The process of gender transition is not easy for any transgender person. Our society is such that the process is not easy on the families, loved ones or anyone involved in the transgender community. I know this firsthand because my father began this journey a few years ago. The strain it put on our family has been intense, but we are private citizens, and my father is not in the limelight.
Going through this transition in such a public way, as Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! has, is assuredly intense, as a recent Rolling Stone profile on her points out. But, perhaps that’s why the letter that Laura Jane Grace’s ex-wife Heather Gabel posted on Facebook today is even more heartbreaking to read. Along with her commentary about the story and her own perspective on it, Gabel also shared a letter she wrote to Rolling Stone that she said she has not received a response to.
Gabel manages to write in a calm and collected way about a situation that was surely one of the most difficult situations in her life, calling out the magazine for the way she says the story twisted her words, and educating plenty of readers in the process. Most telling might be her comments about the magazine’s decision to show Grace’s nipples unedited — which she points out they do not do for cisgendered women — and how that is a clear example of misgendering. In her Facebook post, Gabel has posted a version of the photo that censors Grace’s nipples. I won’t spend a lot more time talking about the situation because Gabel’s words speak so eloquently and forcefully for themselves. But this commentary is a must-read for everyone:
The text of Gabel’s Facebook post:
A couple of weeks ago I talked to a reporter named Alex Morris for about an hr. It was the day before she had to turn in a piece she was writing on Laura Jane Grace (a person I married in 2007, had a child with in 2009, and separated from in 2014). She said she was calling to fact check for the piece which was going to be focusing on LJ’s life since coming out as a trans-woman in 2012. So she asked me questions and I answered them, correcting and clarifying along the way. When the article came out (you can read it here) I was really disappointed to see that it focused on how her transition had ruined her life, and that us splitting up was a result of that transition. Everyone who knows me knows that this is not the case, fuck, the writer knew it because I plainly told her. Why do I care what a bunch of other people reading the article think? Because it’s sensational hetero drama that I don’t want to be even an unwilling party to in print. Because us being together or not being together is not the story, because one day my daughter will be reading this one sided bullshit and that really upsets me.
Despite the fact that Alex Morris completely botched what could have been a really eye opening, powerful, piece that other non-binary gendered people could have found something relevant or relatable to, my biggest problem with this piece is the gross misrepresentation of LJ’s gender identity. Rolling Stone has never published a photograph of a non trans women’s nipples uncensored before, which, to me, reads as them making arbitrary distinctions between trans and non trans women, which is fucked up. Everyone’s tits should be legal. In my opinion, this is not a subversive decision aimed at giving censorship the middle finger, it’s a blatant example of misgendering, of gender inequality, and a general slap in the face to anyone who expects to have their gender identity respected.
ANYWAYS, I wrote to Rolling Stone after the piece came out but (surprise) they haven’t replied so I’m posting the letter I sent them here in the hopes that it opens a couple of eyes to the tired, biased, conservative, one sided “journalism” they are perpetuating. Oh, and I fixed the photo too. Believe me, I want everyone’s tits out, I am in no way supporting the idea that censorship of women’s nipples is ok at all, but since Rolling Stone censors women’s nipples the photo should have looked a little more like this.
Gabel included the text of the letter she sent to Rolling Stone:
After talking to Alex Morris for an hour, after having to preface my replies to nearly every question she asked me with the explanation that Laura’s coming out/transition was NOT the reason we separated, I very plainly told her why we broke up: we had grown apart. We were living separate lives. Laura on tour, me at home with our daughter, and that once I finally accepted the reality that I was fading into a version of myself I didn’t recognize, I could no longer carry on under the circumstances. I felt marginalized after years of making sure my partner was ok and mostly ignoring/denying that I wasn’t getting what I needed out of the relationship to feel supported or flourish.
But I guess that truth is too common a reason to report, it isn’t as exciting or sensational as the idea that Laura transitioning is why our relationship fell apart. I guess the truth wasn’t really what Alex was after when she penned this piece. She stated that she was calling mainly to fact check, but the article is riddled with incorrect statements as is the timeline she presents them in. For example, she told me that she knew Laura and Beatrice had broken up nearly two weeks prior to speaking with me but chose to leave that out, writing the article as if they were still together, which begs the question, why?
Why, when she asked me about an excerpt from Laura’s upcoming book concerning whether I was attracted to men or women (which in my opinion is a pretty hetero-normative baiting maneuver) and I explained fully the conversation that Laura was referencing, explained fully that that was NOT the case, going even so far as to share that I was still attracted to Laura and that gender doesn’t determine attraction for me, why the fuck did she print “…Heather was attracted to men, not women.” ?
When she asked me if I had called Laura a narcissist, I explained that I had written to Laura suggesting she call her next book “Baby, I’m A Narcissist.”, I explained that it was a joke and that good jokes are funny because they’re true. I explained this fully to Alex, all the way down to making sure that she understood I was comically referencing the AM! song “Baby, I’m An Anarchist”. Why, then, when she was made aware of the context under which the statement was actually made, as a joke/comic relief, did she choose to present it as hurled insult instead?
The quotes she chose to use from me have been taken so far out of context that they are being used to support the complete opposite sentiment of my replies. Why? What’s the point? Did she run out of time? Did the truths she left out simply not fit into her preconceived idea of the story? Is she simply more interested in appeasing her readers with a happy ending? Alex Morris had the chance to write about something real, something timely, something important to a lot of people and instead she chose to focus on some romance novel teaser bullshit.
There’s so much more to touch on here; the fact that Laura is a woman and you didn’t censor her nipples, for instance, or the way the article ends on a nudge nudge, wink wink “to be continued” note, that feels real sleazy. The entire LGBTQ+ experience is constantly fetishized; sensationalized to absolutely no one’s benefit. I hope that someone eventually gets it right, that a publication with as much influence and as large of an audience as this magazine writes it real someday.
Uproxx has reached out to Rolling Stone for comment on the situation and the story will be updated accordingly if we receive a response.