Tue, Dec 16, 2003 - Page 16 News List

A transgender warrior spreads the word to Taiwan

Leslie Feinberg, a pioneer in the gay, lesbian and transgender liberation movement, is in Taiwan to meet fans and sign copies of her translated book

By Bradley Winterton  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

The issue of the adoption of children by same-sex couples was raised. "I believe all people have the right to raise children and to love them," she said. "What a wonderful gift love is to give a child!"

Also on the panel was Minnie Bruce Pratt, Feinberg's partner and the author of several books including Walking Back Up Depot Street. She commented that when she came out as a lesbian she immediately lost custody of her two children, then aged four and five. Parental rights were consequently close to her heart.

"This is an area of common cause between gays and lesbians and the transgender community," she said. "Being a good parent is nothing to do with sexual behavior. Care and love are the only requirements for parenting."

Leslie Feinberg said that she had started "Stone Butch Blues" as a continuation of her work as a grass-roots organizer. The late 1960s and early 1970s in the US witnessed an upsurge of the people -- black, Latino, Asian, the anti-Vietnam-War movement. Gay liberation and feminism had essentially been part of this left-wing movement, she said, and a reaction against the anti-communist witch hunts that characterized the US in the 1950s.

"In those days parents said don't wear that color, don't walk like that, don't do that with your wrist, don't walk so strongly, and so on. In the US in the 1950s being different was punished mercilessly. When people understood this, those with the best hearts said that it was wrong and that it had to stop."

Feinberg's book Transgender Liberation looked back at our ancestors on all continents and discovered that the hatred of difference was a new concept. In the past our ancestors believed that diversity was good and made the whole society strong. People have different bodies, and as a result different ways of loving and being attracted to each other, Feinberg said.

Someone raised the question of differences within the feminist movement. Didn't some feminists believe that "butch" lesbians -- in contrast to their "femme" partners -- were wrong to try to look like men?

"I am a woman," said Feinberg, "and naturally I am troubled by the sight of male oppression. It's true that some feminists have said we butches are wrong to imitate the oppressor. But what I say is, that in the struggle for freedom we need all the sexes and all the nationalities! I will continue to struggle until all people and all groups achieve their rights, and get the recognition they deserve. Here's what I want to change. Let me know what you want to change, and let's get together to change things with our power!"

"It was fantastic and fabulous," said a male member of the audience afterwards. "I would never be able to be as open and honest as these people, probably as a result of pressure from my family."

He went on to point out that the Japanese poet present had said that in Japan there was no legal way for a person to change their gender. In Taiwan, by contrast, this was perfectly possible.

This is the first time people in Taiwan had had an opportunity to see and hear what transgender really meant, he said. The usual local word suggested something rather like a monster. These people, by contrast, showed for all to see how very different the reality was.

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