Natalie's Reviews > Stone Butch Blues

Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
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's review
Jan 07, 2011

really liked it
Read in November, 2011

This one was difficult to rate. I give you a complicated review for a complicated book.

This is a coming-of-age novel of sorts about a transgendered/gender queer person.

To be honest, I wasn't that into the first half of the book. The writing feels really unpolished and forced, the characters lack any depth or description, and a lot of the narrative seems like a cold retelling of historical facts. I'm also totally unfamiliar with the lingo involved in the trans movement of the 50s and 60s, so I often couldn't tell exactly what was going on. The world portrayed by Feinberg seems very rule-based. Ironically, it seemed to have its own really unrelenting binary (you're either a butch or a femme!). But since I wasn't totally familiar with the phrases going in, I felt lost for a lot of the action in the first half.

And the narrator never really describes what made hir feel more male. Ze just describes wanting to wear hir father's clothes instead of hir mother's clothes. But there's no feeling, no explanation, behind it. Obviously, there was more to hir identity than a style preference, and I would have loved to see that described.

But the second half. Oh man, the second half. This is where Feinberg really found what ze was looking to say. What the narrator makes perfectly clear is how possible it is for someone to exist in the space between (outside of?) male and female. Really, really. The isn't some inkling self-doubt or whimsical notion. Our gender binary is doing some serious damage to a lot of people.

I have studied this stuff before, I have learned from biology books about all the different ways a person can be intersex, I've been sympathetic and interested for a long time. But this book helped me get it in a way I didn't before. It is so easy to write off gender-queer folks. Conservatives say, "You're perverting how God wanted you to be. You are confused." Liberals say, "You are letting yourself be indoctrinated by the social constructs that tell you what gender should mean to you. You are confused."

But really. It is refreshing to read something that shows so beautifully that hey, this is real, this is not just something in someone's head. People aren't sick or wrong or messed up. Before, I got it, on an abstract intellectual level. Now I feel like I get it better, on a more emotional, experiential level.

I also super-loved the analysis of how the economic struggles of workers are so interconnected with the struggle for gender queer folks to be safe and integrated.

I think we have definite cause to celebrate the progress we've made on opening up space within that binary. Lots of work has been done to highlight that space that is neither male nor female, but is "that moment of infinite possibility that connects them." (p. 270)

But damn, we still have a LONG way to go on making our society safe for gender-queer people.

The importance of this book, despite its pretty weak writing, earns it four stars.

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02/06/2016 marked as: read

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message 1: by rae (new) - rated it 5 stars

rae Yay can't wait to talk about it with you.

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