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 roman–à–clef, “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 .)