Yesterday Kate Bornstein released her new book 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 [Kindle] and the Village Voice gives her a massive cover story:
"There's a whole new generation of radical trannies coming up who won't let me use the word 'tranny,'" she says with a laugh.
"Kate ruffled feathers when she would write that even though she had gender-reassignment surgery, she's still not a woman. "This was a big blow to trans people—trans women mostly—whose identity was legitimized by all those medical hoops. So what I said was taken as a direct attack on the validity of their identities as real women," she says.
"I got hit by lesbian feminists, then trans feminists hit me." For years, Kate says, queer and trans activists tried to separate sex from their activism in the post–AIDS epidemic era. But that's changing. "The scene has changed. It's not who's fucking whom; it's how cool can you be about people fucking each other."
Much of her memoir describes her changing ideas about her own body and the sexual politics she encountered as she transitioned. But this is not just another one of her books about gender.
"The number-one reason she wrote the book (and she's clear about it in the book itself) was for her daughter and grandchildren. "I want them to see if they want to look. Writing the book has allowed me to let go of the need to reach out to them," she says.
"Kate hasn't seen her daughter, Jessica, since 1980. She has never seen her two grandchildren. She's hoping that her book is popular enough that a copy will fall into their hands and provide them with a detailed explanation of how she got to be who she is today—a transsexual, Jewish, lesbian, bipolar, masochistic cutter.
"I told her that it did seem like an odd strategy—that in order to reach out to a daughter who has shunned her for more than 30 years, she would do so with graphic descriptions not only of her gender transformation, but also of her s&m adventures.
"She nodded, knowingly, and smiled. "It's not the transgender issue she would have a problem with—it's that I left Scientology."
A hefty portion of the article, and apparently the book, deals with his experience in the cult in the 70s (when he was Al) and its ongoing strict rules now. You get kicked out for, among other things, being queer, and members are not allowed to have any contact with anyone who's been kicked out. Kate, of course, has triumphed post-Scientology. She met her girlfriend Barbara Carrellas through Annie Sprinkle in 1997. Last year she won a Publishing Triangle award and was a Lammy finalist for Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation.