And looking at the recent Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court Justice hearings, for example, it’s not as if the opposition are even helping – a Democrat voted to confirm him, which pretty much says everything you need to know about the US political system.
Because they’ve been bought. Their campaigns have been paid for by special interest groups. They’re in the pockets of people. And everything’s been so skewed now that no-one knows what the truth is – like, the truth doesn’t matter, even when the truth is even obvious.
Can we talk about some of the drug stuff you went through when very, very young?
The druuuuug stuff (laughs)!
The drug stuff! But how did that impact you? Would you change that? Would you go back and say ‘Hey, maybe I shouldn’t have done LSD and cocaine when I was 14 or so’? Or again, is that something that’s made you who you are all these years later?
It’s such a complicated thing to talk about. Because on the one hand, I think that really what the issue is is not having anyone to turn to, not having anyone to talk with, not having any resources available – especially in pre-internet days of not being able to even fucking Google search any information on transition. So looking back, it’s not a question of wishing I’d done something different, because I don’t think I really had a choice. Those were the people that were there for me, who, unfortunately, were those dark corners. And then, on the other hand, I do really think that the perspective that comes with some drug usage does expand your mind. The idea of if you’ve never smoked weed before, you should try smoking weed. Try it! Don’t have an opinion on something if you don’t know what it is. And it does open your mind. Whether or not that should be done when you’re really young, no, I don’t think that. Of course not. But at the same time, it’s interesting talking about marijuana, where I got arrested for marijuana when I was 13 or 14 years old, and now all of Canada just legalised recreational marijuana. So many of the dangers that were presented for marijuana in particular that everyone knew was never true anyways and that alcohol was always more damaging of a drug – I wish that that would have been the attitude back then. I grew up in Italy for a period of time before moving to and living in Florida, and I’d go back a couple of times to visit when I was a teenager, and the attitudes culturally around drinking for younger people in Italy were that it was much more socially acceptable. When I was 15, 16 and I went back there with my mom and my step-dad, when we went out to dinner it was fine that I had a glass of wine, whereas in the U.S. my mother would have been thrown in jail if she’d been caught giving me a glass of wine. And I think when you have that attitude, like in Italy, the tendency to binge on things isn’t there because you’re not worried about getting caught. The attitude isn’t ‘We need to steal some alcohol from a liquor cabinet and drink it as quick as we can before we get caught and we need to be wasted.’ It’s a different attitude. And I definitely think a lot of it was circumstances. But at the same time, not having resources and not having guidance I do not think is healthy and I do not think is good and I do wish those circumstances would have been different.
Why do you think that the U.S. is so much more repressive?
For drugs in particular, I think it’s because it’s a fucking racist, white supremacist system. The drug war was designed to incarcerate African-Americans, and if you look at the statistics of African-Americans who are incarcerated versus white people, the numbers are drastically different. And even the things that I was arrested for when I was younger, the punishments that I received – even though it sucked and I was still punished – compared to the kids my age who were African-American kids at my school and who were arrested for the same things, they went off to juvenile detention centres. I was given community service. I think that it’s plain and obvious to see.
And now you have a lot of – largely black – people in prison serving life sentences for possession of marijuana thanks to the three strikes and you’re out rule, for something that in Canada and certain US states isn’t even a crime anymore.
Right. And with all those things in particular, if you’re an addict, that’s a disease. Addiction is a disease and that’s not something that you can help, so to try and frame it as having a choice or whatever – maybe there’s the initial choice that you never should have touched a drop of alcohol ever in your life, maybe that was a choice you shouldn’t have made, but after that, if it turns out you’re an alcoholic, that’s not something you can help. It’s something that’s in your brain. And it’s strange with alcohol in particular – I think most people in bands and their relationship to alcohol – and other drugs, too – and the way it revolves around their jobs is different to most people’s normal lives. Right now, I’m on a break. I haven’t had a drink in 59 days straight. I do that from time to time, where I need to take a break and not have a drink for a while, just to make sure I have that ability and I’m not an alcoholic. Because I’ll talk to people and I’ll be like ‘Hey, we’ve been on tour for a month right now and I’m pretty sure we’ve been drinking wine every night after the shows for a month straight so that’s kind of like we’ve been binge drinking for a month – are you sure we’re not alcoholics?!’ And everyone’s like ‘No, we’re not, this is totally normal’ and I’m like ‘Are you sure we’re not alcoholics?’ You need to exercise every once in a while to make sure you have control!
When you went through your transition it understandably seems like Against Me! became much more about personal politics. Firstly, do you think that’s true, and secondly, where does that leave you in terms of being a spokesperson for inequality and injustice on a wider scale? Does that make sense?
It totally does, and I agree with you. I think that part of that is growing up, that when you’re younger it’s a lot easier to see the world in a black and white way and be like ‘This is the answer! It should be an anarchist world and everyone should live in a squat and go to punk shows and eat tofu and that’s the answer!’ And as you get older, you’re just like ‘I don’t know what the answer is.’ All I know is what I experience and that’s all I can speak to. I don’t want to speak on anyone else’s behalf and I don’t want to represent a group. I have a fear of organised groups, be it schools, churches, the military. I don’t want any part of it. But I also really, really strongly believe that the personal is political and taking a song off Bought To Rot – Manic Depression – and saying ‘This is a song about manic depression’…if you examine further, like why manic depression?, it’s like ‘Well, it’s a drag feeling like you don’t belong in society and you aren’t welcome in public places, that most people would rather see transgender people dead than participating in society.’ That’s depressing if that’s your waking reality and you’re like ‘Oh shit, another day in Suck City.’ So writing from those perspectives is writing from the perspective of living in this world, and there’s politics to that.
Words: Mischa Pearlman
Main Laura Jane Grace photo: Jonathan Weiner
Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers' debut album Bought To Rot is out now through Bloodshot Records.