The new face of punk: Laura Jane Grace and Against Me! play The Ritz Ybor

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Against Me! by Sara Mineo

Iversen and Armbruster stand behind the ASLO table at the concert. They talked to people about their cause and gave out flyers and wristbands.

February 25, 2015 / Volume XXXVII / Issue 2

Punk  subculture  is multifaceted and has evolved over time. Originating as a movement of non-conformity and independent freedom, it has typically been seen as a “boy’s club” for young, white men screeching “fuck the system” into a microphone, smashing up all their instruments and then passing out drunk onstage.

The music industry has always been a male-dominated corporation, and punk allowed women to break through the mold and make some pretty rad music (see Lauraine Leblanc’s “Pretty in Punk: Girl’s Gender Resistance in a Boy’s Subculture”).

In recent years, the LGBTQ community has quickly grown and gained more recognition in mainstream culture. Therefore, it makes complete sense to use the anti-establishment forward thinking genre of punk as a vessel for LGBTQ rights. When Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! came out as a transgender woman in 2012 and released “Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” the punk rock world exploded with new possibilities for the genre to inspire and expand.

Hailing from Gainesville, the band played at The Ritz Ybor last Wednesday and featured information booths from Equality Florida and ALSO Youth, two nonprofits that focus on bringing awareness, education and support for the LGBTQ community. ALSO Youth is a Sarasota-based charity that caters specifically to LGBTQIA youth ages 13 to 21 and provides a safe space for people to hang out with like-minded individuals.

“All of my friends had either dropped out, or graduated, and I was honestly pretty depressed,” Allie Iversen, a youth member of ALSO, said. Iversen started going to ALSO during her senior year of high school. “I stayed in my room all day after I came home from school and I didn’t go out with anyone on the weekends. My mom was actually the one who took me to ALSO for the first time, she semi-forced me to go, but, looking back on it, she definitely made a good decision. I really enjoy going to ALSO because there is always someone to talk to. I never feel uptight, or that I have to hide anything when I’m there. When I came out to them as trans, the pronoun change was instant, and when I recently told them about my name change it was the same thing.”

Thesis student Sam Armbruster is an intern at ALSO and has been an Against Me! fan since 2006. Armbruster decided to contact Grace on Twitter to see if she would allow ALSO to table at the band’s upcoming show.

“A lot of the youth had a really strong connection to Laura after watching the “True Trans” series at the center so I thought that this would be a good opportunity to get the word out about ALSO and  give the youth the opportunity to meet one of their idols,” Armbruster said.

Grace agreed and invited ALSO and a few guests to watch the band’s sound check and hang out before the show.

“I’ve been listening to Against Me! for about two years, but I really got into them when “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” came out,” Iversen said. “Last year was one huge debate inside my head whether to come out as trans or not and that record really helped me.” Iversen was one of the few people who got to spend time with Grace and the rest of the band before the show.

“At first, I was insanely nervous to meet Laura, but then when we all started having a normal conversation I just became starstruck,” she said. “I’ve been listening to this person’s music for the past year and she has helped me so much through my journey, and I’m actually talking to her.”

Armbruster echoed Iversen’s sentiments: “It was really awesome to meet her but also stressful since I wanted to flail around because she is amazing and inspirational, but I was the representative of ALSO so I had to keep it together,” Armbruster said. “But it was really amazing. She is just so genuine and perfect.”

The band’s sound check was just a mere shadow to the energetic, feel-good spectacle of the show. They played songs from a variety of their six studio albums and came back on stage for an acoustic encore of “Thrash Unreal.” Stage divers pelted the stage nonstop, beer-drenched the audience and a mosh pit broke out in the center of the crowd.

“The show was incredible,” Iversen said. “Being in the mosh pit for the entire show was pretty intense, and I left with a few bruises, but it was completely worth it.”

After the show, the crowd filed in the merchandise room where ALSO had their table set up next to Equality Florida. Grace plugged both the booths during Against Me!’s set, highlighting the band’s support. Armbruster cited that a considerable amount of people took literature and seemed interested in their cause.

“I think tabling went really well,” Armbruster said. “It is always really hard because you can’t force people to talk to you. A lot of our conversations were really encouraging because most of them were with people who wouldn’t normally stop at these tables. The LGBTQIA community seemed encouraged and happy seeing this kind of representation and that Laura was so willing to have people to table at her show.”

Overall, the show represented how the LGBT is making a breakthrough in mainstream culture and brought awareness to important causes.

“As excited as I was to meet Laura, I was more excited to introduce the youth to Laura and the rest of the band,” Armbruster reflected. “It was also really nice to see Laura using her position as a famous trans person, not only to share other peoples’ stories but also to interact with her fans in such a genuine way. At one point, she said something about how she doesn’t just do it to support her fans but that she also she gets support out of it too. It emphasized  the importance of the trans community.”

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