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The 20th Anniversary Author’s Edition of Stone Butch Blues is available in multiple formats:Click this link to automatically download your free PDF copy: Stone-Butch-Blues-by-Leslie-Feinberg.pdf (48730 downloads)

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About The New Edition

Leslie Feinberg worked up to a few days before hir death to ready the 20th anniversary Author’s Edition of Stone Butch Blues, to make it available to all, for free. This action was part of hir entire life work as a communist to “change the world” in the struggle for justice and liberation from oppression.

This Author’s Edition of Stone Butch Blues is dedicated to CeCe McDonald, a young Minneapolis (trans)woman of color organizer and activist sent to prison for defending herself against a white neo-Nazi attacker.

“This Is What Solidarity Looks Like” is a slideshow Feinberg developed with the help of scores of activist photographers, in order to document the breadth of the global organizing campaign to free CeCe McDonald.

Stone Butch Blues, Leslie Feinberg’s 1993 first novel, is widely considered in and outside the U.S. to be a groundbreaking work about the complexities of gender. Feinberg was the first theorist to advance a Marxist concept of “transgender liberation.” Sold by the hundreds of thousands of copies and also passed from hand-to-hand inside prisons, Stone Butch Blues has been translated into Chinese, Dutch, German, Italian, Slovenian, Turkish, and Hebrew (with hir earnings from that edition going to ASWAT Palestinian Gay Women). The novel was winner of the 1994 American Library Association Stonewall Book Award and a 1994 Lambda Literary Award.

Feinberg commented on Stone Butch Blues in hir Author’s Note to the 2003 edition:

“Like my own life, this novel defies easy classification. If you found Stone Butch Blues in a bookstore or library, what category was it in? Lesbian fiction? Gender studies? Like the germinal novel The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe/John Hall, this book is a lesbian novel and a transgender novel—making ‘trans’ genre a verb, as well as an adjective…

“People who have lived very different lives have generously related to me the similarities they recognized in these pages with their own struggles—the taste of bile; the inferno of rage—transsexual men and women, heterosexual cross-dressers and bearded females, intersexual and androgynous people, bi-gender and tri-gender individuals, and many other exquisitely defined and expressed identities.”

In hir 2014 Author’s Note to the 20th anniversary Author’s Edition, Feinberg reflects that language usage had changed in naming the sex and gender spectrum zie/she had so eloquently described in 2003:

“The use of the word ‘transgender’ has changed over the two decades since I wrote Stone Butch Blues. Since that time, the term ‘gender’ has increasingly been used to mean the sexes, rather than gender expressions. This novel argues otherwise.

“I have been isolated by illness from discussions about language for more than half a decade.

So I can only note that, like planes, trains and automobiles, the same technological vehicles of hormones and surgeries take people on different journeys in their lives—depending on whether their oppression/s is/are based on sex/es, self/gender expressions, sexualities, nationalities, immigration status, health and/or dis/abilities, and/or economic exploitation of their labor.”

Illness and then hir death in 2014 kept hir from a further task for the Author’s Edition:

“I had hoped to write an introduction to place this novel within its social and historical context, the last half of the 20th century. Context is everything in politics, and Stone Butch Blues is a highly political polemic, rooted in its era, and written by a white communist grass-roots organizer.”

But hir earlier words still resonate with the meaning of Stone Butch Blues for old and new generations of readers:

“[With] this novel I planted a flag: Here I am—does anyone else want to discuss these important issues? I wrote it, not as an expression of individual ‘high’ art, but as a working-class organizer mimeographs a leaflet—a call to action….

“I am typing these words as June 2003 surges with Pride. What year is it now, as you read them? What has been won; what has been lost? I can’t see from here; I can’t predict. But I know this: You are experiencing the impact of what we in the movement take a stand on and fight for today. The present and past are the trajectory of the future. But the arc of history does not bend towards justice automatically—as the great Abolitionist Frederick Douglass observed, without struggle there is no progress….

“That’s what the characters in Stone Butch Blues fought for. The last chapter of this saga of struggle has not yet been written.”

Stone Butch Blues has probably touched your life even if you haven’t read it yet.
—Alison Bechdel, creator of Dykes to Watch Out For and Fun Home
Stone Butch Blues is a powerful novel written by a founder of the contemporary transgender movement.
—Susan Stryker, former executive director, GLBT Historical Society

[Feinberg is] a historian, an activist, a relentless bridge-builder. The one whose 1993 novel, Stone Butch Blues, gave the word transgender legs. —Village Voice

Stone Butch Blues is a gift from one of the most inspiring and revolutionary voices of our time.
—Emanuel Xavier, author of Americano

Growing Up Queer in Appalachia – U. J. Wood

Posted: March 30, 2017 by Still Blue Project in Blue News

Reblogged from Scalawag Magazine (



Enter a caption

A 2005 sleepover to watch Rent, newly released, on the new format of DVD. My friends and I were inspired by its depiction of the queer NYC artist lifestyle. The queer NYC artists I now live with have a big problem with this movie, which is also fair.

Queer self-knowledge in young Appalachia: a retrospective

The culture of homophobia and advocacy in North Carolina public schools in the 2000s, how it fit in with the broader context of the American LGBT rights movement, and how it compares with the conversation on trans issues and HB2, 10 years later

We were strange children. We were obsessed with androgyny, or unable to imagine ourselves growing up. Sometimes we were just acutely alienated, for seemingly no reason. We were vulnerable, and that made us angry. This, at least, hasn’t changed.

