Leslie Feinberg, 1949-2014

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A rich and passionate life dedicated to struggle and the fight for transgender liberation

Next to me on a bookshelf is a book which has had a profound influence on my life and thousands of others. Leslie Feinberg’s Transgender Warriors, published in 1996, is a unique piece of work — an examination of gender variant expression by people from the dawn of history to the present, written by a Marxist and setting out a materialist explanation for transphobia and homophobia.

Leslie died on 15 November from complications due to the tick-borne Lyme disease which had devastated her health for years. Her battle for medical support in the face of the profession’s transphobia was an example of her lifelong struggle against oppression and injustice. Her last words to her partner Minnie Bruce Pratt were, “Remember me as a revolutionary communist.”

Born to a working class Jewish family in 1949 in Kansas City, Missouri, she grew up in Buffalo, New York. When she came out as lesbian and transgender she became estranged from her family but found a new family among lesbian, gay and transgender activists. Driven to fight oppression of any kind she became a Marxist in the early 1970s and joined the Workers World Party.

She spent decades organising against war, supporting struggles, campaigning over Aids, fighting racism and fascism, homophobia and transphobia. Never able to obtain long-term or stable employment she existed on low paid factory and office work.

She published a series of pioneering books and articles which have earned her a place as a major contributor to the fight for trans liberation.
From her acclaimed novel, Stone Butch Blues, through the path-breaking Transgender Warriors and Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue, and a second novel, Drag King Dreams, she wrote in a direct style.

The final words in Transgender Warriors sum up a rich and passionate life dedicated to struggle and the fight for transgender liberation:

“None of us will be free until we have forged an economic system that meets the needs of every working person. As trans people, we will not be free until we fight for and win a society in which no class stands to benefit from fomenting hatred and prejudice, where laws restricting sex and gender and human love will be unthinkable. Look for us — transgender warriors — in the leadership of the struggle to usher in the dawn of liberation.”