The Internet is abuzz today with Rolling Stone's teaser about an article in the mag's issue out this Friday. The magazine spoke with Tom Gabel, lead singer for successful Punk band Against Me!, about his plans to begin "gender transition" to become a woman (taking the name Laura Jane Grace). The article will include conversation with the singer about her years of struggling with gender dysphoria (gender identity disorder) and her plans to transition by undergoing hormone treatments and electrolysis.
It's a huge story because a Rock star with such relative mainstream popularity has never come out as transgender. But she's not the first notable music star to pursue gender reassignment. The Rolling Stone article says she's the first "major Rock star" to come out, but two other notable (and way more influential) musicians have gone from man to woman (or almost woman).
Walter Carlos was a musical prodigy who would grow up to be an Electronic music pioneer … as a woman. In 1967, he began hormone treatments and began living as a female. In 1968, Wendy Carlos released Switched-On Bach, an album featuring the music of J.S. Bach rendered on a Moog synthesizer (then a new instrument). The success of the album allowed Wendy to undergo gender reassignment surgery in 1972 (40 years ago this month). Carlos — who also composed and recorded the soundtrack to the legendary film A Clockwork Orange — didn't speak about it until a 1979 interview with Playboy magazine. After feeling exploited, she rarely spoke in public about it again. Carlos took her identity very seriously; in 1998, she sued a songwriter called Momus for $22 million after he wrote a satirical song called "Walter Carlos," about Wendy going back in time and marrying Carlos. The case was settled; Momus took it off his CD and paid $30,000 in legal fees.
Genesis P-Orridge was also a pioneer of Electronic music, as well as Industrial and dance music, with the groups Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. In the ’90s, P-Orridge and his collaborator/wife, Lady Jaye (Jacqueline Breyer) embarked on an interesting "Pandrogyne" project that found the two artists working to become one individual androgynous person, Breyer P-Orridge. Though it was more of a living performance art project — and quite a romantic notion, if you think about it — about gender identity and less about gender identity disorder, Genesis didn't have a complete sex change, but the couple each had various surgeries to look more like each other. Among other surgeries, they both got identical breast implants; Genesis had lip surgery, cheek implants and hormone therapy; Lady Jaye had her eyes done. They also wore identical clothes and makeup.
Sadly, Lady Jaye passed away in 2007, but P-Orridge has continued the project with more surgery.
An acclaimed documentary about the couple, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, came out last year. Check the trailer out below.
Famous transgendered people are nothing new. Click here for a fairly extensive list.