Each of us started out in a vacuum, finding clues only by serendipity: talk shows, offhand comments from parents or teachers. We were drawn to certain stories before we had an inkling why. For me, it was those fantasy novels where a girl has to disguise herself as a boy. For others: “Middlesex.” Oscar Wilde. “Ma Vie en Rose”. Webcomics. Fanfiction. Certain online forums. When we ran out of stories, we started searching for more. When we couldn’t find any, many of us wrote our own.

We came of age in rural Appalachia under the Bush administration. Proud of its reputation as a neighborly environment, it was nevertheless overwhelmingly White, Baptist, and working class, with cultural roots deep but not broad — which often meant a deep-seated hostility when it came to the encroachment of outsiders, racial, religious, economic, or otherwise.

Growing up, I was enough of an outsider for other kids. I was quite earnestly called “hippie,” like it was the 1970s, and once even “heathen,” like it was the 1670s. It wasn’t until a few years later that I was called “lesbian” by anything but implication—and, as far as they were concerned, they didn’t need a worse word than that. (Sometimes the bullies know something you don’t.)

This was the era of “that’s so gay” and “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” It was euphemism and silence, overt harassment, willful misinterpretation of the political rhetoric of the time, e.g., “I’m not homophobic, I’m not afraid of gay people.”

It was playground games called Smear the Queer, and maybe your occasional (charitable!) “lesbians are hot, but gay dudes are gross.” I once saw a classmate get gay-bashed by being called “Clay,” as in Aiken, from American Idol, who wasn’t even out at the time.

In some ways, things changed at light speed. When my sister attended the same middle school eight years later, she told me that all her friends there were into “Glee.” I was shocked. Didn’t that show have a sympathetic, openly gay character? Like, on purpose?

In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to perform legal same-sex marriages. I was in the ninth grade. It has been much noted that, for better or for worse, this particular issue became symbolic of the LGBT rights movement as a whole, but in the case of many sheltered Southern children it was quite literally so.

“Do you believe in gay marriage?” was (and, I suspect, still is in some circles) a code for “Are you super homophobic, or naw?” It was a neutral way to feel out someone’s views; it didn’t always have to get ugly. (And if I was spoiling for a fight, I assumed I was just being righteous.)

When we strange children found each other, we thought it was for a shared love of certain stories—and it was true—but for many of us it wasn’t the whole truth. I’ve heard so many reports of closeted kids’ witch-like ability to detect one another that I know better than to call it a coincidence.

Sometimes, my friends and I would host crossdressing parties. It was the only word we knew for what we were doing: bringing skirts and ties to swap with each other, doing each other’s hair and makeup, then sitting around eating snacks and feeling cool.

The word “transgender” was little-known at the time, at least around there. I was familiar with it, but only for having done quite a bit of research on the subject. One friend came out to me as trans our sophomore year, with a kind of furtive terror that had me half convinced she’d killed a man. Another came out just months after I first described the concept to him. I kept their secrets and snuck them both clothes and books. This was the opposite of the vicious confrontation I felt I was bound for, but it would turn out to be some of the most intimate and soul-growing work I did in those years.

In my entire high school career, I knew of a small handful of gay and bi kids, three binary trans kids, and a whole bunch of us who wouldn’t or couldn’t, by appearance or deed, perform gender the way we were expected to—but all of us were subject to the same kind of harassment, the kind broadly directed at “gays.”

And so we were in solidarity with the out LGBT kids, or considered ourselves somehow parallel but non-intersecting. Some of us came out eventually too, but not until years later—due to self-deception and self-preservation, certainly, but also because the words for how we felt were either inaccessible or simply did not exist yet. In some ways, it was like a microcosm of the urban queer communities that came decades before us—the dichotomy between gender and orientation mutable, the choices before us limited to either denial or invention.

Whatever our reasons were, we considered ourselves allies, and we got political. We had a Gay-Straight Alliance, sort of (the school forced us to broaden our scope and change the name to “Diversity Club”). Most of our activism was small in scale, providing safe spaces or making simple demonstrations of hypocrisy.

One boy was sent to the principal’s office for wearing makeup and forced to wash it off despite his argument that there was nothing against it in the dress code. A friend and I once saw in our health teacher’s notes that the safest sex was married, monogamous, and heterosexual; we agreed to walk out of class if he ever said it out loud, but to our mixed relief and disappointment, he never did.

Most Thursday afternoon meetings were not really revolutionary enough for my sensibilities, but once a year the Diversity Club was the center of a firestorm: the Day of Silence, a national student protest held every April. Symbolic of the oppressive silence imposed by homophobic classrooms and hallways, it is criticized in some mainstream activist spaces for being too passive, for literally shutting up LGBT students and their allies. In our school, though, it was a high-stakes gauntlet that brought local free speech debates to the fore.

We had our supporters, but we also had teachers deliberately assigning oral presentations on that day, students throwing us against lockers or wearing homemade T-shirts with slogans like “I didn’t want to talk to you anyway, faggot,” or “Exit Only” (with an arrow pointing at the ass).

We were organized. We were silent if we could afford to be, wrote down the names of students who would verbally and physically assault us, and lobbied administrators not to excuse the absences on religious grounds when conservative (or just unprincipled) students stayed home the next day for a counter-demonstration they called “Day of Truth.”

Not only did our actions draw adult protesters to campus, it was also closely documented by scaremonger right-wing websites for people all over the country to weigh in on. A quick Google search of my high school’s name and “Day of Silence” still yields headlines from those years such as: “Silenced on the Day of Silence,” and “AWOL ACLU?” whenever a student was sent home for a homophobic T-shirt, or “Students excused for skipping gay day,” whenever administrators caved on the Day of Truth thing. If the eyes of the nation were on us, we didn’t have a clear idea to what extent, or whose eyes.

