Book reviews: Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman by Leslie Feinberg

17 Jan

Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman by Leslie Feinberg is certainly an interesting and entertaining read, however the accuracy of it is a bit questionable. Considering Feinberg has been a staunch supporter of transgender rights and is noted for strong research abilities, this offering from him makes some very strong leaps to rather questionable conclusions. While it is understandable such an avid advocate for the transgender community would want to point out as many positive contributions from the community as possible, for my personal taste I think he pushed the boundary a little too far this time.

Ask any reader for one example of this an immediately almost every single one will point out her assertion that a group of revolutionaries called Rebecca and he Daughters who were most noted for destroying tollbooths in the mid 1800’s were crossdressers. It is true that these men did wear womens clothing when conducting their raids, however aside from Feinbergs’s assertion they were crossdressers there is really nothing to back this up historically. In fact most people would step back and take a logical look at the situation and say “okay….they were breaking the law in a rather dangerous way and needed disguises.” Many men and women have carried out military or paramilitary roles dressed as the opposite gender, and that does not make them transgender.

It’s not just that one instance in which he makes such seemingly large leaps with no real substantiation which is why it is hard to consider this an oversight or an isolated incidence in which historical records have left gaps we have to guess about. In short he has tried to draw some form of a straight line from Hindu Deities that passes through Joan of Arc, and then rests with Dennis Rodman? No matter how hard he tries it just does not work no matter how much a reader may want it to. Logic simply blocks this from happening.

The research conducted is poor at best and that is rather generous, the conclusions are often laughable, and I would guess this is about 80% inaccurate at best. With all that said it is not necessarily unworthy of being read. it is interesting and some portions do make sense, however if you are looking for history rather than light entertaining reading this is going to let you down in spades. Actually if you read Feinberg’s other books, particularly Stone Butch Blues, a fair portion of this is going to be old hat and tiresome making it difficult to actually read the whole the book as it gets boring rather quickly.

His writing style is fine, yet many will want to space his books out, and it is well edited. if taken for what it is rather than an actual representation of hstory it is enjoyable. Again, if you want something that is well researched, logical, and avoids any moments of tedium where you feel like you are forcing yourself to read further avoid this like the plague and buy Stone Butch Blues instead.

Leslie Feinberg
Beacon Press
Paperback, 218 pages

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