Gender In Stone Butch Blues

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In many ways, Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues does more than explore what it means to be a part of the LGBTQ community. In many ways, Stone Butch Blues is a “how to” book just as much as it is a lifeline for the LGBTQ community. It is a “how to” book in the sense it examines how to be a member of the LGBTQ community, while at the same time revealing the follies of a definitive correct way how. In doing so, Feinberg reveals not only the performative nature of gender, but also how the concept of gender and strict binaries can be a destructing and limiting forced within and outside of the LGBTQ community.
From some of her earliest childhood memories onward, Jess is haunted by a recurring question: “is that a boy or girl?” The scope of the
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After committing some social faux pas, such as asking the bar tending if she “can really buy a woman a drink or ask her to dance” or asking a Butch’s “woman” to dance (28), people take notice of her. Yet, instead of shunning her, there is a sense it only endears her to them more. There is a sense she didn’t know any better; Jess “didn’t know how to penetrate this society.” In other words, she hadn’t learned “how” to be a Butch yet. Sympathetic to her situation, Butch Al decides to take her under her wing and shows her the ropes of LGBTQ culture—from the butch/femme dynamic, to how to have sex as a butch, to how to act and come off as a butch. Yet, when Jess is on the verge of her first consensual sexual experience with a woman, she “couldn’t remember anything Al had taught [her]—not a word” and lets Angie “show [her] how” (71). Jess and Angie proceed to have archetypical butch/femme sex with a dildo. Despite this being a big moment for Jess—one that “no amount of advice [she]’d received from the older butches [could] prepare [her] for” (71-72), this is also the moment Jess cements herself as a real butch. This is now what it means to be a gay woman for Jess. Yet, in many ways, Jess’s coming into her own as a butch is less about coming into her own and more about becoming what she’s been told a butch “ought” to be like. That is to say, here gender identity functions …show more content…
Once she looks like a man, it is only a matter of behaving like one. The morning Jess notices she might be able to pass, she tests it out by going to the barbershop. Here she is delightfully greeted as “sir” and “[tries] to hide [her] excitement as [she] leafed through a copy of Popular Mechanics” (172). She was a man on the outside, but “no longer [her] on the inside” (173). Jess is only a man in the sense she looks and acts as if she is one. Yet, she is able to function safely as a man. Suddenly, her sexual preference is completely normal; the “courtship dance could take place in public and everyone—coworkers and strangers alike—encouraged and approved” (186). After some back-and-forth flirting, Jess is confident enough in her ability to pass to ask out Annie, a heterosexual server at a diner she frequents. The whole night, Annie has no idea Jess is a woman. Even during sex, Annie has no idea Jess’s “penis” is actually a dildo. Jess can go through the motions of butch/femme sex and Annie cannot tell the difference. In a sense, Jess cannot tell the difference either; she faked an ejaculation but “not [her] pleasure” (192). But in another sense, she knew it was all a

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