Tag Archives: butch

Mourning a Transgender Warrior on Transgender Day of Remembrance

Laurie and Debbie say:

Leslie Feinberg died five days ago, of complications of Lyme disease and related tick-borne illnesses. November 20 (still today on the West Coast of the U.S.) is the International Transgender Day of Remembrance. While this somber day is about remembering trans people who have been murdered for being trans, it is also a most fitting day to remember Leslie Feinberg, who died not by murder but by the medical establishment’s bigotry .

Feinberg was a tireless fighter for revolutionary justice for all people, and identified as an “anti-racist white, working-class, secular Jewish, transgender, lesbian, female, revolutionary communist.”


Hir obituary describes hir autobiographical novel, Stone Butch Blues as “a groundbreaking work about the complexities of gender,” a near-perfect description. Both of us remember reading Stone Butch Blues when it was relatively new, and being struck by … so many things. How ze was not only a good writer, but also a clear thinker. How clearly ze delineates the working-class Buffalo gay culture where ze grew up, and how class is a central part of the story. How — in a time where being gay was more dangerous than it is now, being butch was flaunting the refusal to pass, and being trans or genderqueer was rarely acknowledged and given very little space even in queer culture — ze managed to examine the complexities of being butch and trans, being working class and queer, being stone and loving.

Shauna Miller, writing at The Atlantic, talks about the importance of Stone Butch Blues, and what she learned from it.

… the depth and beauty of Stone Butch Blues comes from the way Feinberg takes the reader down the path of realizing what butch identity means—and what safety and self-acceptance inside that identity means—with her. Jess’s identity is so much more than her appearance. It’s more than her choice to work in a male-dominated factory world. It’s more than those simple and severely punished offenses against both womanhood and manhood. It’s more than the fistfights with other butches as a desperate attempt at intimacy, more than disappointing her great love, Theresa, with her emotional and intimate distance. By the end of this book, butch identity comes from letting love’s light trickle through a crack in the armor. But first the reader needs to understand where all the armor came from. “I felt as though I was rushing into a burning building to discover the ideas I needed for my own life,” Jess writes. That’s heavy gear to carry.

Feinberg believed that her death was directly attributable to “bigotry, prejudice and lack of science,” both because of the extra difficulties transgender people face in receiving good care, and the absolute failure of contemporary medicine to acknowledge and treat chronic Lyme disease and its related co-infections. Her multi-part essay, “Casualty of an Undeclared War” goes into substantial detail about this.

Feinberg was never one to let someone else have the last word. From hir obituary:

In a statement at the end of her life, she said she had “never been in search of a common umbrella identity, or even an umbrella term, that brings together people of oppressed sexes, gender expressions, and sexualities” and added that she believed in the right of self-determination of oppressed individuals, communities, groups, and nations.

Butch Mom, Wearing Words Any Way They See Fit

Debbie says:

If you can’t blog your friends really good posts, what’s the point of having a blog at all? I’m a frequent visitor in Lori Selke’s household, so I can confirm that when they (Selke’s preferred pronoun) say, “I am a butch biological mother in a queer parenting threesome in which the other two members are male-assigned and I would probably have to arm-wrestle at least one of them for the title of ‘most butch,'” it’s no exaggeration.

Selke is responding to a Lambda Literary Review article in which Sinclair Sexsmith interviews Jack Halberstam. (Jack Halberstam, until recently, has been better known as Judith Halberstam: in either identity, a prominent and interesting gender theorist). Here’s the Halberstam quote that got Selke steaming:

Sometimes I get really irritated when I’m around other queer couples where one person is kind of clearly butch and the other is clearly less butch, but the butch partner is still called “mom.” I think, what’s that about? Why do you want to be called mom? Nothing could be further from my desire, in parenting, than to be called mom. So, we’re doing this queer parenting thing, but the roles of mom and dad have remained completely stable? Only women can be mom, only men can be dad? What’s that about? It’s another frontier where we need better and more interesting ways of thinking about how gender interacts with social functions like parenting.

And here’s Selke’s response (well, part of it):

The idea that because my kids call me mom, I believe or support the idea that only women can be mom and only men can be dad is ludicrous. Now we are using the word “mom” to determine who is hip and happening and genderbending and questioning and exploring how gender and parenting interact, and who’s not. Apparently, by not chafing at the label M-O-M, I’m not.

Even though they also call me “Mister Sir” (and sometimes “Mister Sir Mommy Sir”)? Not making that one up.

… I want to open up the word “Mom” to be as inclusive as possible. Butch moms, femme moms, none-of-the-above moms. Stud moms. Trans moms. Mister Sir Mommy moms. Male moms.

I want other words, too. New words and coinages, and the repurposing of old terms, both obscure and forgotten and otherwise. I want to rip vocabulary from the clutches of the hegemony and wear words any way I see fit. I want to mix codes and confuse the masses. And even if I didn’t want that, it happens in my wake regardless. I’ve watched the ripples of consternation follow me all my life, both before and after I became a parent.

And I see using “mom” for a butch parent as very clearly a repurposing. It’s not a word for everybody, and if Halberstam had stuck to “I have absolutely no desire to be referred to as ‘mom,’” I wouldn’t be writing this. But please. If I can be called a Mom, that lights a fuse to a lot of stereotypes about what Moms can and can’t do, look like, be.

I’m right there with them, all that range of Moms. Just the concept makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

But I have a question (more for Halberstam than for Selke, and also for anyone who wants to answer): where are the dads in this article? Is it different to talk about femme dads, and sissy dads than it is to talk about butch moms? It’s one thing to be stuck in the binary of “mom” and “dad” the same way we’re stuck in the binary of “male” and “female,” but it’s something else again to have dads go completely invisible. Halberstam talks some about butch dads (by which he means dads who have also been coded female, presumably by birth and phenotype, since the context rules out dads who have been coded female by femme behavior and dress). Selke talks about the male-assigned parents in their household.

Dads, who aren’t butch, whether they are cis-male dads, trans-female dads, genderless dads, are completely invisible in the conversation. And perhaps because I am so taken with Selke’s desire to mess with vocabulary and codes and confuse the masses (and the words they use to describe that desire), I miss the presence of the range of dads that I’m confident both Halberstam and Selke can imagine.