Against Me!'s Atom Willard on Laura Jane Grace's Gender Transition: "It's My Journey as Well"
That chorus of "Transgender Dysphoria Blues" so biting. I feel bad for her, because that situation sounds so difficult.
Absolutely. She is someone who's not afraid to fight for something she believes in. She's not going to back down from a fight. The lyrics and a lot of these things are really indicative of what she's been going through the past 30-some odd years of her life.
You've been in the band since she went public, correct?
That happened in 2012 before I joined. I had heard about it. I was a fan of the band, and it didn't affect me in any kind of away that was like "Well, I'm not going to listen to that music anymore." The only thing that came to mind was "I was wonder if that's going to change her singing voice" because I'm such a huge fan of Against Me's vocal sound. When I had the chance to ask, she says, "No, I'm never going to do anything to change the sound of my singing voice. I love my singing voice."
That's one of those things I was curious about but wasn't sure if I should ask.
It's a common thing. People are always asking when they see pictures of her. She's very much in transition, and it's a long ongoing, probably lifelong process but you can't really tell what that sounds like, but it's really great to have the new record out and have a reference point for anybody. Or you can scour YouTube and see any show that we've been doing.
I've seen you guys three times since she went public, and to me, it's the same show. Laura Jane Grace just has longer hair, but it's still the same energy. From what I've seen and read online, it seems like fans are being pretty positive, have you noticed the same in your experience?
We've really had nothing but an overwhelmingly supportive and positive response. In all honesty, people seem to really love the new record and love the sound of it and the way we sequence the record, which song comes after which song, and every different aspect of it. Also, [seeing] the people come to shows and how affected they are by our performances.
I can't tell you anything other than it's been insanely awesome. People are very supportive of her and everything that she's going through, and I see a lot of people who are empowered to go through something that maybe they've been considering or battling with. Whether it's transitioning, or stating their sexuality to their parents or their loved ones, or if it's just quitting a job, anybody can draw parallels to overcoming something in their life that is very difficult to face head on, and watching people interpret what we're saying and what the message is to relate to their lives is a pretty great thing.
I can only imagine what she's going through, but I do believe it was a very important record to make because people are having that sort of response, and it's the first of its kind.
You always want to make something that affects people. No matter what your music is, if it's intended to make people dance, you want them to dance. If it's intended to make people think, you want them to think and be able to create something that can reach people on so many different levels and really affect them in a way that's overwhelmingly positive. It's a pretty big feeling.
We're all in this together. If I didn't completely support her and the way that she's going about her journey, it's definitely my journey as well. It's something that we're all in together and I'm happy to talk about it.
Have you gotten burnt out answering questions about Laura's transition?
Here's the deal, no matter what your record is about, people will always want to talk about similar aspects of it. The fact that we have something here that we can talk about that is actually meaningful and actually has some kind of impact into people's lives or into society. If we can bring gender diversity awareness to a world that is pretty uneducated about it, I'm happy to answer that question 10 times a day. If you want to talk about how great my drum solos are, hey, I'll talk about that, too [laughs].