Laura Jane Grace, the lead singer of punk powerhouse Against Me!, may be a woman in transition — taking the brave and inspiring journey from male to female — but her band is also going through some rough changes. Drummer Jay Weinberg and long-time bassist Andrew Seward left the fold during the recording of their sixth album Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Thankfully, Atom Willard (Rocket from the Crypt, Danko Jones) and Fat Mike (NOFX) stepped up to help Grace and guitarist James Bowman finish the record.

Earlier this month, Grace announced a solo acoustic tour, along with a free EP of acoustic previews of the album. I’ve had them on constant rotation ever since and lemme tell ya, they hit you like a ton of bricks.

At first I was very concerned — the track title ‘FuckMyLife666’ sounded like a suicide note or a desperate plea for help. With Grace, such a statement can’t be taken lightly considering that 41% of the transgender population has attempted to commit suicide (read about the study here). But then I remembered that Grace (who is a happily married parent) is writing about a character — a transgender prostitute whose story is rumored to drive the narrative of the album.

‘True Trans Soul Rebel’ follows — though producer Butch Vig (2007’s New Wave and 2010’s White Crosses) has also left the fold, it is clear that Grace’s songwriting evolution, documented by those two masterpiece albums, continues. I imagine that once this song is backed by a complete band, it will be a rafter shaking set closer.

Even if the band went away and Grace traded in the Warped Tour for the coffee house circuit, she would still be cemented as one of the most visceral, compelling and entertaining voices of our generation. She shouldn’t have to carry the full burden of de-stigmatizing the transgender experience for the masses, but her well documented journey has brought long overdue attention and compassion to a beautiful community of people who deserve everyone’s understanding, love and support. It might be easier for Grace, Steven Tyler and (in his day) Kurt Cobain to rock makeup, silk scarves, dresses and spandex on stage, but here’s hoping they inspire more people to proudly express themselves however they see fit.

Against Me

Download the True Trans EP for free right here. Catch Grace on her solo tour here — and experience the new touring incarnation of Against Me! when they play Riot Fest in Chicago and Denver this fall. Be sure to connect with Laura Jane Grace on Facebook.