18 – Leslie Feinberg – Elia Singer

Elia Singer
Leslie Feinberg
photocollage on paper
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Leslie Feinberg 1949-2014

It was 1994 and my posse of dykes was on fire because Leslie Feinberg was coming to town to speak. I had read Stone Butch Blues. Reading this book was like falling in somewhere – falling into myself – falling into the feel it in your teeth history of butch working class identity. I wept when I read it and was haunted – reliving scenes Feinberg told – dared to tell, for years to come.

It was that day – the day like so many of us have had when we first saw Feinberg or first discovered the power of this telling. My posse and me were rolling up to the 519 Community Center in downtown Toronto. I remember the air – glittering and streaking with energy. We had heroes too. We had forefronters and forefathermothers and we had places to celebrate and fuck we were the tangles and pretty bows and fine lines of community come to worship. I had full stride hit the front of the community center, when what I remember to be a long black car slide up. It had the feel of arriving from some distant unknown place. I stopped and stood and waited and full on stared. The back door opened and Feinberg stepped out from the passenger side onto the street. I could see a suit shoulder unfolding over the car before I could see anything and as fast as I could take a half breath Feinberg had a hand on the backseat door next to the sidewalk. The handle was lifting and then a gorgeous high heel hit the cement. Feinberg then extended a hand and then an arm to Minnie Bruce Pratt and she unfolded from the seat. Feinberg turning to her then them turning to the door of the community centre and as Feinberg passed a nod to me as they stepped in time. I can still feel that nod – a nod that then hit me square in my chest — and now when I feel back was like a hand on a shoulder with a long deep look in the eye forever holding my boots to the ground. That nod, unbeknownst to Feinberg, told me that it was all going to be all right. I could do this life and do it dam twisted and there would be more joy, even in the shit of it, that I could probably stand. To tell you the truth I don’t remember anything Feinberg said that glorious day but I will never forget the slide of the car taking its place, the opening of doors, the hand and arm extended in love, and the nod of recognition. Leslie Feinberg. Dam. What a fucken warrior.


Elia Decai Singer has mostly made short movies over the last many years. This is their first venture into visual art.