Film Explores Narrative of Sex and Trauma in the 1970s

Alejandro Tonda ’23, Contributing Writer

Outlaw, directed by Alisa Lebow is a short documentary following the experiences of trans-rights activist Leslie Feinberg, and their experiences as a “Butch” in the 90’s. The documentary describes the day to day life of Feinberg, the film dives into many other aspects of the LGBT community, particularly during the second half of the 20th century. Born on September 1, 1949 in Kansas City Missouri, Leslie became a large voice for transgenders and Queer identifying people as well as becoming an accomplished author with their publication of Stone Butch Blues and other notable transgender books. During its 26-minute runtime, the movie goes into struggles of day to day tasks and errands that demand additional courage as a Butch individual. One task that is taken for granted by many is purchasing an outfit, Feinberg describes the attitude that Butches have to had to walk into a department store and into the male section to ask for an outfit that they can feel comfortable in. The body image problems are reciprocated in other simple tasks as even walking down the street can be a disturbing experience. Leslie’s wife, Minnie Bruce Pratt describes in the documentary the challenges of dodging glares form people and even passively confronting them by staring back, Minnie described the experience as being an animal in a zoo where the spectators do not care if the animal in the enclosure stares back “They won’t look away”. The film is shot in a similar way where Leslie shares her thoughts with the camera in man spaces sharing their day with the audience, these passages of uninterrupted thoughts are then flowed by passages where historical trans rights are shared. The documentary often harkens to historical characters of significance to the Queer community such as Joan of Arc and how a crossdressing female present was able to immortalize herself as a symbol of courage and heroism for France. Another historical landmark of trans rights is the cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture show, and the impact that that movie had in as a way to make trans people feel accepted. In one of the conversation pieces of the documentary the topic of the Hudson River piers, Leslie describes the dual symbolism that the New York harbors hold for the gay community as a place of happiness and also as a “watery grave,” these were the site where many drag events were held in place and at the same time where a lot of violence against the LGBT community was dealt. After the end of the movie, during the discussion, many students voiced a feeling of connection with Feinberg as they described an emotional connection with the struggles of Feinberg and the experiences still felt today. Something that was brought up was the disappearance of queer acceptance spaces as gay appear to become a scarcity. Leslie Feinberg died on November 15, 2014 in Syracuse, NY due to a Tick-Borne Lyme disease that they were unable to get treatment for up until the early 2000’s Leslie was 65 at their time of death.

The screening took place on Feb. 20, sponsored by the Office of LGBTQ Services and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and was followed by a discussion with Professor Vooris, visiting assistant professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies.