Kate Bornstein

Kate Bornstein

Kate Bornstein at Babeland in Seattle in December 2010
Born Albert Bornstein
(1948-03-15) March 15, 1948
Neptune City, New Jersey, U.S.
Residence New York City
Occupation Performance artist
Website katebornstein.typepad.com

Katherine Vandam "Kate" Bornstein[1] (born March 15, 1948) is an American author, playwright, performance artist, and gender theorist. Having been assigned male at birth and then received gender confirmation surgery in 1986, Bornstein identifies as gender non-conforming, saying "I don't call myself a woman, and I know I'm not a man",[2] and uses the gender neutral pronouns "ze/hir" in place of "she/her" or "he/him". Bornstein has also written about having anorexia, being a survivor of PTSD and being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.[3] Bornstein has chronic lymphocytic leukemia and in September 2012 was diagnosed with lung cancer.[4]

Bornstein's partner is Barbara Carrellas. They live in New York City with three cats, two dogs, and a turtle.[5]


Early life

Born in Neptune City, New Jersey, into a middle-class Conservative Jewish family of Russian and Dutch descent,[6] Bornstein studied Theater Arts with John Emigh and Jim Barnhill at Brown University (Class of '69). Bornstein joined the Church of Scientology, becoming a high ranking lieutenant in the Sea Org[7][8][9] but later became disillusioned and formally left the movement in 1981. Bornstein's antagonism toward Scientology and public split from the church have had personal consequences; Bornstein's daughter, herself a Scientologist, no longer has any contact per Scientology's policies.[10]

Transition and post-op

Bornstein never felt comfortable with the belief of the day: that all trans women are "women trapped in men's bodies."[11] Bornstein did not identify as a man, but the only other option was to be a woman, a reflection of the gender binary, which required people to identify according to only two available genders. Another obstacle was the fact that Bornstein was attracted to women. Bornstein had sex reassignment surgery in 1986.

Bornstein settled into the lesbian community in San Francisco, and wrote art reviews for the gay and lesbian paper The Bay Area Reporter.[12] 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 that Bornstein knew how to communicate life's paradoxes.

Bornstein 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."[13]

Cancer diagnosis

In August 2012, Bornstein was diagnosed with lung cancer. Doctors thought that Bornstein was cancer free after having surgery but it emerged in February 2013 that the disease had returned. Laura Vogel, a friend of Bornstein's, launched a Go Fund Me campaign on March 20 to help fund the cancer treatment.[14]


In 1989 Bornstein created a theatre production in collaboration with Noreen Barnes, Hidden: A Gender, based on parallels between Bornstein's own life and that of the intersex person Herculine Barbin.[15] Bornstein edited Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation in collaboration with S. Bear Bergman.[16] The anthology won Lambda Literary and Publishing Triangle Awards in 2011.[17][18] Bornstein's autobiography, titled A Queer and Pleasant Danger: A Memoir, was released May 2012, and in April 2013, Bornstein released My New Gender Workbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving World Peace Through Gender Anarchy and Sex Positivity.


Performance pieces


  1. Bornstein, Kate (5 May 2012). "My Scientology excommunication". Salon.com. Retrieved 2012-05-06.
  2. Bornstein, Kate (2012). A Queer and Pleasant DangerZ: A Memoir. Beacon Press. pp. II. ISBN 9780807001660.
  3. Bornstein, Kate (2012). A Queer and Pleasant DangerZ: A Memoir. Beacon Press. pp. II. ISBN 9780807001660.
  4. Bornstein, Kate. "Bad News and Wonderful News". Kate Bornstein's Blog. Retrieved Feb 13, 2013.
  5. Piechota, Jim (2012-08-09). "Surviving Scientology". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved Feb 13, 2013.
  6. "Kate Bornstein's Gender and Genre Bending" (PDF). LGBT Jewish Heroes. Retrieved 2012-11-04.
  7. ""A Queer and Pleasant Danger": Kate Bornstein, Trans Scientology Survivor". Mother Jones. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
  8. "No Longer At Sea: Kate Bornstein Talks Scientology". Religion Dispatches. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
  9. "A Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein – Powell's Books". Retrieved August 27, 2012.
  10. Moore, David. "Kate Bornstein to perform at UNC-Charlotte". Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  11. Bornstein, Kate (1994). Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us. Routledge. p. 66. ISBN 0415908973.
  12. Piechota, Jim (2012-08-09). "Surviving Scientology". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved Feb 13, 2013.
  13. Kate Bornstein (2010-10-06). "Don't Be Mean? Really?". Kate Bornstein Is A Queer and Pleasant Danger—this is her blog. Retrieved 2015-09-13.
  14. Morgan, Glennisha (2013-03-22). "Kate Bornstein, Transgender Activist And Theorist, Receives Support For Cancer Fundraiser". Huffington Post.
  15. "Kate Bornstein's Gender and Genre Bending" (PDF). LGBT Jewish Heroes. Retrieved 2012-11-04.
  16. "Interview with S. Bear Bergman". Genderfork. 2009-10-29. Retrieved 2009-11-13.
  17. "Triangle Awards: Kate Bornstein". Out-FM. 2011-05-06. Retrieved 2013-07-19.
  18. "Glam Meets Identity Politics at Lammys: Literary awards fête Edward Albee, Val McDermid; feature Stefanie Powers". Gay City News. June 10, 2011. Retrieved 2012-02-23.

Further reading

External links

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