Feisty transgender icon Kate Bornstein's newest book, A Queer and Pleasant Danger (Beacon Press), is best summed up by its subtitle: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She Is Today. Bornstein, 64, is the beloved "Auntie" to queer and trans folks, and the author of several books, including: Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and The Rest of Us and My Gender Workbook. I spoke to her about her latest endeavor by phone last week.
I GAVE MY MOM MY GENDER WORKBOOK BEFORE I CAME OUT AS TRANS, AND SHE LOVED IT. Really? You've got a cool mom!
I DO, I'VE GOT AN AMAZING MOM. BUT THIS NEW BOOK IS MUCH MORE PERSONAL THAN THAT ONE. IT'S BASICALLY A LETTER TO YOUR DAUGHTER AND YOUR GRANDKIDS, WHO ARE STILL SCIENTOLOGISTS. It was really, really hard to write because I've done so many things that traditionally a parent wouldn't be telling their children about. But here I am at 64 now, and there's my daughter, she's 39, and my grandkids are in their teens and tweens, I think. So I wanted to write— I did write it for them. But of course I knew that, okay, lots of other people are going to see this, so I included in the way I wrote all the people I call my kids, like you.
YOU WERE ON THE SEA ORG SHIP WITH L. RON HUBBARD HIMSELF AND ALL THAT, AND THAT ALONE IS REALLY STRIKING. BUT ALSO YOU OBVIOUSLY WERE A RADICALLY DIFFERENT PERSON IN PRETTY MUCH EVERY WAY THEN. HOW DID YOU EMBODY YOURSELF IN THE BOOK? I think it would take a trans person to ask that question. Most people don't think about, "Well, if I remember back to a certain time in my life would I be able to embody that person who I was?" And, frankly, when I sat down to write the memoir I didn't think I was going to be able to. But then I started writing myself in the first-person boy — man — that I was, and it was easy. I just told the truth of it without judging myself. And yeah, it has helped me resolve a lot. Writing that book has helped me come to — a lot closer to not man, not woman, and both. And that's the kind of state of grace that I aspire to.