Leslie Feinberg: “Remember me as a revolutionary communist”
18th Nov 2014
Leslie Feinberg who is survived by her partner Minnie Bruce Pratt, had been fighting a number of tick-borne diseases since the 70s but was not diagnosed until 2008, having suffered “bigotry, prejudice and lack of science” under the a healthcare system that did not recognise the rights of transgender people.
“Everybody’s scared, but if you don’t let your fears stop you, that’s bravery” – Stone Butch Blues
Not one to back down in the face of adversity, Leslie refused to allow disease or discrimination stop her from continuing the work she began in her early 20s, when she joined the Workers World Party, for whose newspaper, she became the Managing Editor.
Her campaign work saw her give her uncompromising support to victims of AIDS and racism, as well as rallying against war and anti-abortion groups.
In 1988, she was a key organiser of the movement responsible for obstructing the Klu Klux Klan as they marched toward Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue on MLK Day.
As a writer, her standout legacy is her groundbreaking novel Stone Butch Blues, whose protagonist Jess Goldberg endures significant ostracisation for identifying as transgender in the years before the Stonewall Riots.
Long eulogised in LGBTQ+ communities, when the novel emerged into the mainstream literary scene, it was established as a pioneering exploration of gender studies and a harrowing exposé of femme-butch intolerance in 60s America.
Leslie also authored the novel Drag King Dreams, as well as three non-fiction studies that identified her as a key authority on transgender studies – Transgender Warriors, Trans Liberation and, most recently, Rainbow Solidarity in Defence of Cuba.
We have a right to live openly and proudly“We have not always been forced to pass, to go underground, in order to work and live. We have a right to live openly and proudly…when our lives are suppressed, everyone is denied an understanding of the rich diversity of sex and gender expression and experience that exist in human society.” Transgender Warriors
Tributes from people who have been profoundly influenced by Leslie’s work have are a testament to the empowering values she lived by.
Many tweets have honoured her legacy by quoting her last words: “Remember me as a revolutionary communist” including journalist Laurie Penny, while others, such as For Books’ Sake favourite Janet Mock have given a nod to the trans community for whom she gave a voice.
In the months leading up to her death, Leslie was working on a 20th Anniversary edition of Stone Butch Blues. This along with her other art and writing will be made available here in the near future.
We at For Books’ Sake would like to express our enormous appreciation for an outstanding writer and an leading example in courage and human kindness.
Her passing is a huge loss to the transgender and LGBTQ+ communities she fought for and to all of us who can enjoy a more tolerant society due to her work.