Leslie Feinburg’s Stone Butch Blues

This book was put onto a list given to me by a good friend and then put into my hands by that same friend. Stone Butch Blues is a gut punch. I’ve long argued that fiction often serves as a better carrier of objective truth than memoir or other forms of nonfiction, and this particular book is going to be my new go-to example. The plight of lesbian, gay, and trans individuals throughout most of the second half of the 20th century is illustrated in devastating detail.

While the prose and dialog in Stone Butch Blues is often a bit flat and uninspired, the book itself is still a powerful read -the author compared her goals in writing it to those of a mimeographed labor organizing tract. It’s not especially academic or literary, but it isn’t trying to be. It’s a story, and it’s a story that hasn’t been told as publicly as it should be. The hurt in this book is transparent and evocative. The reader is so captivated by the story of Jess that the resulting emotional investment is far more empathy than sympathy, regardless of personal experience. As a straight white male in America, I’ve never felt the kind of persecution described in this book in my own life, but I got some idea of the weight of it in this reading.

Stone Butch Blues is a bit of a tract. It’s not propaganda, but it’s damn inspiring. Reading this book in the midst of the absurd obsession with legislated bathrooms in America was especially disturbing -seeing cartoons posted by intolerant acquaintances on Facebook advocating violence against the trans community (“He identifies as a woman -well, I identify as the Tooth Fairy, and I’m gonna knock his teeth out if he follows my daughter into the restroom”) while reading about men acting on that kind of intolerance made the story not only real, but impossible to regulate to the past.

Recommendation: Read it. And if you’re one of those mouth-breathing troglodytes seeking to justify hate with some bullshit “think-of-the-children” rhetoric, then fuck you.

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