Thoughts on “Transgender Warriors” and Leslie Friedman

I’m currently reading a fascinating book called Transgender Warriors by Leslie Friedman. It makes me think of The Yellow Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee in that both books are part memoir, part history books. The Yellow Lighted Bookshop is about the history of books as much as it’s the tale of the author growing into a mature librarian. Transgender Warriors is as much about Friedman as it is about trans people in history.

I recognized quite a few names of warriors in the first few chapters, as those people of history also appear in David E. Jones’s Women Warriors: A History. Women Warriors acknowledges that many of the women cross-dressed or exhibited more masculine qualities (like King Nzinga) but still has that gender binary. You have to infer that some women in that book were, in fact, non-binary. Maybe not “trans,” but definitely falling outside of man/woman dichotomies.

With that said, Friedman’s personal history is profoundly biased in one way: s/he was an active member, for many years, of the World Workers Party, a communist organization that was an offshoot of the Socialist Party in the USA. For all I know, s/he may still be a member.

So, there are many, many, many, MANY moments in the book that are cringe/noteworthy. To say s/he is NOT a fan of capitalism is an understatement on par with “I think North Korea may have a humanitarian problem.”

And hey, I get it – capitalism can be annoying with its ability to create class systems and placing value on products and not people. But – since I’m a wee bit biased because I’m a freelancer/entrepreneur born and raised in the USA, and a child of parents who ran a small business when I was growing up – capitalism is a tool that CAN help people. So can socialism/communism.

By the way, both capitalism AND socialism/communism have had dinguses that have misused these systems to abuse millions of people. Just look at Donald Trump and Joseph Stalin.

I have found from personal experience that anyone who proclaims that one system is wrong and the other is right is suspect. I don’t trust capitalists who say capitalism always works, just like I don’t trust Friedman saying that communism is inherently better than capitalism. Personally, I think the closest to a perfect system we could have is a combination of the two – no extremes. Just the right elements combined in such a way that it works.

The USA is not a perfect combination of capitalism or socialism/communism. But if there is anything true of the USA, it trends towards improvement. So we’ll see what happens.

Anyway, I’ll be sharing more thoughts about this book once I’m done reading it. I’m up to chapter 4, just after s/he discusses Joan of Arc and Native American Two-Spirits. The chapter about Two-Spirits is absolutely fascinating to me – because of myself being neither male or female, my experiences on the Navajo reservation, my background in sociology and indigenous history (thanks, college), and just learning about how different cultures have flexible genders or genders on a continuum. Seeing these things is fascinating to me.

I just wish the story of Two-Spirits and indigenous queerness wasn’t wrapped in a blatantly anti-capitalist package.

(Well, if there’s anything I know about myself – if I don’t find the kind of book I’m looking for, I end up writing it. Who knows what will happen in the future?)

To be fair, Friedman does get tired at times in the narrative – there are times where s/he is like “I know I’m Jewish, but can I stop pointing the blame at something for once?” Like I said, I want to stick around to the end of the book to see what happens.

If you’ve read this book (or know any good readings about Two-Spirits or anything like that) please leave a comment below!

Thank you for reading.

You. Are. Awesome.

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