In 2004 (again: my freshman year, as well as the year Diversity Club was founded), a handbook for North Carolina conservatives was published, entitled “Homosexual Indoctrination: How Safety Is Used to Promote Homosexuality in Schools.” It named GSAs and Day of Silence as among the biggest threats to family values, using words like “cunning” and “dangerous.”

Frankly, I would have been thrilled to know my enemies considered me dangerous.

Denial is one hell of a drug, though. It wasn’t until I was safely graduated and out of the South that I fell in love and finally admitted to myself that my interest in queer issues was more than just academic. Figuring out my gender took even longer. For me it had always been something personal, abstract, and unnamed. I once mentioned something about it in Diversity Club, for a friend to high-five me with an enthusiastic, “Yeah, genderqueer!”—but even presented with a term that undeniably described my experience, it took at least five more years to internalize it.

In 2008, my very first semester of college, I cajoled my way into an upper-level class on trans and intersex studies (for, you know, some reason). The first thing the professor told us was that this was a very young field of study, and anything she had to teach us could become obsolete in a matter of months. She was right: for example, as the socially and medically acceptable narrative of transness has broadened, “MTF” and “FTM” have fallen out of common parlance in favor of more inclusive terms like “transfeminine” and “transmasculine,” and nonbinary identities have gained a relatively undisputed place under the trans umbrella. That was what it took for me. Some of my other friends took even longer. Some probably still don’t have it worked out.

But of course it wasn’t just nomenclature that kept us in the dark. And it wasn’t just a dearth of role models, although that was certainly the case as well. We dreaded acknowledging that not only were we involved in a crusade for justice, we were among the vulnerable. Living authentically had to mean making a statement, throwing your lot in with a group currently under fire, and that was frightening. It felt like coming home, but it also felt like painting a target on your own back.

In 2012, Amendment 1 was passed in North Carolina, and same-sex marriage, by no means legal at the time, was explicitly outlawed just for good measure. I remember the sympathetic murmurs from my college friends. I remember waving off their condolences, claiming it didn’t affect me personally, but knowing that it sent a clear, cruel message. Of course, Amendment 1 backfired after only a few months when the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals struck it down, effectively legalizing gay marriage there and in several surrounding states.

History repeats itself. Just as America is patting itself on the back for not being homophobic anymore, the so-called “Transgender Tipping Point” (as Time dubbed it in 2014) is in full swing. In many ways, the spotlight is a boon to the community, but it also sheds light on those who are trying to stay hidden. Today, HB2, North Carolina’s infamous “bathroom bill,” feels disturbingly familiar.

Harassment in bathrooms was certainly a problem for my peers when we were in school — I remember one friend asking, “Why can’t they have a bathroom just for gay kids?” and I remember laughing just imagining the moral panic. Now it has become the new dog-whistle political issue, just like “gay marriage” before it.

I have a straight, cisgender Christian friend still living in our hometown, who in 2002 was wary about the lesbians on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but who has grown into a kind and positive man. He recently told a story on Facebook about shopping for a purse for Mother’s Day when he was approached by a stranger who demanded to know, “Transgender, are we?” (like he didn’t need a worse word.) I think my friend meant to highlight the absurdity of the situation, but I found it chilling.

The tipping point is a mixed blessing; when people weren’t aware of the concept of transness, they didn’t exactly know what to look for. Before, the word wasn’t reaching the ears of people who needed it, but now it’s used like a slur in the mouths of people who hate what it represents. And this kind of hypervisibility brings a well-documented backlash of violence.

I have every reason to believe this round of miscalculated legislative aggression will hasten its own demise just like before, but that’s hollow comfort. People will die because of HB2. They already have. By others’ hands or their own, as a public spectacle, a threat to the rest of us, or so privately that no one else ever finds out why.

I know that for kids in school today, this is going to be felt acutely. I know that being a child on the front lines of this kind of struggle is a special kind of helplessness that grows a special kind of rage. I can’t help feeling both all over again on their behalf, but to me, it feels more like a flare-up of an old injury.

I visit often, but I never moved back home. In large part I stayed away for the same reason anyone from the rural South does: to find work. That said, I’m not the only person from our small school who came out and moved to New York. There’s a reason it’s a classic.

Lots of us left, or tried to. Some of us have been forced back into the closet. Some were able to stay put and strike a balance, but not nearly enough. I have a very typical queer Southern expatriate chip on my shoulder: furious at what happened to me there, furious at what still happens to my people, furious that anyone else would use their suffering as a rhetorical cudgel to distract from the exact same shit happening in their own backyards. Guilty for leaving them behind.

Obviously there is work to be done everywhere, but the appreciable “gay drain” towards more welcoming areas—absolutely understandable considering the hostility many of us have endured—most certainly deprives our hometowns and slows their progress. It happened to us; overwhelmingly, we had to form new communities for lack of existing ones to join (that we knew of). Our history has been suppressed so thoroughly that it took me years to even find out there had been a different “Diversity Club” immediately before I started high school.

Even so, I suspect this guilt is self-indulgent. It’s clear, based on my conversations with people currently involved in North Carolina public schools, that this generation of student activists is doing amazing work, savvier and more connected than ever. Queer-Straight Alliances are productive, popular, and allowed to be accurately named.

As of this writing, a transgender high schooler suing for bathroom access is on his way to the Supreme Court, and Twitter hashtags like #illgowithyou have made for highly visible allyship. Although modern social media makes it easier to both amplify and attack student effort, we still aren’t going to hear about the vast majority of their work: mentorship and solidarity, like victimization, are often quiet and deeply personal.

