cover image Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Rupaul

Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Rupaul

Leslie Feinberg. Beacon Press (MA), $27.5 (212pp) ISBN 978-0-8070-7940-9

Feinberg, a surgically and hormonally transgendered female-to-male and the author of the novel Stone Butch Blues, here effectively pummels several old saws about gender, such as that there were two or three centuries in ancient Greece that constituted the golden age of gayness (""How happy were the gay slaves?"" she asks). She also shows the often frantic and neurotic ways Western society clings to rigid notions of gender, while at the same time she describes (though not fully enough) how these notions shift radically from age to age. But her historical perspective can be sketchy. Feinberg, for example, expends little effort in looking into why a notorious band of male Welsh revolutionaries calling themselves Rebecca and Her Daughters dressed as women to destroy tollbooths in the mid-19th century. Though she draws many conclusions from this and other examples of cross-dressing rebellion through the ages, she fails to consider that the readiest disguise for a married man is his wife's clothing. The book does offer an enlightening album of singular people: a female transvestite who is sexually attracted to gay men; a couple consisting of a female cross-dresser and a male-cross-dresser. But Feinberg ultimately leaves too many gaps, both in history and in reasoning, to make her theories about gender expression and gender oppression solid. Author tour. (May) FYI: Filming of Stone Butch Blues, which won both the ALA Award for Gay and Lesbian Literature and the Lambda Literary Award in 1993, is to begin this spring.