'Hey, get off the boardwalk; you're blocking the flow of traffic'. So I turned around and got off, and he came up to me again and was like, 'Get off the boardwalk.' And I was like 'I'm off the boardwalk.'" Grace claims to have then been slammed into a police car, thrown face-first to the pavement, jumped on, hogtied, carried "like a suitcase", put in a holding cell, not allowed to call her mom at that time, charged with resisting arrest and battery, placed under house arrest for the summer, and required to do 180 hours of community service, all because "I was a dirty, grubby little punk kid with black spiky hair who hadn't washed his pants in a year." Grace's mother hired an attorney, whom she could ill afford, who took the case to court and lost. Grace was charged as an adult and ultimately convicted of both felonies. Grace later said the experience "changed my life. politicized me." "I have an inherent trust of mankind. I think authority and government base their power on violence. I refuse to recognize anyone's power over me."
After that incident, Grace came to identify with British anarcho-punk band Crass, calling them "to me, the best band to ever blend music and politics": "I felt like Crass' music legitimately made a change. They really backed up what they were doing. I saw that writing a song against something was just as valid as standing on a street corner holding a sign."
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