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"If Kate Bornstein didn't exist, we would have to invent her. But luckily for queers, straights, gender outlaws, and general readers, Bornstein is out and out there." -- Dan Savage
And now, A Queer and Pleasant Danger is out and out there as well! It's been about a month since the release of Kate Bornstein's memoir, and the media, blogs, and Twitter have been lit up all over with love for this book. Here's a quick roundup of her recent blog tour and other mentions.
The Village Voice cover story by Tony Ortega, "Kate Bornstein's Amazing Voyage," complete with a comics adaptation of key moments from the memoir that graced the magazine cover.
Bornstein's tale of disaffection from Scientology has a sense of intrigue—it involves Swiss bank accounts, a rogue group of executives leading a series of purges, and hours of intimidating interrogations—but really, it's the same story we see repeated again and again. After years of superhuman dedication, financial sacrifice, and hermetically sealing themselves from outside influences, one by one, longtime Scientologists tend to reach the same precipice. Forced out through interrogations, disconnected from family members, and simply exhausted by the constant fundraising, many veteran church members go into free fall as they are declared suppressive or simply break away. Some then become the targets of retaliation known as "fair game," which is a well-documented history of using church-hired private eyes and legal harassment.
But Al had other concerns after being suddenly kicked to the curb. He returned home to New Jersey and, three years later, was ready to become Kate. In this revealing book, we learn some particulars about her surgery. And then, there's this rather remarkable little detail: On January 24, 1986, Kate legally changed her name—and remained unaware until much later that on that same day, L. Ron Hubbard died.
Officially, it was a transition for both of them. The church has maintained to this day that Hubbard chose to leave his corporeal body in order to pursue even higher levels of spiritual training somewhere in the galaxy. And Kate—well, she had her own new frontiers to explore.
In the Boston Phoenix, Thomas Page McBee tells Kate he gave a copy of My Gender Workbook to his mom, and they discuss how writing the memoir was different than writing her previous books.
"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."
In an interview with Nicole Pasulka in Mother Jones, Kate talks about Judaism, Scientology, and being transgender:
"Growing up we were secular Jews, but what I got out of Judaism at that time in my life was questions. Everything was a question. "Dad, is there a heaven? Is there a hell?" You never could get an answer. That informed a lot of my reasons for getting into Scientology, because they had all the answers. They said I was not my body, not my mind. I don't have a soul; I am an immortal soul. I've lived many lives and I'll live endlessly into the future, and as an immortal soul I have no gender.
Now this is a big deal, because I never wanted to be a boy, and I didn't want to grow up to be a man."
Pop Matters (10 of 10):
"But what Bornstein ultimately teaches us is that non-normal, or beyond normal, can be fun, challenging, but most of all rewarding. We need to accept expressive fluidity and understand that life is not a solo performance, but the actors certainly will change."
"Ultimately Bornstein has written us a profoundly brave book that cracked me open, leaving me quivering and grateful for the stories I hadn’t known I’d needed to hear. A Queer and Pleasant Danger is truly a singular achievement and gift to the generations of queers who consider her our Auntie, and all those who will follow."
"QAPD is at least three books in one, each of which is a page-turner. The first part is a powerful, at times painful, autobiography of a transgender woman growing up before the category even existed. In some ways, LGBT-youth-memoir is a conventional narrative, but Bornstein has never been conventional and—Goddess help us—never will be. If QAPD ended at page 54, it would be a must-read for anyone interested in transgender, queer theory, or LGBT lives more generally.
But then there’s part two, on Bornstein’s twelve years in Scientology, and part three, on her eventual liberation, transition, and embrace of her kinky, post-gender, post-fame self. (Bornstein’s new book gives her status as a “cult hero” a whole new meaning.) These are also two complete books, and also indispensable."
"We were lucky enough to have Kate read us a chapter – the one on her expulsion from Scientology – a few years ago on a drive from Appleton, WI – where I’d convinced her to come speak at Lawrence University – to the big queer midwest college conference in Madison, WI, where she was the keynote speaker. Sometimes it’s striking what kinds of things you remember, things that maybe no one else would, but anyone – anyone and their favorite aunt – would definitely remember eating Taco Bell with Kate Bornstein in a car on a Wisconsin interstate while she reads to you from her as-yet-unpublished memoir."
io9: "How I Helped L. Ron Hubbard Take Over the Planet"
"On the subject of taking over the planet, Scientology staff worldwide were at an emotional tone of 3.75, between Strong Interest and Enthusiasm. On the subject of doing their own jobs, however, the international tone level dropped to 0.95, smack-dab in the middle of Numbness and Terror. "Gotcha!" exclaimed the Old Man, pounding his desk for emphasis. He outlined his plan to bring worldwide Scientology staff upscale to where their feelings about their jobs matched their feelings about taking over planet Earth. Because staff were so low-toned emotionally, we had to pitch the first campaign at a level of Anger (1.5). We watched the statistics as they came in at the next week-ending. Damned stats went up, pretty near one for one. There was much celebration aboard the Flagship that night. LRH's breakthrough in public relations had worked like a charm, which, in a way, it was."
Queer Fat Femme:
"I’ve read a lot of Kate’s theory and seen her perform and keynote events but never got the full scoop of what she’s gone through. I mean, the process of getting to be a charming babe like Kate Bornstein is no less than spectacular."
Book Notes at Largehearted Boy:
Kate's music playlist includes Audrey Heburn, the Dresden Dolls, and Mx Justin ViVian Bond.
"Her compassion, honesty, service, and humour are rare and beautiful traits in a society supersaturated with anemic pop culture."
"We can’t all push so many boundaries -- and all at once -- but we can be moved and inspired by someone who does."