Gabel was, in the plainest language possible, confiding in the listener, and virtually everyone who heard it assumed it was fiction. When asked about the song at the time it was originally written and recorded, Gabel dodged it because she wasn’t ready to come out as transgender, which is perfectly understandable. But still, this makes me wonder how often we’re listening to singers tell the truth in unexpected songs, and where we assume they’re singing the truth in pure fiction. We think we can tell, that we can suss out the difference between contrived narrative and confessional, but “The Ocean” shows us that sometimes we have no idea what we’re actually hearing.
So moved by the courage of Against Me!’s Tom Gabel for coming out as a trans woman as a prominent figure in alternative (specifically youth-oriented) music scene. Not only will this serve as a eye-opening moment for many young people to the diversity of experience and identity all around them, but it offers an excellent opportunity for the discussion of truth in narrative songwriting, taken up expertly, as always, by Fluxblog.