“Remember me as a revolutionary communist.”
November 17, 2014 9:59 AM   Subscribe

Transgender warrior and author Leslie Feinberg has died at the age of 65.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (44 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:03 AM on November 17, 2014

I just saw this on fb and came here and started to make a post but then I remembered that I knew her and I just am going to sit here and cry for a little. Stone Butch Blues changed me.
posted by rtha at 10:08 AM on November 17, 2014 [7 favorites]

Oh, no.

posted by allthinky at 10:08 AM on November 17, 2014

Damn. I have major problems with WWP but Leslie was always the exception.

posted by graymouser at 10:12 AM on November 17, 2014

posted by wemayfreeze at 10:13 AM on November 17, 2014

posted by kyrademon at 10:20 AM on November 17, 2014

posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:20 AM on November 17, 2014

Killed by Lyme Disease!? Just awful.

posted by gwint at 10:21 AM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

posted by blnkfrnk at 10:24 AM on November 17, 2014

posted by ECarrell at 10:24 AM on November 17, 2014

posted by Foosnark at 10:51 AM on November 17, 2014

posted by Halloween Jack at 10:54 AM on November 17, 2014

Oh my god. Fuck.
posted by latkes at 11:20 AM on November 17, 2014

posted by beefetish at 11:21 AM on November 17, 2014

Fucking fuck. No. Goddammit.

posted by dorque at 11:22 AM on November 17, 2014

posted by larrybob at 11:28 AM on November 17, 2014

posted by Dreidl at 11:39 AM on November 17, 2014

posted by Sophie1 at 11:40 AM on November 17, 2014

Among the very many things I honor Leslie for was the championing of CeCe McDonald while she was incarcerated. . This photo.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:09 PM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


posted by tchemgrrl at 12:15 PM on November 17, 2014

Shit. Leslie was a hero of mine, start to finish. Terrible.

posted by mykescipark at 12:17 PM on November 17, 2014

Oh, no.


Everyone go read Stone Butch Blues.
posted by likeatoaster at 12:33 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I had known for a long time that she was ill. I'm sorry to hear she's gone.

Her book Stone Butch Blues cut a wide swathe through the lesbian community when it came out in 1993. As did her partner, Minnie Bruce Pratt's book, S/he, which came out in 1995, and was partly a memoir of their relationship to that date.

Back then, the gay and lesbian writers community in the US was pretty small overall, and it seemed like just about everybody came to the OutWrite conference every year. You'd get hopefuls, people who'd published a little bit in anthologies and magazines, and writers who'd made mainstream splash, like Dorothy Allision after Bastard Out of Carolina, all together in some hotel in Boston. A friend would ask you to join a group for dinner, and you'd end up at a restaurant with Alison Bechdel because your friend's friend's friend knew her and had invited her along.

Feinberg and Pratt wrote the first really positive portrayals of trans people to come out of the small women's and lesbian presses like Firebrand, and it was very controversial. I was very attracted to really, really butch women, and Stone Butch Blues really spoke to some of my lovers, in particular one who had grown up poor and working-class in Detroit, and had been mentored in the ways of lesbianism by working class dykes who had no use for academic lesbian feminist critiques of butch/femme relationships. A few years after we broke up, that lover transitioned female-to-male, as did several other exes and the person I'm still with 21 years later.

Pratt's book S/he was one of a number of books that awakened a nostalgic interest in exploring butch/femme again, along with Leslea Newman's anthology The Femme Mystique, and Joan Nestle's A Persistent Desire, and other's I've forgotten. There were a lot of hard conversations going on among lesbians in those days: about trans issues, about butch/femme, about this crazy new thing where lesbians were starting to have babies on purpose, and not just raising the kids they'd had while married to men before they came out.

I was on staff at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival during the early days of Camp Trans, and my own partner of 21 years and I can trace our own opening up around trans issues to seeing Feinberg, and especially Jameson Green, speak at Camp Trans. It was a challenging position to be in: I was part of the coordinating staff of the Security & Communications crew at the festival, and one of our jobs was negotiating the challenges around trans issues at the festival. At the same time, when I was off-duty I was crossing the road to Camp Trans to meet people and hear what they had to say.

Right before I got involved with my current partner in 1993, I dated a radical feminist philosopher from our local university. The year before, she'd been responsible for squiring Minnie Bruce Pratt around during a campus visit, and they'd fallen in love. The obituary mentions that Feinberg and Pratt met in 1992 and had a long-distance courtship before moving in together; this began not long after the RFP started to also have a long-distance relationship with Pratt. Ultimately, Pratt dropped the RFP in favor of Feinberg, and I started dating the RFP not long after. I was pretty well embracing my femme side at the time, and I think one of the reasons the RFP asked me out was because Pratt had gotten her interested in butch/femme and she was interested in exploring that more with me (as well as wanting a salve for her very broken heart). But I don't think the RFP was ever able to reconcile her ideas about womanhood with trans lives, and the friendship we had post-breakup foundered during my partner's transition a few years later.

