Leslie Feinberg

I am not going to contribute to the creating of a hagiography of Leslie Feinberg.

Leslie wasn’t really a hero to me.  Leslie was an ordinary person who wrote for the Communist Party USA newspaper Worker’s World.

I have always been far too anarchistic and frankly pro-American to embrace the ideals of the CP-USA and its apologists for Stalin and the Soviet Union.

Leslie and I are both Baby Boomers from upstate New York.  Leslie was from Buffalo and I am from the small towns of the Adirondacks.

We shared a working class background along with growing up obviously different from the sort of people we were expected to grow up to be.

The years before Stonewall were a hard time to be an obvious trans-kid.

Leslie turned 18 in 1967 during the height of the Vietnam War and the Year of the Hippies.

The energy was incredible and sides were chosen.

I was down with SDS and the anti-war movement but I was also part of the hippie culture while Leslie was part of the dyke bar scene.

I came out in 1969.

Leslie’s  romanàclef, “Stone Butch Blues” is set in the 1970s, an era that was far less bleak for many TS/TG people than milieu painted by Leslie.

Leslie had an agenda.  One that showed in her non-fiction works as well.

Leslie was many different things to different people, a chameleon reflecting what people wanted to see in hir.

To some Leslie was a stone butch dyke, to others a Communist, to yet others a transgender warrior.

People have a tendency to reduce complex people, especially people they admire into paragons representing an ideal of the quality they admire that person for.

It was damned hard to do that with Leslie, just as it is hard to do that with many people who grew up in that era.  Even those whose lives were not impacted with trans-prefixed words, or other labels from the queer glossary.

People who have complex lives challenge us, at times they infuriate us.  Their contradictions make us think rather than simply admire.

I used to come across Worker’s World and the Weekly Worker on occasion.  I would find them in freebee news racks and in piles near the door of various used book stores.

I thought that Leslie was a good writer who made me think even when I disagreed with her, which I often did.

I also think that “Stone Butch Blues” is an incredible book and that if Leslie is remembered for nothing else then she should be remembered for that book.

(According to Minnie Bruce Pratt Leslie preferred female pronouns .)


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Transgender Pioneer and Stone Butch Blues Author Leslie Feinberg Has Died

From The Advocate:  http://www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/books/2014/11/17/transgender-pioneer-leslie-feinberg-stone-butch-blues-has-died

She was a pioneer in trans and lesbian issues, workers rights, and intersectionality long before anyone could define the phrase. Her partner, Minnie Bruce Pratt, and family offered us this obituary.

BY Diane Anderson-Minshall
November 17 2014

Leslie Feinberg, who identified as an anti-racist white, working-class, secular Jewish, transgender, lesbian, female, revolutionary communist, died on November 15. She succumbed to complications from multiple tick-borne co-infections, including Lyme disease, babeisiosis, and protomyxzoa rheumatica, after decades of illness.

She died at home in Syracuse, NY, with her partner and spouse of 22 years, Minnie Bruce Pratt, at her side. Her last words were: “Remember me as a revolutionary communist.”

Feinberg was the first theorist to advance a Marxist concept of “transgender liberation,” and her work impacted popular culture, academic research, and political organizing.

Her historical and theoretical writing has been widely anthologized and taught in the U.S. and international academic circles. Her impact on mass culture was primarily through her 1993 first novel, Stone Butch Blues, widely considered in and outside the U.S. as a groundbreaking work about the complexities of gender. Sold by the hundreds of thousands of copies and also passed from hand-to-hand inside prisons, the novel has been translated into Chinese, Dutch, German, Italian, Slovenian, Turkish, and Hebrew (with her earnings from that edition going to ASWAT Palestinian Gay Women).

In a statement at the end of her life, she said she had “never been in search of a common umbrella identity, or even an umbrella term, that brings together people of oppressed sexes, gender expressions, and sexualities” and added that she believed in the right of self-determination of oppressed individuals, communities, groups, and nations.

She preferred to use the pronouns she/zie and her/hir for herself, but also said: “I care which pronoun is used, but people have been disrespectful to me with the wrong pronoun and respectful with the right one. It matters whether someone is using the pronoun as a bigot, or if they are trying to demonstrate respect.”

Feinberg was born September 1, 1949, in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised in Buffalo, NY, in a working-class Jewish family. At age 14, she began supporting herself by working in the display sign shop of a local department store, and eventually stopped going to her high school classes, though officially she received her diploma. It was during this time that she entered the social life of the Buffalo gay bars. She moved out of a biological family hostile to her sexuality and gender expression, and to the end of her life carried legal documents that made clear they were not her family.

Continue reading at:  http://www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/books/2014/11/17/transgender-pioneer-leslie-feinberg-stone-butch-blues-has-died

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You’re Here, You’re Queer, You’re Proud… That’s Nice Now Go Help Put the Dinner on the Table…

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and there are certain things I am really thankful for.

One is having good friends including some people I have never met in 3D and only know through this blog and Facebook.

I am especially thankful for those of you who made a donation a few weeks ago and helped us deal with an emergency that threatened to overwhelm us during a year that has literally been one of economic hell coupled with dealing with a house damaged by an internal flood.

I’m thankful that marriage equality is rapidly becoming a reality all across the US.

But more than that I am really, really thankful that being a person of the lavender alphabet has become so ordinary and banal as to become a hoo-hum aspect of people, something akin to being left handed or something like that.  Something shocking only to those bigots who are sustained by hatred.

It has been 50 years since the Berkeley Free Speech Movement.  Fifty years since the Beatles first toured America.

So much has changed, not all to the better as we are still a nation divided.

Now we are divided by our identities, which make us special.  We cling to those identities be they Queer Activist or Tea Party Christer, we live for the thrill of the fight and along the line we forget to live for the simple joys of life.

We forget the love of family and friends.  In some cases our families are chosen and not by birth yet the ties are as strong or stronger than blood.

Among some of my Face Book friends I am seeing  many who have moved to post-trans, post-activist lives.  Folks taking time to plant a garden, take up long neglected loves such as music or art.

Today the Polar Vortex brought a first taste of winter to North Texas, the days are short and soon will bring the turning of the year.

Old age brings aches and pains along with the cold.

Old age also brings the knowledge that often times the most important change you can make is the change you make to yourself. When I was an acid taking hippie we talked about letting go of ego and finding oneness with the universe.  Sometimes lately it seems that the Twitteratti Activists seem to think they are the center of the universe and that all revolves around them and their thoughts/wishes.

I wish them well, they are part of a brave new world order with constant connectedness, selfies and status updates.  They live for their snarky quips and think they are oh so cool and wise as they navigate their dystopian world, where value is measured not by what you actually do but the labels you wear and things you consume.

So the wheel turns and I count another year of sobriety. Another year and I discard that which has grown meaningless, only to embrace those things that once seemed important,  but were lost along the path of life.

I am thankful for the clarity of age and loss of vanity. I can embrace my somberness and silliness with equal joy.

I mourn the loss of friends who died way too long ago and treasure those who remain.  I value new friendships knowing full well that time will never permit them to last as long as some of the friendships of many years.