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Kate Bornstein        

Author, Playwright, Trans Trailblazer, Performance Artist & Gender Theorist

Since 1989, trans trailblazer Kate Bornstein has — with humor and spunk — ushered us into a world of limitless possibility through a daring re-envisionment of the gender system as we know it. Bornstein identifies as nonbinary: not a man, and not a woman — and she’s been writing about nonbinary gender identity for nearly thirty years.

Bornstein was born Albert Bornstein in 1948, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. At an early age, he came to the conclusion that he wasn't a boy, and that she didn't want to grow up to be a man. To Albert, being a boy was all acting, and pretending to be a boy. In 1984, she began her hormonal, surgical, and social transition from male to female, which she completed in 1986 — she was a woman! In less than two years, she realized that being a woman was for her no more than acting and pretending... just like it had been for being a man. So in 1988, Bornstein gave up the idea of being a woman, and now she lives on the edge of paradox: she is not a man, and not a woman. She looks beyond the gender binary to see gender as both a conscious practice, and a playful journey.

Bornstein's work is taught in five languages, in over 300 high schools, colleges, and universities around the world. The titles of her books say a lot about who she is and how she views things: "Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us;" "My New Gender Workbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving World Peace Through Gender Anarchy and Sex Positivity;" "Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws;" "A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She Is Today."

Currently, you can see Bornstein onscreen as Joan, the church lady, in the film, Saturday Church. Bornstein is the subject of Sam Feder's award-winning documentary, “Kate Bornstein Is a Queer and Pleasant Danger.” Bornstein's work on suicide prevention, and her advocacy for marginalized and at-risk youth has earned her two citations of outstanding citizenship from the New York City Council.

Bornstein has been on the road lecturing and performing for over 25 years, at colleges, high schools, and anywhere people gather to talk about gender.

Speech Topics

Navigating the Multiverse of Gender

The history of all our notions of gender the very root of gender is sex: the commonly accepted idea that there is biological evidence of two and two only immutable sexes, and that this bio-binary determines the social order. Furthermore, the idea of two, and two only sexes is mirrored in, and championed by, virtually all of the world’s great religions. And that’s how it was for thousand as and thousands of years. It wasn’t until the early to mid nineteenth century that sex began what was to become a centuries long collision with gender, beginning with the early first wave feminists. They said No. No, I won’t be a woman the way you say I’ve got to be a woman. And from that point on, gender changed rapidly to the point where more and more people came to understand and embrace a more nuanced view of gender as a social construct that includes binary identified trans people, as well as the scientific fact that one may change from one sex to its opposite.

The moment of transition from the twentieth to twenty-first century saw and explosion of ideas about gender. Gender fluidity, nonbinary gender, agender, and other forms of gender nonconformity began to make their ways into mainstream consciousness, practice, and acceptance. And this is the evolution of gender to this day. Kate Bornstein points out that this evolution of gender is not linear. People who live in the universe of binary sex share the world with people who live in one of several universes that embrace some form of binary gender, all of whom share today’s world with people who are living in an exploding number of nonbinary and other nonconforming universes. And so there is a great deal of strife, and gender based suffering as these universes collide.

In this presentation, Kate unravels the tangle of the gender multiverse, and proposes a new theory of gender relativity in which the multiverse of gender might have a chance of a more accepting coexistence. The presentation is an hour long, followed by up to thirty minutes of Q and A.

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