It’s inspiring to see how far we’ve come, but for my generation it’s been hard not to grieve for the childhoods we could have had. If I’d been born 10 years later, we catch ourselves speculating… Maybe I would have figured myself out earlier. Maybe I wouldn’t have suffered as much; maybe I could have dated in high school; maybe I could have convinced my parents to get me on puberty blockers before my growth spurt. And so on. After my first NYC Pride, even as I ranted about the hypocrisy of banks and police marching in the parade, I was crying uncontrollably into my tingly beef noodles over what it would have meant to me as a teenager.

Today it’s almost impossible to live in the kind of ignorance we were born into. If you live in a city, you can probably find an in-person queer community. If you have access to the right parts of the internet, you can find an imperfect but robust intra-community conversation no matter where you live.

If all you have is the news, it’s scary and demeaning, but still much more informative than it used to be. The barriers to self-knowledge — geography, education, privacy, technology, stigma—are more manageable all the time.

Then again, some things haven’t changed enough. My high school’s GSA still has to account for conservative reactionaries and preempt concerned parents. In a video made only three years ago, members of the club recited an extremely thorough disclaimer into the camera: “Day of Silence is not gay. Day of Silence is not about politics. It doesn’t mean that you support gay marriage, and it doesn’t mean that you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.”

Meanwhile, I may have left town, but the only boy I ever personally reported for harassment on Day of Silence (striding through the halls bellowing “You’re all going to Hell!”), is still there. I’ve known him since kindergarten. He’s a police officer now.

This election season has been hard on everyone in my little diaspora. Every echo of the chauvinist climate of our adolescence has us panicking, terrified we’re going to lose any growth we’ve made in the last decade — as a politicized community, but also as individuals who remember being isolated, uncertain, and afraid. Strange children. For us, the two are bound up almost too closely to separate.

Logically, I know that kind of progress can’t be so easily undone. I’m sure this cultural ebb and flow is typical. I’m sure we’re just young. This is nothing compared to what our elders have seen. I just hope by the time we’re elders ourselves, our own experiences will seem just as extreme, and just as destined for victory.

Note: this piece was written during the rhetorical hellscape leading up to the 2016 general election. Despite the results, and amidst the protracted battle for North Carolina’s governorship, I still believe everything I’ve written here. Whatever’s coming, things will never go back to the way they were. That’s both a warning and a promise. Please stay safe.

March 07, 2017

Reblogged from: See the site for videos of Joshua Goyne.

FEBRUARY 22, 2017

Joshua Goyne competing at a rodeo. Picture: Facebook

Joshua Goyne competing at a rodeo. Picture: Facebook

A TEENAGE farmer from regional NSW has spoken out after he received death threats online including one that stated it would be good if he’d died from AIDS.

Joshua Goyne, who is 18 and lives in the Central Coast, claims online trolls vilified him because of his sexuality in an attempt to discourage him from taking part in the rodeos he regularly competes in.

“Today I was asked if I thought it was good that gays died of AIDS, and then the guy said he wished it was 1850 so he could shoot me for being a fag,” Mr Goyne said in a video he posted to Facebook following the threats.

The bigoted abuse comes as homophobia is back in the spotlight following the unfurling of a banner depicting a sex act at a Sydney soccer match last weekend.

Sydney’s gay football team has told that are demanding the sport ban fans found peddling homophobic abuse.

The annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade is due to be held in 10 days’ time.
Openly gay Mr Goyne, a competitive rodeo rider, is a well-known advocate for LGBTI rights in rural Australia and has a Facebook page called ‘The Gay Cowboy’.

In a video posted to the page earlier this week, Mr Goyne said he had received multiple bigoted messages via online forums catering to the rodeo circuit.

“Someone compared Myxomatosis in rabbits with AIDS in gay people” he told “Rural Australia has a terrible problem with homophobia, and it needs to stop.”

He is due to compete on the weekend in the Oberon Rodeo.

He grew up in country Victoria but when he came out at the age of 15 was thrown out of his aunt and uncle’s house. He eventually settled in the Central Coast and farms there and on a property he has purchased in the Hunter Valley.

“The fact I’m getting death threats just for going to a rodeo is disgusting and these people are the scum of the earth. I have zero respect for them,” he said. “They think they are going to stop me from riding in this weekend’s rodeo but there’s no chance in hell.”

Mr Goyne said he would continue to call out homophobia and he was a “proud openly gay cowboy”. He told he has informed the police of the threats.

Addressing one of the trolls directly, he said, “kudos to you mate, you’re a real p***k and I hope everything that comes to you is karma.”

Mr Goyne said he had been the victim of a number of homophobic incidents including at a rodeo where he claimed a contractor rigged his riding ropes causing him to snap his ankles.
Since the video was posted, Mr Goyne said people has been “99.9 per cent brilliant”.

“I’ve even had straight cowboys say they will help me out at the rodeo and stand with if I have any trouble.”

Accusations of homophobia continue to rock another corner of the sporting world with football club the Western Sydney Wanderers still reeling from the fallout from a banner hoisted at their home derby with Sydney FC on Saturday.

The homophobic banner unfurled by Wanderers’ supporters.

The banner, unfurled by members of the Red and Black Bloc — the Wanderers’ active supporter group — depicted Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold performing a sex act.

The Wanderers were swift to denounce the incident with CEO John Tsatsimas saying the banner was “completely unacceptable” and they were actively seeking out the culprits.

Today the club said 14 RBB members had been banned by the club. Football Federation Australia — the game’s governing body — has flagged the team [which] will likely cop a five figure fine.

But there are calls for the club to go further particularly as the Red and Black Bloc have shown no sign of backing down.

