Closer to Fine: Mo and Leslie

Maureen "Mo" Linehan at West Point

Maureen “Mo” Linehan at West Point

I learned today that Leslie Feinberg passed away.  I mentioned Feinberg, the author of Stone Butch Blues, in a previous blog post.

Stone Butch Blues is a novel written by transgender activist Leslie Feinberg. The novel won the 1994 Stonewall Book Award. It tells the story of a butch named Jess Goldberg, and the trials and tribulations she faces growing up in the United States before the Stonewall riots. Published in 1993, the novel became an underground hit before surfacing into mainstream literature. It is generally regarded as a groundbreaking work on the subject of gender, and it is one of the best-known pieces of LGBT literature. The novel is a prominent portrait of butch and femme–culture in the late 1960s, as well as a coming-of-age story of the character Jess: a Jewish, working-class butch who runs from home as a teenager and becomes a part of gay subculture.[1]

See Transgender Pioneer and Stone Butch Blues Author Leslie Feinberg Has Died.

Leslie Feinberg, photograph belongs to The Advocate as published in the obituary on their website.

Leslie Feinberg, photograph belongs to The Advocate as published in the obituary on their website.

I had the great good fortune of meeting Feinberg in person when she spoke in Baltimore in ~1994.  I was on the cusp of deciding to transition from female to male, but was still wearing my black t-short with bold white block letters declaring Butch Bottom.  The t-shirt looked a bit like this, except the colors were reversed and the font was the block lettering:

"Butch Queen" t-shirt, similar to my "Butch Bottom" t-shirt.

“Butch Queen” t-shirt, similar to my “Butch Bottom” t-shirt.

I had bought the t-shirt at the old Lambda Rising gay bookstore in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC, now defunct.  Thrilled to meet Feinberg, I lingered in the audience after her talk, and she came up to me and gave me a big bear hug.  So learning of her death marks another milestone in my life’s journey.

With Feinberg’s death, I began to reminisce about my dear old friend, Maureen “Mo” Linehan who I met somewhere around the same time period.  Mo is in the first photograph, above, as she looked as a sergeant at West Point.

Here is how Mo looked when I met her:

Mo, second from left in white pants.  Her girlfriend, Kay, to her left.  Photograph taken by me in Dupont Circle in 1996.

Mo, second from left in white pants. Her girlfriend, Kay, to her left. Photograph taken by me in Dupont Circle in 1996.

The story of Mo was the following…  She was born in New York in 1959, and graduated from West Point.  I do not know what troubles caused her to gain so much weight after the rigors of West Point training (rejection by her family?).  What I do know is that I was close to deciding I needed to transition, and Mo definitely wanted to transition from female to male, but her weight precluded any surgery, so she was stuck with her female body and hence continued to use female pronouns.

Mo had met Kay and was very happy.  Mo and Kay both lived separately in North Carolina, and when I met Kim (my previous partner), the four of us took a trip to Nags Head, the first time I’d set eyes on an ocean, and as I wrote in a past post, I was accused of “squealing like a girl” as the waves sloshed me like a helpless buoy.

As I made my decision to transition, Mo was not jealous.  She was very supportive of me.  My nickname in the dinosaur era of IRC and the Internet was Spykie.  I had gotten a tattoo on my left arm that proudly proclaimed, “Spykie.”

Spykie Tattoo

“Spykie” Tattoo

In celebrating my decision to transition, Mo hand-made me a necklace with leather string and metal cubes that said SPYKIEBOY, a very touching gesture:

Spykie Boy - Mo

Kim moved to the DC area to be with me, and Mo was involved in her relationship with Kay.  Busy in our own lives and separated by distance, we lost touch.  One day, Kim and I made an outing to King’s Dominion in Virginia and ran into Mo and Kay.  Imagine the odds….

Mo and Kay were very sad.  Kay was going through a bitter divorce from her husband.  The last time I’d communicated with Mo, she told me how she’d been chatting with Kay via computer in their separate homes in North Carolina.  Suddenly, Kay vanished from the conversation, and knowing the circumstances, Mo called the police.

When the police arrived at Kay’s house where she and her children lived, they found that her husband had broken in, had cut the telephone lines, and was wielding a knife.  Kay’s husband was sent to prison.

So when Kim and I serendipitous crossed paths with Mo and Kay at King’s Dominion, they explained how the divorce had gone forward, but the backwoods yahoo judge had awarded custody of Kay’s children to her ex-husband despite his history of violence and time in prison.  Why?  Because they were living openly together as lesbians.

After that, I didn’t hear from Mo any more, and could not find her.  But once I fully transitioned, I found a mutual friend on Facebook and asked her how to reach Mo.  The friend wrote back something along the lines of “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but Mo committed suicide.”  She died December 15, 2000.  I do not know if she lost hope because she couldn’t transition, or if she felt guilty because Kay was wrongly denied her children, or if it was the impending Christmas holiday and lack of family, or if things had gone wrong under the strain of all Mo and Kay had gone through.  Another gentle heart departed….

