Editor’s note: Some text about Pratt’s North Carolina history has been added by Qnotes staff.

Out poet, essayist, and LGBTQ+ rights advocate Minnie Bruce Pratt died earlier this month, at the age of 76, according to a message posted by her two sons to her official website.

“It is with the deepest sorrow that we report the passing of Minnie Bruce Pratt on Sunday, July 2nd, 2023. She was cared for until the end by a circle of friends and family that made her feel the utmost care and comfort,” Pratt’s sons Benjamin and Ransom Weaver wrote in a joint statement.

On June 22, Pratt’s sons posted that Bruce had recently been “diagnosed with a severe health problem” and was “resting as comfortably as we can make her” while “receiving palliative care from a team of friends and family.”

In a June 27 update, they said that she had continued to decline but was “free of pain and surrounded by loving friends and family.” They thanked those who had sent messages of support. “Your thoughts and sentiments are part of the love and comfort that surrounds her now, so, again, thank you,” they wrote.

The Washington Post reported that Pratt had been suffering from an aggressive brain tumor and died in hospice care in Syracuse, New York.

Pratt was born in Selma, Alabama in 1946. She went on to become active in the feminist movement as well as the fight for gay and lesbian rights. As the Post noted, her work, comprising 10 books and anthologies, dealt with LGBTQ+ rights as well as the fight against racism and economic injustice. She co-founded the Washington, D.C., based lesbian activist group LIPS in 1984.

A statement released by her family describes Pratt as “part of the vibrant lesbian-feminist movement that emerged in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s.” 

According to outhistory.org and an article written by Kathleen Jones that appeared on the site, Pratt moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where she would attend UNC-Chapel Hill to attain her Ph.D. In English Literature in 1979.

Pratt was well-known for her feminist activism in North Carolina in the 1970s and 1980s, where she produced the lesbian feminist periodical A Feminary. Chapel Hill was largely responsible for introducing Pratt to the feminist movement of the era.

Pratt lived in Fayetteville when she came out and lost custody of her children during the subsequent divorce from her husband in 1975. North Carolina used it’s “crime against nature law,” (which remains on the books today, but has been unenforceable since the Lawrence v. Texas decision of 2003) to declare her an unfit mother. Until her sons reached the age of 18, she was only allowed to see them when her ex-husband and his attorney felt it was “appropriate.”

“She turned this traumatic experience into a poetry collection, ‘Crime Against Nature,’ which won the Academy of American Poets’ Lamont Prize in 1989 – just one of many literary awards Minnie Bruce received during her long career,” the family said, according to The Washington Blade.

As the Post notes, Pratt’s writings on gender and transgender issues were influenced by her long-time partner, Stone Butch Blues author Leslie Feinberg, who Pratt married in 2011. Feinberg died in 2014.

“My adult life has been an exhilarating struggle to resist, militantly, the oppressive categories that the ruling status quo places on us, and to live triumphantly, the identities and complexities that we feel to be true for ourselves,” Pratt wrote in a remembrance of Feinberg. “As my life and Leslie’s flowed together, I gained immeasurably in my understanding of that struggle, in my understanding of how we live all our sexualities, sex identities and gender expressions.”

A report in Qnotes confirms Pratt lasted visited North Carolina September 26-28, 2008, for a gathering of acclaimed North Carolina writers in Greenville at East Carolina University.

According to the Post, Pratt is survived by her sons and five grandchildren. In their July 2, announcement of her death, Benjamin and Ransom Weaver noted that details about a public celebration of Pratt’s life would be posted on her official website and other social media. They asked that donations in Pratt’s memory be made to the Friends of Dorothy House in Syracuse, New York. 

This article appears with edits per agreement courtesy of our media partner LGBTQ Nation.

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