SXSW Panel: The Noncomformists

‘Call me he, call me she, call me Regis Kathie Lee’

“I started touring with my band in 2000 and we’ve played 200-plus shows a year since then,” explained Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace. “All of a sudden I’m 30 years old, and I don’t know who the fuck I am. Life happened quick.”

The punk stalwart recently transitioned from male to female, an experience processed through the highly autobiographical album Transgender Dysphoria Blues.

“I was writing to save my life,” Grace explained. “I was just trying to not kill myself.”

Joining in were New Orleans bounce queen Big Freedia and Sharon Needles, the quick-witted winner of season four of RuPaul’s Drag Race, as moderated by John Norris, clad in the Brooklyn Nets jersey of Jason Collins.

Photo by Shelley Hiam

“When I started my journey, I set out to change people’s minds in New Orleans about queens, and I did that,” said Freedia, whose Fuse reality series was recently picked up for a second season. “We had people like Bobby Marchan and Little Richard that performed before our time and opened the doors for our community.

“But when me and Katey Red jumped in the game in 1998, Katey was the first transexual male to come out with bounce music in New Orleans, and people were not ready for it. We stood firm on who we were and look where we are now.”

Needles, sporting a spectacular leopard-dyed buzzcut, delivered a slew of one-liners and added levity to the often complicated issue of gender pronouns for trans folks.

“Call me he, call me she, call me Regis Kathie Lee. Just call me. And book me.”

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Noncomformists, SXSW Music 2014, Laura Jane Grace, Big Freedia, John Norris, Sharon Needles, Against Me

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