On the group’s Facebook page people commenting have labelling those calling the banner out as homophobic as being “snowflakes” and claiming it was merely “banter”. They have also displayed mock ups of the banner on merchandise.

Head of gay and inclusive soccer team the Sydney Rangers, Joseph Roppolo, said he was at the match and you couldn’t miss the sign.

Joseph Roppolo, president of gay and inclusive soccer team Sydney Rangers FC. Picture: Facebook.

“It was very confronting as a gay men and as a footy fan seeing those banners sending a message that’s it’s OK to mock people due to their sexuality. “If this had been a racist banner, the FFA would have reacted more decisively.”

The FFA, along with other footy codes, signed up to an anti-homophobia inclusion framework three years ago.

He said homophobic fans should be barred for one to two years from stadiums in the first instance.

While he backed the Wanderers’ condemnation, Mr Roppolo said the league had to be more proactive. He asked the FFA and Wanderers to send representatives to the annual mardi gras football tournament, to be held in Sydney this weekend, to show their support for LGBTI supporters.

“The FFA needs to come out with a really strong message to fans. There seems to be a lot of talk but it’s not enough to keep reacting, at some point the FFA has to address the issues as to why homophobia exists.” has contacted the Wanderers for comment.

Reblogged from (

Gay Left: A Socialist Journal Produced by Gay Men

This is a socialist journal edited by gay men. We have a two fold aim in producing this magazine. First, we hope to contribute towards a marxist analysis of homosexual oppression. Secondly, we want to encourage in the gay movement an understanding of the links between the struggle against sexual oppression and the struggle for socialism.


Gay Left: An Overview by Jeffrey Weeks

A particular moment

Gay Left encapsulates a particular moment in lesbian and gay history, and in the lives of its editors and writers. It was a moment that was politically, culturally and emotionally potent, but the circumstances that made it have now passed irretrievably. It feels like another age. Yet there is still a great deal of interest in the work that we set out to do, and this website, holding all ten copies of the journal, is a response both to a need to engage creatively with our history , and to recurring debates in what is now a vast, diversified and international community.

The journal first appeared in the autumn/fall of 1975, though the members of the initial editorial collective had been meeting for a year before this discussing the project, and some of us had been in gay Marxist discussion and reading groups together for even longer than that. The first flush of gay liberation energy had to a certain extent dispersed, but it was a period when gay ideas nevertheless were spreading electrically into a huge variety of areas – writing, film, art, theatre, television, history, the academy, trade unions, education, even mainstream politics – in the context of an unprecedented explosion of the gay and lesbian community. The opportunities seemed endless, despite, possibly because of, the frequent setbacks lesbian and gay people encountered For it was also a period of intense political polarisation, as the optimism of the previous decade hardened into a grim resilience under the impact of high inflation, growing unemployment, international tension and a real sense of an end of an era. There was a feeling that this was a time to stand up and be counted, and for many of us who had come of age in the cultural revolution of the 1960s and the early 1970s, and had seen our view of the world transformed by the explosive emergence of gay politics, that meant positioning ourselves firmly with the left.

Five years later, as the editorial collective announced in GL 10 a pause in publication to enable a think about what we wanted to do next – 10 issues and an edited book (Homosexuality: Power and Politics published in 1980) proved an exhausting if exhilarating journey together – the climate had changed dramatically, and in fact we soon dissolved as a group. What had seemed in the mid 1970s an inevitable movement to the Left had by 1980 become the triumph of a new sort of Right, marrying, with what turned out to be varying success, a harsh economic liberalism with a social conservatism, whose search for a return to Victorian Values (in Thatcherite Britain) or the values of the old frontier and old time religion (in Reaganite USA) captured the zeitgeist and created the basis of a new hegemonic politics in which the Left was increasingly marginalized. It was also, though we did not know it at the time, just a year or so before the HIV/AIDS crisis transformed the conditions of gay life for ever. New times demanded new urgent responses, and our earlier preoccupations often seemed redundant.

A longer term perspective tells us something different. Despite the setbacks, pain and loss of the 1980s and early 1990s we can now see that under the surface of events, dramatic changes in sexual and intimate life were taking place, a sort of grass roots revolution, that have transformed the possibilities of LGBTQ lives. These were not necessarily in the ways we anticipated or even consciously wanted in the mid 1970s. Many of our analyses have dated, inevitably. But what now strikes me on re-reading these 10 volumes for the first time in a long time, is how well we captured the dreams and realities, hopes and frustrations of gay and lesbian lives during the 1970s, and the extent to which you can see in these pages the shape of the dramatic political and cultural changes that decisively ended the long 1960s, and brought about a new political era.

The Gay Left Collective

The collective that came together in 1974 to plan what was not then known as ‘Gay Left’ (the title came at the last minute after long and anguished discussions) consisted of nine people. The group that produced the last issue five years later consisted of eight people. In between there had been a considerable churning of membership (15 people in all served on the collective), but a core of us had been with the project throughout. We were a group of men – a fact that was to prove controversial – and white men at that – something that was not especially controversial then but now stands out as a real weakness. We were London based, though in fact only one of us was born and bred in London: like most lesbians and gays we were migrants to the big city. Most of us were in our 20s or early 30s, of working class backgrounds but generally highly educated. Several of us were still students, or soon became students, most of the rest of us were first generation university graduates, characteristically working as researchers or teachers in schools, colleges and universities, but we also had two potters, a filmmaker and a lawyer. Generally we were fairly insecure in our careers at that stage. We all regarded ourselves as on the left, though our experiences had varied enormously, from membership of small leftist groups to mild anarchism and armchair Marxism. Crucially, all of us in one way or another had been radicalised through our experience of the gay movement.

