Stone Butch Blues is a novel authored by Leslie Feinberg that presents the day-to-day struggles of a transgendered individual by bringing to light the practices through which sexual and gendered identities are culturally generated and imposed in an orderly manner. At first glance, the novel appears to be a fictitious narrative about a lesbian by the name of Jess Goldberg but on a closer look, a reader realizes that the book explores the lives of average working-class transgendered gays within the Northeast urban areas and showcases the conflicts and struggles they face in the society. The author utilizes narrative friction to portray the interrelationship of constraints associated with gender and class structures.
Stone Butch Blues may not be the first novel to explore the issues affecting transgender individuals but it is among the first to put an identity to transgendered individuals. Feinberg addresses the subject of female-to-male (FTM) transgendered by clarifying that FTM is a complex identity which should be recognized just as the male and female identities are. Feinberg argues in this novel that any individual whose expression of gender does not fall under the male or female gender is drifting towards the opposite gender expression. In the novel, Jess is faced with a lot of challenges which she thinks are connected to her gender status and as such, she decides to take a few steps towards defining her gender including undergoing a breast-reduction surgery and putting herself on male hormones.
Ironically, instead of living an open life free of lies and deceit, the sex change further pushes her adrift from the kind of life she desires. Jess had hoped that the sex change would allow her more breathing space living as a transgendered individual but she gets the opposite from the society. In presenting the life of Jess, Feinberg illustrates that gender issues and sexual identity entail social constructs which characterize the numerous humiliating and vicious punishments that transgendered individuals, including Jess, are put through for not confirming to the expectations of the society. It seems as though Feinberg is blaming the society for not accepting transgendered individuals for who they by subjecting them to unfair treatments on the grounds of their sexuality.
Jess is also shown as identifying with her male colleagues at the factories and warehouses where she works instead of the middle-class feminists. She also befriends oppressed individuals in the society who include African Americans and drag queens. From the people Jess seems to be befriending, it seems as though she is attempting to foster an amicable coexistence. From this, it is apparent that the author is questioning the revolutionary class consciousness-racism-sexism relationship in the society. Feinberg’s work of fiction examines the issue of gender identity from a different perspective by stating that when an individual is not comfortable with his or her assigned gender identity, it is not the cultural institutions that assign the gender identities that are on the wrong, but on the contrary, it is the individual.
Thought the novel, the author presents situations in which Jess views her identity as not only being fixed, but also essential for her existence. Interestingly, the author shows Jess as engaging in relationships and acts that go against this identity. This is the author’s way of stating that transgendered individuals who are uncomfortable with their sexual identity have something wrong with them. In conclusion, this article has explored only a few of the unfair treatments that transgendered individuals are subjected to. From this novel, it can be concluded that the author does not agree with the way the society treats transgendered individuals and wished the society would accept their sexuality. The author also criticizes the transgendered individuals for attempting to change their identity.