Sunday, February 18, 2007

Transgender Warrior comes to Case

Photo Credit: Marilyn Humphries

February 16, 2007

Transgender warrior comes to Case
Leslie Feinberg warns againstforming ‘binary’ societies
by Eric Resnick
Cleveland--“Build genuine bonds of trust and solidarity [with other oppressed people], not quid pro quo,” Leslie Feinberg told 120 people gathered in Case Western Reserve University’s Ford Auditorium on February 9. “It’s not ‘I’ll do this, if you do that.’ ”
Feinberg, 58, a transgender activist, historian, speaker, and author, is also an editor of Workers World newspaper where hir column “Lavender and Red” appears.
Feinberg prefers the gender-neutral pronouns “ze” and “hir,” pronounced “here.”
Ze spoke on many topics and took questions, but wanted the audience to think differently about how struggling people form bonds, how the oppressors stay in power by breaking those bonds, and how LGBT people have been used as wedge issues in nearly every social movement for centuries.
Feinberg described ‘right wing’ politics as those which perpetuate the status quo and allow a few to hold on to wealth, and ‘left wing’ politics as those which cause change and promote a more just society.
“It’s not enough just to have a left wing,” said Feinberg. “The left wing needs a left wing.”
Feinberg used the occupation of Iraq as an analogy.
“What’s the difference whether Republicans or Democrats fight the war in Iraq?” Feinberg asked rhetorically, to applause.
“The real change comes from those on the far left,” ze said.
Feinberg warned against “binary” societies, like Democrat and Republican, gay and straight, or butch and femme, because “we are more complex than the binary structure allows.”
Feinberg said those who fit the mold of the binary structure are the ones called “reasonable,” while those who don’t are “other.”
“The right wing lumps us all together, then pit the ‘reasonable’ ones against the rest,” said Feinberg. “That pulls the reasonable ones closer to the power, which, in order to maintain, will say of the others, ‘We’re not all like that,’ or say, ‘We’re going to be reasonable. The rest of you are an impediment.’ ”
“That has never been a strategy for victory,” said Feinberg.
“Their strength at the table is only as strong as the picket line outside the building,” Feinberg added.
Feinberg said anti-gay laws were brought about by colonialism, and are now brought out, often outside historical or cultural context, to justify wars of aggression.
Ze used the example of Afghanistan to illustrate how propaganda of gender oppression allows aggressors to convince themselves they are liberators.
“Suddenly, the Pentagon became the vehicle for women’s liberation,” Feinberg said, again to applause.
Feinberg said LGBT people have stood with every successful revolutionary movement and must continue to do so.
“If we can’t understand the struggles revolutions have faced, how the hell are we going to have a revolution here?” ze said.
“LGBT people have been on the front lines,” said Feinberg, “because we said ‘you need us, and that’s where we are going to be.’ ”
“This is not the kind of solidarity that goes hat in hand to powers that be, and says ‘please don’t hurt us too badly,’ Feinberg continued.
“It’s the ones with the least to lose and the most to gain who fight the battles.”
Feinberg appealed to the group to stand in solidarity with the Cuban 5, who are now being held prisoner by the U.S. government for infiltrating CIA commando groups who were performing terror raids on Cuba in an attempt to stop them.
As an example to hir audience, Feinberg, circulated petitions and leaflets calling on LGBT solidarity.
“Realize the power by bridging the fault lines keeping those who stand against all oppression apart,” Feinberg said.

Feinberg’s website is

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