Farewell to Transgender Activist Leslie Feinberg

The LGBT community has lost a true warrior in the battle against discrimination and oppression.

A well-known warrior of the transgender and lesbian movements and author of Stone Butch Blues, Leslie Feinberg, died Saturday. She was 65. According to The Advocate, Feinberg died from multiple tick-borne co-infections at her home in Syracuse, NY with her wife of 22 years, Minnie Bruce Pratt, by her side.

Feinberg was a transgender activist and author who penned the LGBT classic Stone Butch Blues, her first novel, in 1993. She won the Lambda Literary Award, as well as the 1994 American Library Association Gay and Lesbian Book Award. Feinberg wrote two nonfiction books, Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue and Transgender Warriors: Making History; she also wrote the novel Drag King Dreams, and a compilation of 25 articles entitled Rainbow Solidarity in Defense of Cuba.

Feinberg self-identified as a transgender butch lesbian female and preferred the pronouns she/zie and her/hir. As an activist/author, she was one of the first true butch lesbian voices in the world of literature. Stone Butch Blues is considered one of the most important works about lesbians ever written, and along with her other writings Feinberg touched LGBT people all over the world. As a lesbian and transgender person, she dealt with discrimination her whole life, and through her writing and advocacy provided a voice and inspiration for people dealing with the same bigotry.

A pioneer in the movement for freedom of self-identification, Feinberg once said, “More exists among human beings than can be answered by the simplistic question I’m hit with every day of my life: ‘Are you a man or a woman?'” She was a powerful supporter of those on the outskirts of society, especially lesbian, transgender, and gender non-conforming people.

After Feinberg’s death, Erin Buzuvis, director of The Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies at Western New England University School of Law, issued the following statement: “Les Feinberg’s life work centered on highlighting the challenges that transgender and gender non-conforming people face in a society that presumes people look and act according to gender stereotypes. Zie’s books and writings, including the novel Stone Butch Blues and non-fiction work Transgender Warriors: Making History, quickly became part of the canon of literature for students of gender and sexuality studies, and remain core to the curriculum today. Les’s focus on the intersections of issues relating to class, race, and gender pressed students to think deeply about the relationships among different forms of oppression and discrimination. In Les’s death, the academy loses a thought leader in the world of gender studies.”

Our community has lost a true warrior in the battle against discrimination and oppression who will be missed greatly. In Stone Butch Blues, Feinberg wrote, “You’re more than just neither, honey. There’s other ways to be than either-or. It’s not so simple. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many people who don’t fit.”

You didn’t ‘fit,’ Leslie, and we thank you for that.