What unified us and brought us together in Gay Left was a double concern: to enter a dialogue with the gay movement about socialism; and to confront the socialist and labour movements with the ideas of gay liberation. We declared in GL 1 that we were attempting to develop a ‘Marxist theory of sexuality’ and a ‘materialist analysis of sexual oppression’, and whatever the twists and turns of our efforts, that remained a consistent theme. The main vehicles for this were the collective statements we wrote for each issue. In these we attempted to work together on a specific topic – reading, discussing, arguing, and finally writing, collectively, in endless drafts. These statements probably took up most of our time, which may seem a little disproportionate when they characteristically took less than a fifth of the total contents. But they were crucial to our political and intellectual development, and to establishing the particular ethos of the journal. It is worth stressing that these were genuinely collective statements. Everyone took part. Every paragraph, sentence, phrase and word was chewed over before we produced an agreed way of saying what we wanted to say. Through this collaborative activity we helped each other, learnt from each other and grew together.

Engaging with struggle

But though this theoretical work was crucial we also sought to tap into ongoing struggles in the world around us. Alongside more historical articles like ‘Where Engels Feared to Tread’ (GL 1), which traced the evolution of Marxist attitudes towards sexuality and gender, were articles on struggles in the workplace like ‘Gays and Trade Unions’ in GL 1, ‘The Gay Workers’ Movement’ (GL 2), ‘All Worked UP’ (GL 3), ‘Gays at Work’ (GL 6 and 7), and ‘Work Place Politics: Gay Politics’ (GL 10); and pieces on the attitudes of leftist organisations towards the gay issue, such as ‘A Grim Tale’, about the International Socialists’ Gay Group (GL 3) or ‘Communists’ Comment’ (GL 4).

This dialogue between ourselves and with a growing range of readers inevitably shifted our perspectives. By GL 5, in our collective statement ‘Why Marxism?’ we were trying to articulate a more flexible theoretical position, open to new trends within Marxism (the growing influence of Gramsci, for example) and other social theories – the recognition of the importance of psychoanalysis (especially via the writings of Juliet Mitchell), and of the work of Michel Foucault were particularly important – see the articles on ‘Politics and Ideology’ in GL 5, and Foucault in GL 8). Other issues saw the publication of articles on key developing themes and theories, for example on the state and sexuality (GL 6), Guy Hocquenghem (GL 9) and on developments in socialist feminism (GL 10). At the same time, we were attempting to reflect the growing crisis on the left as the political climate became increasingly polarised. GL 5 carried a piece on ‘Gays and Fascism’ which began a crucial debate (see response in GL 6). We were also alive to the significance of the swing to the right not only politically but culturally (the collective statement in GL 8 referred to the election of Margaret Thatcher, which proved to be a decisive moment in British politics).

Personal politics

Our political commitments provided the spine for Gay Left in its five years of existence, but as a group of gay men we were also firmly located in the developing gay community and culture, with all their burgeoning concerns. Gay politics was still at heart a personal politics, and the bridge between the personal, social and political was an abiding preoccupation. In our second editorial statement, ‘Within these Walls’ (GL 2) we cast a critical look at our own community. But we also tried to show how central a sense of community was to coming out. ‘From Latent to Blatant’ by Angus Suttie (GL 2) movingly demonstrated that, and was a first example of highly personal articles which at the same time raised wider issues: for example, ‘Divided We Fail’ (GL 3), ‘Two Steps Forward, One Step Back’ (GL 6), ‘Living with Indecency’ (GL 8), and ‘Personal Politics – Ten Years On’, which gave members of the collective an opportunity to reflect on what had changed.

One of the key issues that came back again and again was the undeniable fact that we were a collective of white gay men. We were up-front about this from the start by declaring in GL1 that this was ‘a socialist journal produced by gay men’. That was not a boast but a bare statement of reality, though we also felt that there were advantages to remaining a closed group of men. We said we could ‘best explore our sexual attitudes most truthfully in an all-male group’, and in many ways we did indeed operate as an awareness or conscious raising group as well as an editorial collective. Our regular weekends away together to plan the journal were always shaped around intense personal discussions. In the spirit of the times, we wanted to change ourselves as well as the world around us. But our maleness and alleged exclusivity was a major source of controversy. Sue Bruley launched a vigorous broadside against the collective, ‘Women in Gay Left’, in GL 3, followed up in GL 4 by a series of responses. Although growing numbers of women contributed to the journal (and to our book) over the years that followed, and we worked closely with a number of lesbians over specific projects (such as the ‘What is to Be Done?’ conference in July 1977) the collective remained all male for the duration. We did, however, attempt to explore masculinity, including our own, as best we could, and this was reflected in several articles. The defining moment for us as a group was the work we did on our collective statement for GL 4, ‘Love, Sex and Maleness’. More controversially, we also entered the debate on paedophilia and inter-generational sex. The collective statement in GL 7, ‘Happy Families’ aroused a considerable debate in GL 8. Similarly, pornography proved a hot topic in GL 6 and 7. These issues were to prove to be immensely divisive topics in the next decade.

The fact that we were all white men was apparently less controversial at the time than the fact we were all men, but in retrospect it appears more of a problem. ‘Gays and Fascism’ in GL 5 did refer to racism, and Errol Francis in GL 10 specifically raised the issue, but there was no in-depth discussion of race, ethnicity and sexuality, which was of course to become a major theme in the 1980s, after GL left the scene. What you can see in the pages of the journal is an attempt to see gay liberation in an international context – see, for example, ‘Gays in Cuba’ in GL 1, and ‘Gay Liberation in Central America’ in GL 10. Despite this, what is not explicitly addressed in the journal is what has now become a dominating theme: the diversity of the lesbian and gay world, and though the issue of rights was a key if implicit concern, we did not anticipate the rise of the discourse of human rights as crucial to international LGBT politics. It is also necessary to note that we did not engage fully with bisexual or transgender issues. Our sense of what constituted a valid sexual and gender politics was still in evolution.

