Kate Bornstein is a Jewish-American author, playwright, performance artist and gender theorist. She went into her career in the hopes of destroying the gender binary and jokingly calls herself a “gender terrorist”.
I’m what’s called a transsexual person. That means I was assigned one gender at birth, and I now live my life as something else. I was born male and raised as a boy. I went through both boyhood and adult manhood, went through a gender change, and ‘became a woman’. On the personal side of things, my lesbian lover of over three years decided to become a man. We lived together for a few more years as a heterosexual couple, then we stopped being lovers. He found his gay male side, and I found my slave grrrl side. What a wacky world, huh? I can’t think of a day in my life when I haven’t thought about gender…
As a lesbian feminist writer, actress, performance artist and frequent guest on daytime television talk shows, she is dedicated to educating others about what she feels is the inherent oppression of a binary gender system that forces everyone to conform to one of only two gender options. In her books Gender Outlaw, Nearly Roadkill (coauthored with Caitlin Sullivan) and My Gender Workbook, as well as in numerous theater productions and the experiential workshops she presents across the United States, Bornstein questions, challenges and deconstructs all ideas about gender—including ideas that many of us aren’t even aware we have.
Bornstein studied Theater Arts with John Emigh and Jim Barnhill at Brown University. According to Kate’s book ‘Gender Outlaw’, Kate was raised a Conservative Jew. She never felt comfortable with the belief of the day: that all trans women are “women trapped in men’s bodies”. Bornstein did not identify as a man, but the only other option of the day was to be a woman, a reflection of the gender binary, which required people to identify according to only two available genders.
Another block in Bornstein’s path was the fact that she was attracted to women. After SRS she settled into the lesbian community in San Francisco, and wrote art reviews for the G&L paper, The Bay Area Reporter. Over the next few years, Bornstein began to identify as neither a man nor a woman. This catapulted Bornstein back to performing, creating several performance pieces, some of them one-person shows. It was the only way she knew how to communicate life’s paradoxes.
Kate also teaches workshops and has published several gender theory books, and a novel. Hello Cruel World, was written to derail teens, freaks, and other outlaws from committing suicide. “Do whatever it takes to make your life more worth living,” Bornstein writes, “just don’t be mean.” As to Kate’s pronoun preference, there has been no official update that TS is aware of. However, she can be found listed as a successful Trans Woman and now Androgyne.