TRANSGENDER WARRIORS by Leslie Feinberg

TRANSGENDER WARRIORS

Making History from Joan of Arc to RuPaul
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A much-needed project, unfortunately weighed down by repetition and clichÇ. Feinberg (Stone Butch Blues, 1993) has undertaken a history of transgender, a term used, Feinberg explains, ``to include everyone who challenges the boundaries of sex and gender'' or, as one activist puts it, to describe those individuals who live ``full time in the gender opposite to their anatomy.'' It is a readable pop history, full of intriguing tidbits about past gender outlaws: For example, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake not for her resistance to the English but for the crime of cross-dressing. References to the author's personal experiences as a transgendered lesbian, as well as profiles of contemporary transgender activists, ground the book in present-day struggles. Unfortunately, excessive polemics mire Feinberg in repetition and ideological catch-phrases; instead of letting transgender's textured and often painful history speak for itself, she is continually hitting the reader over the head with preachings about the (admittedly very real) injustices Western society has visited upon those who do not fit neatly into the gender categories society assigns them. The sketches of contemporary transgendered people, among them writers, bodybuilders, historians, and artists, are written in their own words, and Feinberg allows many of them to spout rhetoric rather than describe the particularities of their own experience. She condescends to the reader by pointing out the obvious; mentioning transgenders who fought in the Confederacy, for example, she observes that not all gender deviants are politically progressive. Furthermore, Feinberg has no sense of humor about gender and does not seem to appreciate the potential for play in its subversion-- she seems to see only oppression in the transgendered experience. Even her nod to wildly inventive drag supermodel RuPaul is earnest and flat. This joylessness is understandable given her own experience of violence and isolation, first as a masculine woman, and now as a transgendered lesbian, but it leaves out an important aspect of her subject. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8070-7940-5
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1996




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