by Juliana Ketting
Leslie Feinberg was an American transgender activist, lesbian, revolutionary communist, and author. Her/Hir most noticeable works “Stone Butch Blues”, published in 1993, and “Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman”, published in 1996, established vital foundations of the terminology, use, and awareness of gender studies. Feingerg’s career as a transgender activist began in the 1970’s when she/zie met with members of the Workers World Party, which she later joined. She/Zie would attend, in subsequent years, the March Against Racism (Boston, 1974), a national tour on HIV/AIDS (1983-84), and mobilization against the Ku Klux Klan (Atlanta, 1988). Feinberg’s work was instrumental because she/zie was the first theorist to advance the Marxist concept of “transgender liberation”. With hundreds of thousands of copies sold, her/hir work widely impacted popular culture, academic research/study, and political organizing. Her/hir most prominent and impactful work is arguable “Stone Butch Blues” as it was considered globally as a groundbreaking work in the studies and complexities of gender.
“Stone Butch Blues” was the first published novel to recount a story from the point of view of a transgendered individual and the first to embrace “transgendered” as an identity. The novel addresses and identifies the transgender experience to aid in awareness of female-to-male transgendered (FTM) identity while also giving context to developing medical practices and literature. Her/Hir novel implied that the “disease” of gender dysphoria infects the dominant culture while also being a disease with difference. Feinberg writes, “Who was I now- woman or man? That questions could never be answered as long as those were the only choices; it could never be answered if it had to be asked.” (Feinberg) In her/hir other popular work, “Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman”, Feinberg uses her/hir personal journey to uncover the history of gender expression and rebellion. She/zie defines “transgender” as an overarching umbrella that includes all “people who cross the culture boundaries of gender” (Feinberg) including butch lesbians, women who “pass”, and drag queens.”
Although Feinberg died in 2014, at the age of 65, she/zie were able to revolutionize gender studies as well as the term “transgender”. Her/hir work alongside authors and activists such as Nancy Jean Burkholder and Janet Mock, have helped shift the thoughts and definitions presented in popular culture, academia, and activists. Although Janet Mock is a relatively new name in gender studies and transgender activism, she and Feinberg share similar points of view and writing style. Similar to “Transgender Warriors” by Feinberg, Mock writes her memoir, “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More”, details her experience growing up within intersecting marginalized race, class, status, and gender. Although Feinberg is no longer living, her/hir work continues to live on through younger writers and those impacted by her/hir courage and work.
Feinberg, Leslie. Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.
"Self". Leslie Feinberg. March 27, 2014. https://www.lesliefeinberg.net/self/. Accessed Mar. 2021.
Arturo J. Aldama. “Violence and the Body: Race, Gender, and the State”; Indiana University Press, 2003.
"Best Sellers: February 23, 2014". The New York Times. February 23, 2014. Accessed March 1, 2021.
Chen, J. N. (2019). Trans Exploits: Trans of Color Cultures and Technologies in Movement. United States: Duke University Press.
Feinberg, Leslie (2006). “Drag King Dreams”. New York: Carroll & Graf.
Frey, Kate. "Leslie Feinberg: Transgender Warrior". Socialist Alternative. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
Larry Hales, LeiLani Dowell, "Leftist transgender activist defies university censorship"; Ft. Collins, Colorado; April 27, 2005.
Meyerowitz, Joanne J. “How Sex Changed: A History of Transsecuality in the United States”; Harvard University Press. 2002.
Moses, Cat. “Queering Class: Leslie Feinberg’s ‘Stone Butch Blues.’” Studies in the Novel, vol. 31, no. 1, 1999, pp. 74–97. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/29533313. Accessed 2 Mar. 2021.