“Stone Butch Blues” author Leslie Feinberg passes away

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Author and activist Leslie Feinberg has passed away at the age of 65. Leslie, who used both male/female pronouns and referred to herself as both transgender and a lesbian, died from complications related to “multiple tick-borne co-infections, including Lyme disease, babeisiosis, and protomyxzoa rheumatica,” as reported by The Advocate.

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Leslie was best known as the author of Stone Butch Blues, a legendary novel about a working class butch woman who struggled to find herself as she worked in factories and blue collar jobs in the 1960s. Part autobiography, the book introduced Leslie as a pivotal voice in the LGBT movement when the book came out in 1994, and has continued to be cited as one of the most important pieces of written work about lesbian women. Just this past April, we encouraged a re-reading of the book as part of our AfterEllen Book Club, celebrating its important legacy. Leslie also penned the novel Drag King Dreams, as well as two books on transgender identity and most recently rainbow solidarity: IN DEFENSE OF CUBA.

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Leslie passed at her home in Syracuse, New York, and her last words, according to the Advocate, were: “Remember me as a revolutionary communist.” She died with her partner of 22 years, Minnie Bruce Pratt, at her side.

And Leslie was nothing if not a revolutionary. Besides her work as a writer, she was also active in several anti-racist and socialist movements, and was the opening speaker at the historic rally on the 25th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall rally in New York City. She was the focus of a 1994 documentary called Outlaw, and has been widely interviewed about her radical ideas.

In 2009, Leslie filmed her 60th birthday talk in Syracuse, where she spoke about already being very ill but wanting to communicate with friends, fans and anyone else who would listen. It’s in six parts, separated by topic but worth watching in its entirety, especially now to remember Leslie, a revolutionary lesbian transgender hero. In part two she says, “I made the decision a long time ago it was more important to me how I lived than how long.”

May she never be forgotten. Her inspiration lives on.

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