One of the very first books I read after beginning my transition in 2003 was Kate Bornstein’s Gender Outlaw. My first thoughts were “She is so wrong about transsexual people — we are NOT in between male and female! I know I’m a woman!”
And I still know that as truth about myself, and it’s a different personal truth than the personal truth Kate has embraced for herself. But what I’ve come to realize is that Kate, through that book, taught me that there is no right way to be trans. She taught me that there is not a standard narrative or set of experiences one has when one comes to realize one is a transsexual. I had an orchiectomy instead of a vaginoplasty, and that’s not considered by many to be what my surgical outcome should have been as a transsexual. I accept that I’m a gender outlaw, and always will be one whether I want to be or not — but Kate taught me that that was okay.
Well, now Kate has published her memoir A Queer And Pleasant Danger. The opening paragraph in the cover jacket of Kate Bornstein’s book describes Kate and the book this way:
Scientologist, husband and father, tranny, sailor, slave, playwright, dyke, gender outlaw — these are just a few words that have defined Kate Bornstein during her extraordinary life. For the first time, it all comes together in A Queer And Pleasant Danger, a stunningly original memoir that’s set to change lives and enrapture readers.
The Scientologist part of her history is a major part of the narrative of her memoir, as well as her estrangement from her children that is in major part due to her history with Scientology.
Like so many trans “subcelebrities,” Kate has led a very, very interesting life. But unlike many trans “subcelebrities,” Kate has a way of spinning a tale that is incredibly engrossing. Her interesting life comes alive in a very accessible way — even for folk who aren’t trans.
It always amazes me how many common themes are expressed by trans people in relating their lives. I share with Kate, for example, a mental health diagnosis, a history with faith that impacted my world view and my transition, a love of old school Sci-Fi authors and their books, estrangement from family members to include my children, a love of the arts, and a gender identity that’s not only personal, but is also perceived to be a political identity.
Kate describes her gender this way:
There are a great number of people in the world — I dare say most of ‘em — who would say I’m a pervert and a bad person because I’m a transsexual woman. I was born male and now I’ve got medical and government documents that say I’m female — but I don’t call myself a woman and I know I’m not a man. That’s the part that upsets the pope — he’s worried that talk like that — not male, not female — will shatter the natural order of men and women. I look forward to the day it does.
And expanding some on how she identifies, she also says this:
I call myself trans, or a tranny — and that angers a small but vocal group of transsexual women who see tranny as the equivalent of kike to Jew. Right, I’m a Jew, and everyone knows someone who’s got a thing about the Jews.
And there’s just so much more in this book — it’s a real page-turner.
It’s a book worth discussing.
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]