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literature

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Feinberg, Leslie (b. 1949)  

Political organizer, grassroots historian, and writer Leslie Feinberg is a pioneer of activism and culture. Long a part of the struggle for queer liberation, Feinberg openly identifies as transgendered and has been outspoken about "hir" experiences living outside of the gender binary. ("Ze" has expressed the need for our language to incorporate alternate pronouns such as "hir" rather than "her" or "his," and "ze" or "sie" as opposed to "he" or "she.")

Feinberg is perhaps best known as the author of the widely acclaimed novel Stone Butch Blues (Firebrand Books, 1993). In response to the common assumption that the novel is semi-autobiographical, ze has stated that the book is a work of fiction. Ze has gone on to explain that ze chose to write from a first-person point of view in light of the limitations using third-person pronouns would have imposed upon the narrative.

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Still, many readers have recognized aspects of Feinberg's own life in the story of protagonist Jess Goldberg, a Jewish "he-she" growing up in 1950s Buffalo and struggling around being differently gendered.

Like Feinberg, Jess identified as a butch lesbian before fully coming to terms with hir gender identity, which falls outside the norm. Jess is unable to find a sense of home and self until ze discovers a community of gender/sexual minorities and then later becomes politically active as an organizer.

The deeply moving novel is already regarded as a classic, and rightly so. It has won both an American Library Association Award for Gay and Lesbian Literature and a 1994 Lambda Literary Award.

In addition to Stone Butch Blues, Feinberg has published two nonfiction books: Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to RuPaul (Beacon Press, 1996), which won a Firecracker Alternative Book Award for Nonfiction in 1996, and Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue (Beacon, 1998).

Feinberg has been especially vigilant in hir writings about documenting the otherwise ignored contributions to history various oppressed groups have made. Hir nonfiction works explore not only transgender issues, but the crucial relationships and parallels among the women's, people of color's, and queer rights movements.

In addition to hir writing career, Feinberg is also a leader of the Workers World Party, an independent Marxist organization, and a managing editor of its newspaper. Ze co-founded Rainbow Flags for Mumia--a coalition of GLBTQ people calling for a new trial for political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal--and organizes with the International Action Center, an activist group that resists war, corporate greed, and oppression.

Feinberg has spoken publicly about a serious illness ze survived in the 1990s, during which ze nearly died due to the discriminatory treatment ze received from doctors. Feinberg has shared the experience to illustrate the dire need for better understanding of trans health issues and needs among the medical establishment.

Feinberg is currently at work on another novel, as well as a nonfiction book on trans health issues and an essay collection. Ze lectures widely at colleges and universities, speaks at Pride marches, and has given numerous keynote speeches at various transgender events.

Feinberg and hir wife, poet Minnie Bruce Pratt, live outside of New York City.

Teresa Theophano

     

 
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    Bibliography
   

Feinberg, Leslie. Stone Butch Blues. Ithaca, N.Y.: Firebrand Books, 1993.

green, karen. "Mouth to Mouth: karen green Talks to Leslie Feinberg." Pucker Up 1.4 (Fall/Winter 1996): 34-35.

Lee, Gretchen. "Pink and Blue." Curve 8.5 (November, 1998): 28-31.

www.transgenderwarrior.org.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Theophano, Teresa  
    Entry Title: Feinberg, Leslie  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2003  
    Date Last Updated April 7, 2006  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/feinberg_l.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2003, glbtq, inc.  
 

 

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