I was 27 when I dated the philosopher, and she was 52. My youthful attraction for older women means I have several exes who have been edging into old age while I move into middle age, but she is the oldest. I've occasionally found myself thinking of her and wondering what it might be like someday to lose a former lover. I didn't know Feinberg well at all; I met her briefly a couple of times, and once had an elevator ride with her and Pratt during which it took all my self-control not to blurt out, "Hey, Minnie Bruce, you don't know me but I'm dating your ex-girlfriend!"

Feinberg's death feels like a loss of someone who meant something to me as a lesbian and a writer of that time, and to my lovers. Our lives were profoundly changed by the conversation Feinberg and Pratt started with their writing. I have old friends who will be grieving her loss on a much more personal level than I am. Like Adrianne Rich's death a couple of years ago, this is one of the early deaths of a generation of writers, artists, and activists who meant a lot to me and to many others. I think it's part of being middle-aged that I find myself missing those days and that community, and Feinberg's death raises all kinds of feelings that aren't just about her but are also about who we were back then and the work we thought we were doing in the world.

I wrote a little bit about those days, and butch/femme, on my blog not too long ago.
posted by not that girl at 12:54 PM on November 17, 2014 [43 favorites]

What a fucking amazing set of last words. What a life.

posted by ActionPopulated at 1:06 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by kinnakeet at 1:31 PM on November 17, 2014

posted by fiercecupcake at 1:34 PM on November 17, 2014

posted by TwoStride at 1:36 PM on November 17, 2014

posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:38 PM on November 17, 2014

posted by radiocontrolled at 1:56 PM on November 17, 2014

posted by daq at 2:17 PM on November 17, 2014

What a life indeed.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:04 PM on November 17, 2014

Wow, I didn't know zir personally, but knew who ze was through zir activism. But the Lyme disease stuff just kinda blindsided me — no idea at all.
posted by klangklangston at 3:14 PM on November 17, 2014

I saw Leslie speak in college many years ago, a stirring and emotional experience, and a formative one. Zie opened my eyes to the connections between the lived experiences and struggles of trans folks and my own experiences and struggles as a cis male — taking nothing away from the first and adding immeasurable insight and clarity to the second. Specifically: that we all have a self to live and express that matches poorly, if at all, with what is expected of us based on what parts we were born with; that we all labor under the tyranny of gender expectations.

As Leslie said: “People of all sexes have the right to explore femininity, masculinity - and the infinite variations between - without criticism or ridicule. My right to be me is tied with a thousand threads to your right to be you.”

Liberation means freedom for all forms of self, visibility for and acceptance of each and every one of us: for who we are and how we are.

Thank you Leslie for changing my life. Rest in power.
posted by wemayfreeze at 3:22 PM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

RIP, and far too soon. Feinberg laid the groundwork that's made it possible for people like me to exist in relative comfort and acceptance today, and will be sorely missed. The quality of hir medical treatment was pretty atrocious from what I can gather, which is unsurprising but utterly enraging.

posted by Dysk at 3:36 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

posted by chaosys at 4:17 PM on November 17, 2014

Feinberg was the commencement speaker at the 1st college I attended several years after I left. There was supposed to be a scholarship set up in zir name, but nothing ever came of it.
posted by brujita at 4:49 PM on November 17, 2014

This is very sad.

posted by yellowcandy at 5:20 PM on November 17, 2014

Someone on the definite fringes of society has passed, but made themselved heard while thery were alive. Good for them.

posted by jonmc at 5:47 PM on November 17, 2014

Leslie Feinberg's 38 part series on Lyme disease, "Casualty of an Undeclared War.

posted by femmegrrr at 5:52 PM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

posted by mollymayhem at 9:17 PM on November 17, 2014

Another person here who found Stone Butch Blues life changing. This is sad.
posted by medusa at 9:43 PM on November 17, 2014

I know a lot of people first experienced Feinberg through zir books, but I actually first came upon the series Lavender & Red in the Workers World newspaper. It was a 120 (!) part series covering the common history of the LGBT and socialist / communist movements. Unfortunately zir long fight with Lyme Disease stopped Leslie from actually compiling most of these columns into a book - the ones on Cuba being the exception, in a book called Rainbow Solidarity in Defense of Cuba. I'm hoping that the rest get compiled posthumously, as it's a tremendous work of otherwise largely obscure history that deserves to be remembered.
posted by graymouser at 4:30 AM on November 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

posted by hydropsyche at 10:27 AM on November 18, 2014

Stone Butch Blues fucked me up really hard for a while and also changed my life immeasurably for the better, and I think it's a testament to what a tremendous book it was that it could do both of those things without contradiction.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:43 PM on November 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

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