Message to my reader of the Chinese edition of Stone Butch Blues
It is a great joy and honor for me that you are reading my novel Stone Butch Blues in Chinese. The hard work of the translators has now made it possible for my work to be read by one-quarter of humanity.
Holding my first copy of this novel in Chinese in my own hands was a very moving moment. I thought back on my life and realized that perhaps the single most momentous impact on my consciousness, my beliefs and the course of my life’s work was the great Chinese revolution by workers and peasants in 1949--the year of my birth. This single event is unarguably the most massive social upheaval in history.
As a factory-worker’ daughter, I did not know that the wealthy rulers of my country were enraged by the loss of China as--from their point of view--a colonial treasure to exploit mercilessly. But I felt the impact in my own life of the domestic reactionary political crusade that this ruling class embarked on within the United States as a result of their rage about the Chinese Revolution.
Progressive people feared losing their jobs and being driven out of their towns. In those early years of my childhood, anti-Asian racism--especially against Japanese, Chinese and Korean people--was rampant. And anti-Semitism dangerously deepened.
When I was a child, the post-WWII job categories for women were restricted to “homemaker” and “mother.” This period of extreme sexual reaction had a tremendous impact on my growing up as a masculine girl child.
But one of the prominent features of this domestic witch hunt was the hounding of lesbian and gay people. Extortion of people accused of being gay--whether or not they were--was common place, as I am painfully aware happens today in Taiwan.
It was because of the exacerbation of repression during the 1950s that mass social movements arose to challenge the worst features of oppression in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. Movements for Civil Rights, the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords Party, the American Indian Movement and the movements for women? and gay liberation arose as a response to iron-fisted reaction.
I came of age and consciousness during these movements that were fighting for profound social change. They shaped me. As a result, I have devoted my life, together with my fellow travelers, in trying to weed out every seed pod of bigotry and discrimination that is rooted in the very unjust and unequal social and economic system in which we live in this country.
I am also fully aware that those who rule from the citadel of wealth and power in my country--like those in the palaces and mansions in Britain--have carried out terrible crimes against the peoples of Asia in order to squeeze out every drop of profit. So I take seriously my own responsibility to you to conduct the battle here, in the belly of the U.S. beast, to defend the right of self-determination and sovereignty of all the peoples of Asia.
Revolutionaries--like revolutions--seek to unweave all the threads of prejudice from the tapestry of their thought. That is not an easy task to accomplish given the crushing weight of media and education that reinforce the messages of the dominant elite, on top of repression.
Of course if education were all that was required, we could write many books and repair and uplift human thinking. But trying to combat the governing ideas of the master class with education alone is like trying to put out a forest fire with teacups of water!
All the ruling propaganda about what is “matural” and ”normal” is aimed at justifying the status quo. And this is a mighty difficult economic and social system to rationalize and defend!
I live in a society
that has the greatest polarization of wealth and poverty of any
industrialized country in the world. This is the most irrational system
imaginable: Those who do the most get the least and those who do the
least get the most!
How could such a grossly unfair social reality continue?
It could not unless those of us who do the work that creates such sumptuous wealth were not kept pitted against each other. In my own country, for example, a central division is the oppression of whole nationalities that are treated like internal colonies--Black, Latino, Native, Arab and, of course, many Asian peoples, including Chinese, Filipinos, Vietnamese and Koreans.
But there are other vicious attempts to turn the copiousness of human diversity into a weapon of “difference.”
I was part of the second great wave for women’s rights and liberation in this country that exposed how the degradation and discrimination that women face is an institutionalized component of capitalism--just as it was an integral and necessary part of slavery and feudalism.
And I was part of the young gay liberation movement that arose in 1969 in New York City after a battle against police repression. We raised social consciousness about how the age-old spectrum of human sexuality has been distorted and vulgarized in order to defend heterosexuality as the state-enforced “norm” and uphold the punishment of same-sex love.
I wrote Stone Butch Blues in 1992 in order to raise a form of oppression that is connected by tendrils to the struggle for the liberation of women and of lesbian women, gay men and bisexual people. And yet it has to be understood as its own social question.
In this novel I am writing about those who face terrible social punishments because they are not considered to be ”real” men or “real” women. This may be because they are transgender--meaning they are considered too masculine as a female or too feminine as a male, or display gender ambiguity or contradiction. They may be transsexual--meaning that they define their sex in a way that contradicts the quick decision made by a stranger in a delivery room when they were born. Or they may be intersexual--people born on the exquisite anatomical sweep between female and male.
In the years since Stone Butch Blues first appeared, I published Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman (Beacon). This non-fiction book presented my life’s work--cross-cultural, cross-historical evidence that these forms of human expression are very ancient and were once honored in communal societies on every continent. And I found evidence that the hostile laws and attitudes towards trans expression, the role of women, and same-sex love arose with the cleavage of societies into have- and have-nots.
Now I am confident that you, living in the oldest continuously recorded culture in the world, will find many, many more examples from your own history--both of the acceptance of trans expression and of the social origins of this form of oppression.
Today, we as U.S. revolutionaries have put these demands for sex and gender liberation on the agenda of struggle. As a lifelong revolutionary, it means a great deal to me to see the demands for trans liberation raised on banners and shouted as chants in all major protests in this country.
But whether or not you and I share a common view about the future of humanity or which road will take us forward, I believe we may very well share other beliefs that are very important. We strive to be the best human being--the best person--that we can possibly be. We try to live a principled life. To uplift our knowledge and our consciousness. To leave the world a better place wherever that is within our power.
If you pride yourself on these qualities, then I believe that once you have looked at the world through the eyes of someone who is “gender different” through reading this novel, you will try to take a stand against the cruel jokes and mockery and social isolation of those whose only crime is to be part of the gender and sex diversity that has existed in all human societies. What a wonderful contribution you could make!
However I also believe
that once we find common ground in the fight against this one injustice,
we will have forged a bond that can continue. I hope that we discover we
have become comrades in a lifelong struggle to win the liberation of
every human being who is degraded, devalued and downtrodden by
exploitation and oppression.