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Review of Stone Butch Blues

In: Novels

Submitted By kiska
Words 994
Pages 4
Jess and the other gender variant and transgender characters of the novel Stone Butch Blues are forced to face and endure a multitude of violent acts. The incessant and guaranteed nature of these events speaks to the society’s acceptance and, in many cases, support of the mistreatment of those who identify as anything but heterosexual. Although I do believe the novel does support Feinberg’s overall message that society’s gender categories should be broader and greater than male/female, the morose and despondent acceptance that trans-people display throughout the novel make it difficult for the reader to expect any positive changes among the gender variant and transgender community and how it is seen by society as a whole. In many scenes throughout the novel, Feinberg presents the static derision that the general public feels toward the non-heterosexual people through slanderous remarks and traumatic abuse.
In many instances, Feinberg creates scenes in which Jess and the other LGBTQ characters are imperiled with malicious libel as well as assault by strangers. What makes for an even more pessimistic display of society are the innocent bystanders that fail to intervene, even in cases where they believe the mistreatment is wrong. During one scene, Feinberg places Jess in a situation where she is confronted by a group of strangers at a pizzeria who assault her and destroy her motorcycle. “One of the guys blocked the only exit. I pushed past him real hard and ran outside to the parking lot. I jumped on my bike, but it was too late. They were almost on top of me…there wasn’t much on the bike that wasn’t smashed or twisted…” (Feinberg 56-57). While all of this was happening, the man who stood behind the counter did not say a word, not to mention call the police. Here, Feinberg shows that the hateful society in which the characters live either breeds people that commit such hate crimes or those who passively enable them. In other frequent cases, the perpetrators double as those whose duty is to protect the victims. Feinberg details several scenes where members of the police force abuse their power by not only humiliating members of the LGBTQ community but also raping them, leaving them silenced yet scarred. Those who do not commit the abuse themselves simply turn their heads. In the midst of the drag show that Jess was proudly hosting, the red light began flashing. Police raided the club and shoved everyone into their van. Feinberg makes it clear to the reader where the power lies by displaying acts of gruesome assault. “‘Either eat me or eat my shit, bulldagger. It’s up to you.’ I was too frightened to think or move” (Feinberg 62). In the majority of situations, the power is rightfully possessed by the police. However, in the context of the novel’s plot, the police not only abuse their power to victimize LGBTQ people, but make for a society in which necessary protest is suppressed. In another instance, Theresa and Jess respond to an un-ignorable upheaval outside of the bar, finding Justine bloodied by a cop with a club. Four other cops joined the commotion as Theresa attempted to stop them. One cop decides to remind his inferiors of his power. “The cop put his hand on his gun butt. Somehow we all knew instinctively that none of the butches should move” (Feinberg 129). Again, Feinberg shows the quelled longing exhibited by the LGBTQ victims to defend their bodies and rights.
What has the least apparent presence while, seemingly, having the most profound effect on society’s views and mistreatment on members of the LGBTQ community, is the victims’ acceptance of their own oppression. The cruelty and abuse they withstand is not only expected, but passively tolerated as well. In the beginning of the novel, Butch Al mentors Jess, preparing her for the horrors that are to come her way. “It was always the same lesson: toughen up. Al never said exactly what was coming. It was never spelled out. But I got the feeling it was awful. I knew she was worried about my surviving it” (Feinberg 30). With this scene, Fienberg uses Al’s character to play the role of an experienced butch guru, both warning and conditioning Jess for her imminent future. With the above quote, Feinberg makes it evident that their destiny as Butches will be inevitably miserable, and there should therefore be no reason to expect anything else. The frequency at which Feinberg displays LGBTQ people being confronted with problems of this nature explains the reasons behind their acceptance of the abuse. After such repetition, it merely becomes a matter of course. After the cops entered Tifka’s one night, they began gathering up all the bar-goers in order to bring them back to the station. Their looming abuse is awaited, so all they can offer each other are words of support and love. “Jacqueline rushed up to me. ‘Take care of each other,’ she said. ‘Be careful, honey,’ she added. I nodded…Yvette flashed me a smile for courage, I gave her a wink” (Feinberg 34). They have learned they cannot expect humanity from outsiders, and, accordingly, are left with the loyalty and compassion within their community.
In the novel Stone Butch Blues, Feinberg writes of a disturbingly vindictive society in which the LGBTQ community tries to survive. Zhe includes graphic scenes of brutality and hopelessness illustrating the ambiguous message that is in question. It is clear that the novel did indeed support the idea that society’s gender categories should be broader than what they are. However, many aspects of the novel suggest a bleak prospect of change within the community. The violence done by strangers that even bystanders ignore, along with the corrupt law enforcement system hint at a lasting oppression. The mainstream is pressed into maintaining a passive bystander role, in fear of their own persecution, while the LGBTQ community themselves accept their own victimization.

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