Gay Culture

In other ways, however, Gay Left was a leader in exploring gay culture in its broadest sense. Gays in film formed a continuous theme following a ground- breaking article by Richard Dyer in GL 2, with regular reviews (for example, of Fassbinder in GL 2), and coverage of Ron Peck’s attempts to make his film, ‘Nighthawks’ (Ron was then a member of the collective and other members were involved in the film making). Andrew Britton challenged ‘Camp’ in GL 6, and there were pioneering articles on ‘Gay Art’, the gay singer, Tom Robinson and the theatre group Gay Sweatshop in GL 7. Dyer’s article ‘In Defence of Disco’ in GL 8 was one of the first to take disco seriously as an expression of the new gay consciousness. Mandy Merck explored Gay TV in GL 10 at the start of what proved to be a revolution in the ways in which lesbians and gays were represented.

There were many other themes for which Gay Left provided a forum, from the emerging gay history to sexual pleasure. The journal was continuously expanding its coverage, adapting to the rapidly changing climate, and to our own personal changes, in life circumstances and political outlook. By the time we ceased publication in 1980 the kaleidoscope had been shaken again and new, yet more intricate patterns were emerging. We went our separate ways. But it’s fair to say that we have not lost the inspiration we found together in the days of Gay Left, nor have we stopped engaging with the themes we began to elaborate in the 1970s. Most of us have gone on writing in various forums, and between us we have clocked up a considerable list of books – on film, culture, history, sociology, art, photography, ceramics, the media, AIDS. And perhaps most importantly, with one exception, we are all still alive. Angus Suttie, a founder member of the collective died of AIDS in 1993. He is still much missed.

The libcom library contains nearly 20,000 articles. There’s a range of ways you can filter the library content to suit your needs, from casual browsing to researching a particular topic. See the site for more information on their materials and searching the archives.
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The Still Blue Project is pleased to present “the Poetry Ish,” a special edition dedicated to LGBTQ voices in working-class poetry, with contributions by

Joe Arcangelini –
Sally Bellerose –
Jee Leong Koh –
K. Ann MacNeil –


It’s Here! Blue, Too

Posted: August 11, 2014 by Still Blue Project in Blue News

Front Cover

Blue, Too: More Writing by (for or about) Working-Class Queers contains work by twenty writers, including Rigoberto González, Timothy Anderson, John Gilgun, Judy Grahn, Tara Hardy, Keith Banner, Carter Sickels, and Renny Christopher, to name a few, who speak meaningfully—in short fiction, memoir, performance pieces, and prose poems—about queers in and from the working class.

Blue, Too entertains and challenges, but most of all provides a touchstone for queer working-class writers and readers, illuminating our realities, our struggles, and our resistance to assimilation and mental gentrification.

Blue, Too: More Writing by (for or about) Working-Class Queers is both a new edition and a sequel: It contains some reader favorites from Everything I Have Is Blue (out of print since 2008) but includes nearly 400 pages of new material, including a reprint of a 1978 Judy Grahn story, a new translation from Italian, and excerpts from John Gilgun’s unpublished autobiography.

As a sourcebook for working-class and queer studies, meanwhile, Blue, Too features “A Blue Study: The Reader’s, Writer’s, and Scholar’s Guide” to using Blue, Too to examine the interlocking issues of queerness and social class, including discussion questions and prompts for writing and mini-research projects that connect the reader with working-class and LGBT scholarship; “Reading Blue,” an extensive annotated bibliography that represents the first-ever attempt to create an exhaustive listing of materials related to queers and class; and “Class/Mates: Further Outings in the Literatures and Cultures of the Ga(y)ted Community,” an expanded theoretical and critical essay that reviews the history and present of working-class queers in literature and pop culture.

Blue, Too: More Writing by (for or about) Working-Class Queers
ISBN-13: 978-0989980012 | 6″x9″

Buy a copy!

Resellers/bookstores: Please contact FCP regarding discounted orders.

Urvashi Vaid’s Wakeup Call – Doug Ireland

Posted: July 12, 2013 by Still Blue Project in Recommended Reading

July 11, 2013

BY DOUG IRELAND | I have, for many years, appreciated Urvashi Vaid as the most progressive and liberationist of the institutionalized mainstream gay movement’s prominentii. Now, based on three decades of sterling activism, she has delivered a stinging critique of those institutions that should be must reading for every queer activist and anyone concerned about the nature and direction of those who claim they speak for all of us.

Magnus Books, the three-year old imprint founded by the great Don Weise, a peerless force in queer publishing and a superb editor of queer books for more than 20 years, has just published Vaid’s “Irresistible Revolution: Confronting Race, Class, and the Assumptions of LGBT Politics.” And Vaid does not pull her punches.

“The LGBT movement has been coopted by the very institutions it once sought to transform,” she writes. “Heterosexuality, the nuclear family, the monogamous couple-form are our new normal. In place of activism and mobilization, with a handful of notable exceptions, LGBT organizations have become a passive society of spectators, following the lead of donors and pollsters rather than advocating on behalf of sectors of the community that are less economically powerful and less politically popular.”

