Kate Bornstein was described in the program for Fresh Meat as an elder. (She said, “If I’m an elder, that means I get to say things like, ‘I’m very proud of my children.’”) The piece she read was called XX: Reflections on My Twentieth Birthday, and it was all about how she’s a young woman now, and also an old man. She talked about coming to San Francisco when she was a two-year-old girl and a forty-year-old man. She talked about how wonderful this city is, how the queer community here is like nowhere else, and how amazing it is to be at this festival for queer and trans performance on its fifth anniversary weekend.
No matter how cynical I feel, she wins me over every time.
I first encountered Kate through Gender Outlaw, which I found at Barnes and Noble. The GLBT section was all of sixteen books long, and half of that was gladiator porn. I’d encountered references to transpeople before, in To Wong Foo, Stonewall, in a few anthologies here and there, and in the late lamented Anything That Moves magazine. (I was mostly looking for graphic depictions of sex.) I tossed everything on the to-do pile and pretended that there was no such thing as transgender, at least as a potential factor in my own life.
Gender Outlaw was the first book I couldn’t ignore.* That’s an amazing accomplishment on Kate’s part, given how skilled I was at filtering. Maybe it was because of its brevity. Maybe I picked it up at precisely the right time, and Conundrum or Stone Butch Blues or even Sex Slaves of the Empire would have worked just as well. I think that at least part of the reason Gender Outlaw spoke so clearly to me is the charming, disarming generosity of Kate Bornstein’s voice.
I know I’m probably going to sound like one of those people who talks about how nice Oprah is in real life, but, well. There are a few people I’ve met in my young life whom I have really admired and liked. They haven’t been queer for the most part, or come from any particular place. What they do share is a genuine interest in and love of diversity. Not just tolerance, mind you, but preference. “Wow, you think about things in a completely different way! You’ve come to completely different conclusions! You have completely different needs and desires! We disagree! That’s so cool!” Kate Bornstein seems happiest when she is encountering something she’s never thought about before, something new.
The other thing I love about her is that she has my back. She just published Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks & Other Outlaws. She wants to make sure that the freaks stick around.
*For too many years, anyway.
- Jesus Mocked by piny September 11, 2006