One more picture of Mo at West Point:

Mo sitting cross-legged in front row.

Mo sitting cross-legged in front row.

So this is for my old friend Mo, and for Leslie Feinberg, with thanks to my friend, L, for helping me research West Point photographs of Mo:

;

Important Note:

If there are any FTM or transmasculine-identified folks out there who have stumbled across my blog, are on Facebook, and if you have been a victim of domestic violence, rape, or abuse, and if you are seeking support from survivors who’ve been there, please go to my “About” link and shoot me an email.  I’ll tell you how to find a supportive resource.  For starters, you can go to the Trans-Masculine Abuse Project page, but we have a secret group where you can seek peer support and be assured that your privacy is respected.

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About DogDharma

Dog Dharma is written by a human who loves dogs and who believes dogs have attained enlightenment. The human behind Dog Dharma came from humble origins, has faced many trials, enjoyed many adventures, and taken a path less traveled. He claims no special privilege or expertise, and remains humble. Dog Dharma‘s author has learned a few things along the way, and has much yet to learn. He has been told by many people that he has a talent for writing, and aspires to write a book, but is a little too lazy and disorganized, so his blog will suffice for now. He opens a window into his life in the hope that some of his words may be of comfort, some may be a beacon or warning, and perhaps he will connect with like-minded souls. Everything shared comes from a place of openness and honesty, but with no claim that he possesses the Truth. People and places mentioned should be taken as pseudonyms. In many cases, details may be an amalgamation of actual events disguised to protect the “innocent.” Nothing written is to be taken as actual fact, but as the author of Dharma Dog‘s limited understanding. From the mouths of the Beatles: In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make
This entry was posted in closer to fine, FTM, gay, GLBT, Indigo Girls, lesbian, LGBT, Maureen Linehan, Mo Linehan, transgender, transgendered, transmasculine and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Closer to Fine: Mo and Leslie

  1. Deirdre O'Callaghan says:

    What an incredible story…and, I think I just read about a long lost cousin. I never met her but I saw her West Point picture on the wall in Aunt Helen’s apartment in NYC. I was visiting my cousin Sarah. I was about 14 and I’m guessing it was around 1978. That is the last time I saw my O’Callaghan relatives. They didn’t even come to my fathers memorial service.
    Thank you so much for writing this and mentioning Maureen. I’d love hear back from you.

    DeeDee

    Liked by 1 person

  2. SportsNut says:

    Your blog puts my long lost search to rest. I have been looking for my friend, Mo, for years. I am so incredibly saddened by her death. Can you tell me where her remains are buried in Burlington? I would like to visit and pay my last respects. This was not how I envisioned us reconnecting after all of these years. Much thanks for your kind words about Mo and for helping to put this mystery to an end. May she rest in peace!

    Like

  3. Liveforsports says:

    Thanks for your blog. You have solved a mystery for me. I have been looking for my friend Mo for years. I would love to know more about her before she passed away. I will be happy to tell you about the Mo that I knew. Please reach out to me. Thanks again!!!

    Like

  4. Cristina Dee Harrison says:

    Thank you for mentioning Mo.. I just found out about your blog and Mo’s passing from an friend of my spouse who contacted her when she found your blog. I served with Mo in the Army and she was a true friend and mentor. Mo saw me thru my transition M to F back in ’86 and later caught up with me in Huntsville Al in the late 80’s, this was when Mo was with Judy .. when I knew them back in the early 80’s with all of us still on active duty, they were stationed quite a distance apart in Germany and both had extremely demanding jobs that required an exceptional amount of discretion, and could rarely get time off to see each other, they would drive all night for just a couple hours of time together. This is very sad for me, Mo always seemed so strong and fearless, confident and competent and was an excellent Officer and a true friend. I have been missing Mo since she left, but somehow aside from a few updates to the community here early on, nobody really stayed in touch like we should have. The older I get the more keeping in touch with old friends becomes something I should have done better. Pretty sure Mo’s weight problem was due to the fact Mo lost a big chunk of her leg in a motorcycle accident, and hurt her back.. it really cut down on her ability to do the super physical stuff she was used to do, Mo definitely punched way above her weight before the accident. Mo was captain of the West Point Judo Team and was a little famous for taking out two muggers much larger than herself in Central Park in NY when they tried to mug her .. put them both in the hospital and from there jail. Mo was in one of the earliest classes at West Point to have women, and really broke a lot of hard ground for women in the Army, especially in the capacity which she served.. how ironic is that.

    SFC Dee, proud Sister in Arms with Mo Linehan you can contact me if you want.

    Like

    • DogDharma says:

      Melissa, thank you for posting a link to your memoriam for Mo. It helps to have some of the details filled in by someone who knew her before I did. Mo was very private and she did not boast about her past accomplishments. There is a lot I did not know. May Mo continue to rest in peace with troubles no more.

      Like

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