Laura Jane Grace, Formerly Tom Gabel, Feels Empowered as a Woman

06/19/2012 at 02:30 PM EDT

Laura Jane Grace, Formerly Tom Gabel, of Against Me! - First Interview as Woman
Laura Jane Grace
A month after Rolling Stone published its interview with Against Me!'s Tom Gabel announcing he will undergo treatments to become a woman, the punk rocker couldn't be happier.

"My life improves every single day," Gabel, 31, who now goes by Laura Jane Grace, tells MTV News in her first interview as a woman. "It feels like I'm in control of my life, and I'm in control of my person, and that's empowering. Saying to someone, 'I'm a transsexual' is the most empowering thing I've ever felt in my whole life."

Currently undergoing hormone treatments to complete the process of becoming a woman, Grace admits that holding back her secret all this time caused her to act inappropriately to the people she considers closest.

"I've been a jerk over the past few years," she says. "I've been an absolute ass in so many ways, just from, you have this thing you're dealing with that you don't know how to process it, and it bears on you. It comes out in so many different ways. ... You express your anger at what is going on, and you take it out on your closest friends. And now, I've obviously apologized."

Although she says the bond she once shared with her father has "completely ended" because of this experience, her band mates stand by her completely.

"We didn't want to make it melodramatic," Against Me! bassist Andrew Seward says. "It was kind of simple in a way. It sounds cheesy, but it's not: You just want your friend to be happy. When this came out, I think the bottom line for all of us was just 'be happy.' "

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