Leslie Feinberg, verbing, and pronouns

From The Advocate website on the 17th, this death notice:

Transgender Pioneer and Stone Butch Blues [1993] Author Leslie Feinberg Has Died

She was a pioneer in trans and lesbian issues, workers rights, and intersectionality long before anyone could define the phrase. Her partner [of 22 years], Minnie Bruce Pratt, and [her] family [of choice] offered us this obituary:

Leslie Feinberg, who identified as an anti-racist white, working-class, secular Jewish, transgender, lesbian, female, revolutionary communist, died on November 15. She succumbed to complications from multiple tick-borne co-infections, including Lyme disease, babeisiosis, and protomyxzoa rheumatica, after decades of illness.

Feinberg was born September 1, 1949, in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised in Buffalo, NY, in a working-class Jewish family. At age 14, she began supporting herself by working in the display sign shop of a local department store, and eventually stopped going to her high school classes, though officially she received her diploma. It was during this time that she entered the social life of the Buffalo gay bars. She moved out of a biological family hostile to her sexuality and gender expression, and to the end of her life carried legal documents that made clear they were not her family.

Discrimination against her as a transgender person made it impossible for her to get steady work. She earned her living for most of her life through a series of low-wage temp jobs, including working in a PVC pipe factory and a book bindery, cleaning out ship cargo holds and washing dishes, serving an ASL interpreter, and doing medical data inputting.

… From 2004-2008 Feinberg’s writing on the links between socialism and LGBT history, “Lavender & Red,” ran as a 120-part series in Workers World newspaper. Her most recent book, Rainbow Solidarity in Defense of Cuba, was an edited selection of that series. Feinberg authored two other non-fiction books, Transgender Warriors: Making History and Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue, as well as a second novel, Drag King Dreams.

… Feinberg’s spouse, Minnie Bruce Pratt, an activist and poet, is the author of Crime Against Nature, about loss of custody of her sons as a lesbian mother. Feinberg and Pratt met in 1992 when Feinberg presented a slideshow on her transgender research in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the local Workers World branch. After a long-distance courtship, they made their home for many years in Jersey City, NJ, where, to protect their relationship, the couple domestic-partnered in 2004 and civil-unioned in 2006.

Now to the linguistics. First, from the Advocate story:

to protect their relationship, the couple domestic-partnered in 2004 and civil-unioned in 2006

(Hat tip to Ben Zimmer.) Here we have the verbings to domestic partner ‘to become domestic partners, to enter into a domestic partnership’ and to civil union ‘to enter into a civil union’.

And then the editor’s note on the Advocate story, about the pronouns used in referring to Feinberg

Though we have often used “he” in reference to Feinberg at The Advocate, we recognize that this obituary was written by Feinberg’s wife, Minnie Bruce Pratt, while at the author’s bedside. Thus we are using her preferred pronouns here, despite our previous reporting.

Feinberg’s own opinions:

She preferred to use the pronouns she/zie and her/hir for herself, but also said: “I care which pronoun is used, but people have been disrespectful to me with the wrong pronoun and respectful with the right one. It matters whether someone is using the pronoun as a bigot, or if they are trying to demonstrate respect.”

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