Kate Bornstein has been a lot of things to a lot of people, but at a special Aug. 4 appearance at the Center on Halsted, the iconic transgender writer and performer was more family to the audience than she was performer.
Bornstein, whose candor is as famous as her work, shared an emotional two and a half hours with attendees.
She presented her signature piece, "On Men, Women and the Rest of Us," before taking questions and much praise from audience members.
"On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us" is an exploration of gender and sexuality as well as a complicated homage to Bornstein's family, including her daughter from whom she is estranged.
It is a narrative that has had many talking since May when Bornstein released her memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger. The book documents Bornstein's 12 years as a Scientologist, a time she discussed in a tear-filled question-and-answer session at the center.
"Twelve years in the Church of Scientology… that's still more embarrassing than saying, 'Hi, I'm a transsexual," Bornstein joked.
Bornstein's 39-year-old daughter remains a Scientologist and has been taught that Bornstein is evil, she said. Her memoir is dedicated to her daughter, but the two have not spoken in decades.
Two audience members identified themselves as excommunicates from the Church of Scientology. One woman explained through tears that leaving the church allowed her to love LGBT people.
"I think there's hope for us; there's hope for your daughter," she told Bornstein, who also welled up.
Other audience members sought Bornstein's opinion on trans issues, language and community.
Bornstein said she believes new identity categories are emerging in the United States around gender and sexuality, specifically around the identities of "queer" and "straight." She believes, she said, that an increasing number of LGBT people are "straight" and an increasing number of heterosexual people are "queer."
"'Straight' would be the right wing of sex and gender politics," said Bornstein. "'Queer' would be the left wing of sex and gender politics."
Finally, Bornstein advocated for unity across identities, which she said are largely binary and arbitrary.
"We need to stop building barriers between ourselves," she said.