Arcade Fire recently released a video for the song "We Exist" off "Reflektor" which, according to the YouTube description, "follows the story of a young person's struggle with gender identity."
The video stars "Spider-Man" actor Andrew Garfield wearing a wig, makeup and a dress, ending with him appearing onstage as the band plays the song in concert.
Against Me! singer/guitarist Laura Jane Grace, who came out as transgender in a 2012 Rolling Stone profile, voiced her displeasure on May 22 that the band used Garfield instead of an actual transgender person.
Grace, who revealed a lengthy battle with gender dysphoria, changed her identity from Tom Gabel. Against Me!'s latest album was entitled "Transgender Dysphoria Blues." The singer also tweeted a link for an article by PQ Monthly written by Leela Ginelle.
"As I've written before, music acts don't have to portray transpeople as victims in order to convey their support," Ginelle wrote. "'We Exist' clearly isn't one of those videos, however. Instead it's a retread of transphobia's greatest hits: transwomen hate themselves, transwomen want cisguys who don't want them; and, worst, transwomen attract physical assault like magnets.
The video also shows Garfield's character being physically abused in a bar, another aspect which irked Ginelle. "If the band thinks violence against transwomen is bad, why are they recreating and broadcasting it with their work?" Ginelle wrote. "Why not simply tell a story of transwoman acceptance if that's what you wish to promote?"
On Sunday, May 25, the band responded to Grace's comment in an interview with The Advocate with singer/guitarist Win Butler saying the song was a reaction to Jamaica's notorious homophobic culture.
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"There is a very kind of homophobic undercurrent, even in a lot of popular music and dancehall music, where there is a lot of violence against gay people," Butler told the publication in an interview Friday following Grace's tweet, adding he met Jamaican kids in Kingston who were under threat of violence. "For me, it was really eye-opening to hang out with these kids who, if they were going to dress differently or express who they were, there was this real tension."
Butler also said Garfield's inclusion was central to the video. "For a gay kid in Jamaica to see the actor who played Spider-Man in that role is pretty damn powerful, in my opinion.
From there Butler addressed Grace's comments directly. "There was just so much thought and love that went into the video I don't personally see it as negative," Butler said, adding he can "totally see the sensitivity of the issue."
Meanwhile, the video's director David Wilson considered using a trans person but felt Garfield's desire for the video project from their initial conversations. Wilson also stated Garfield -- who had one day of dance lessons for the video's solo sequence -- was coached by Our Lady J, a well known trans musician.
On Sunday Grace tweeted the following after a conversation with Our Lady J regarding the Arcade Fire video. This is what she said:
In related news, Against Me! will play the Trans* Parade post-march showcase June 27 at Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square as part of the World Pride Festival events. The punk singer will also be starring in an AOL Originals reality show called "So Much more With Laura Jane Grace."