Vaid is right on target when she says, “This impoverishment of ambition and idealism is a strategic error. It misunderstands the challenge queer people pose to the status quo. It shamefully avoids the responsibility that a queer movement must take for all segments of LGBT communities. And it is deluded in its belief that legal, deeply symbolic acts of recognition and mainstream integration, such as admission into traditional institutions like marriage, or grants of formal legal rights within the current form of capitalism, are actually acts of transformation that will end the rejection and marginalization of LGBT people, without deeper and more honest appraisals of the limits of the traditions to which LGBT people seek admission… The LGBT politics currently pursued will yield only ‘conditional equality,’ a simulation of freedom contingent upon ‘good behavior.’”

I also agree with Vaid when she regrets the way in which the gay movement has abandoned the inclusive, liberationist, and anti-racist politics of the 1970s for a much narrower agenda and set of values. “The gay rights focus was historically needed but is a vestigial burden we need to shed,” she writes, adding, “It leads to failure at the polls, is bad political strategy, narrows our imagination, does not serve large numbers of our own people, and feeds the perception that we are generally privileged and powerful.”

The best chapters in Vaid’s new book — her third — concern the problems of race and class. She has marshaled a horde of statistics and studies that show how the institutional gay movement, in its current, all-white incarnation dominated by corporate-dominated thinking, excludes huge numbers of working class and poor queers and queers of color. She decries the undemocratic structure of those institutions, with their unaccountable, self-perpetuating boards of directors free of any membership control, and a pyramidal top-down structure that reduces us to “checkbook activists” — unfortunately, only those of us who can afford to write checks.

This undemocratic movement “is unconsciously (and sometimes consciously) limited to white LGBT people. More often than not, it takes positions that reference the needs and interests of gay men, not lesbians, bisexual, or transgender people. How else can one explain the LGBT movement’s silence on issues that have a clear and disproportionate impact on LGBT people of color” in a country which, the latest census figures show, will be a majority non-white in a couple of years? “How else can one explain the movement’s refusal to address issues of race? And how else can we explain the silence of most mainstream LGBT groups on policy fights on reproductive justice, violence against women, police abuse, and criminal justice abuses?”

Vaid also quite rightly skewers the inordinate influence on our agendas and values of major gay donors and foundations, also unaccountable to anyone, who devote their funding to a whites-only politics of access while withholding support from groups that engage with race and class issues.

Given Vaid’s intimate knowledge of the gay institutional world garnered in her 30 years of activism — including stints as the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, as founder and head of its valuable Policy Institute, and in major posts at the Ford and Arcus Foundations as well as the ACLU, attention must be paid.

Vaid frankly acknowledges the fundamental cleavage in the gay movement between the left and the “center-right” (think Human Rights Campaign), the latter made up of groups that seek the comfortable, self-censorious goal of “belonging” within corrupt and exclusionary institutions without ever taking on the responsibility of challenging them. She decries the backroom politics of deal-making that excludes most of us from participation. And she regrets the abandonment of the subversive “otherness” that is at the heart of queer sexualities.

“Queer presence — LGBT life in its widest range — builds curious and sometimes marvelous communities,” Vaid writes, including “subcultures that turn pain into caring; institutions that work to deliver services; resilience and humor instead of bitterness and violence; extended kinship structures that deliver emotional and material support but that are independent of blood ties; exceptional acts of generosity and affiliation with those who are social and political outcasts. Instead the LGBT movement tries to conform these creative forms of expression, to run from the freedom we have had to build unique lives, and submit ourselves to the confining forms that propriety, adherence to tradition, or legibility in this form of capitalism demands.”

Vaid was trained as a lawyer; unfortunately, she writes too much like one. I find her politics so congenial that it pains me to remark that I wish she wrote a tad more gracefully. There’s another problem with this book: it is essentially a collection of the texts of speeches that Vaid has given over the last few years, which have been but little rewritten and are capped with anecdotal when-where-why introductions explaining how they came to be made. But a speech is not an essay, and this collection is a bit disjointed, uneven, and sometimes repetitive, as Vaid repeatedly makes the same points in several speeches. Some of her turns of phrase in these speeches are a might hortatory for the printed page.

But these are quibbles, for this is a thoughtful, courageous, and important book. Vaid does not shrink from self-identifying as a “radical,” a “socialist,” and a “liberationist.” These are not popular labels these days for those of us — and I include myself here — who accept them. And she calls for nothing less than a total restructuring of the gay movement and a return to the values with which gay liberation began.

“LGBT people rarely speak to America in a universal language,” Vaid declares. “When we do, it is achieved by dumbing down, by pretending to be who we are not, rather than honestly addressing the anxieties and fears of heterosexist society… The moral values and vision that ground LGBT people are appealing and healing to the world. If we only talk about the particulars of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), or the destructive impact of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), as matters that affect LGBT people alone, we miss the opportunity to transform the very idea of national identity and of Constitutional Freedom.”

I don’t agree with every one of Vaid’s formulations. For example, when she insists that a new queer agenda must include promotion of human rights around the world, starting with[emphasis added] strong leadership from the State Department to promote LGBT human rights,” I have to say: No, we must (as I have often written in these pages) start with ending the isolationism of the gay movement and its refusal — unlike its European counterparts — to engage in international queer solidarity with those more oppressed than we are.

And strategically I can’t go along with her notion of creating “an LGBT party,” an idea she tosses out without any amplification or rationale.

But I’m in overwhelming agreement with Vaid’s diagnosis and with most of her prescriptions. And it is to be devoutly wished that this book will contribute to a major new debate re-examining the principles and values that guide our gay institutions. Is anybody out there listening? Let’s hope so. Read this book!

By Urvashi Vaid
Magnus Books
$21.95, 236 pages


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