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Kate Bornstein on gender misconceptions and 'dancing with death'
by Sarah Toce
2015-10-21

This article shared 3940 times since Wed Oct 21, 2015
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Trans advocate Kate Bornstein is a successful published writer, author, playwright, and public speaker—even with the acknowledgement that she may only be able to accomplish one task at a time.

"I don't wear all of these hats at once, I wear them one at a time. I am a terrible multitasker," she said. "I have a Taurus moon, so I plod. I stop doing one thing, and I start doing the next thing. It's how I try to practice: one day at a time, and live in the now. My girlfriend of 18 years, Barbara Carrellas, is also a published writer, author, playwright, public speaker, and more—and she is a brilliant multitasker. Where I plod, she zooms. We scare each other."

When it's time to throw down one of the hats, which one does she opt to discard first?

"Fiction writing, damn it," she admitted. "I've got a young adult novel that keeps getting back-burnered."

Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws hit innately close to home for Bornstein.

"Mine wasn't so much of a struggle with suicide as it was a dance with death," she said. "The unspoken bottom-line danger with suicidal thinking is that it's seductive. It's why no one can ever really prevent another from killing themselves—all we can do is help them find ways to make their life more worth living."

Bornstein added, "My own solution has been to pull out all the stops. Literally. We live in a culture that encourages people to be judgmental, so we get a lot of people stopping us with, 'Don't do this,' and 'Don't do that,' and never, ever, ever be that thing you're dreaming of becoming. We think if we disobey this kind of cultural imperative, that we'll be terrible people, worthy only of hell. Well, fuck that. I've learned to give myself permission to do anything it takes to make my life more worth living—and the only rule I have to follow in order to make that work, is don't be mean. And that's what I teach because it's not anything you can learn once and put down forever. I still dance with death—shit happens, right? But once I started to live my heart's desire, it was all the more seductive a dance with life."

Bornstein has dealt with feelings of depression and isolation her entire life.

"I live with borderline personality disorder—my default has always been depression and isolation," she said. "Writing, PhotoShopping, binge-watching great television, and sitting with my pussycat in my lap are some of my go-to short-term fixes. But what's worked best and longest has been dialectic behavioral therapy."

The misconceptions surrounding gender identity run deep—even for someone as well-versed in the topic as Bornstein.

"All of us have misconceptions about gender identity. I sure do," she said. "I learn more and more about gender identity every day, and day by day my misconceptions about gender identity are dissolving. I guess the most common misconception about gender identity is the belief that everyone but you has got misconceptions."

The media plays a large part in the associations we apply toward gender identity in our current society. Right now gender fluid celebrities seem to be all the rage in today's headlines ( Miley Cyrus and Kristen Stewart, to name a couple of examples ).

"I have to dive into some theory," Bornstein said. "Suppose you understand gender to be divided into two—and only two—spaces: male and female. Gender fluidity with this binary understanding would be happily bouncing back and forth between these two spaces, in two dimensions. Well, more and more people are coming to understand gender as more than two spaces, nonbinary. Some see gender as a spectrum, or a spiral, or a Möbius strip. Some see gender has a space that contain all of the above, with paradoxes, to boot—lots more genders to explore or express, lots more nuance possible. That'd be more of a three- or four-dimensional gender experience. So gender fluidity can be binary or nonbinary. It doesn't matter."

Bornstein explained the concept of fluidity further.

"Fluidity is a state of identity, or expression, or both," she said. "Some people experience gender fluidity in their hearts and minds, and it's enough. Some people burst unless they express that fluidity for the world's great delight. I'm happy to see more gender fluid celebrities happily expressing their fabulous fluidities. "

At times it seems like the LGBT community focuses more on what separates us than what unites us. When asked how the LGB population could more generously support the transgender community, Bornstein was a bit…vague. "More people need to ask that exact question, and listen very carefully to the trans person's answer."

Moving on to Caitlyn Jenner, Bornstein's a fan.

"She's a dear, dear thing," she said. "She's brand new to girl. She's brand new to most anything left-wing. She's having to change everything about her life, and she's brave enough and fun enough to be willing to show us her transition into…what? My money is on soft butch dyke. So I'm incredibly fond of her, I believe in her sincerity and generosity, and I forgive her the mis-steps the way I'd like my own missteps to be forgiven."

As for Orange Is the New Black's Laverne Cox, Bornstein said, "Couldn't be prouder that Ms. Cox is the face of transgender. Couldn't be more pleased."

Some might argue that Bornstein is herself one of the forces to be reckoned with in the transgender leadership community. When she isn't avoiding her fiction writing, she's touring.

In the meantime, fans can find Bornstein writing a new book with the working title Trans! Just for the Fun of It!

Find out more about Kate Bornstein via katebornstein.typepad.com .


This article shared 3940 times since Wed Oct 21, 2015
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