American author, playwright and gender theorist and queer icon Kate Bornstein will lead an afternoon workshop followed by an evening performance Oct. 21 at the Transgender Archives at UVic. Santiago Felipe photo

UVic Transgender Archives welcomes Kate Bornstein

LGBTQ trailblazer brings trademark humour to a nuanced discussion on surviving gender

The story of Kate Bornstein is not one that comes wrapped in a neat little package with a beginning, middle, and end.

This story – of gender, of maleness and femaleness, of adventure and courage and heartache – is a story all over the map, quite literally. Through her words, both written and performed, Bornstein has made an invaluable contribution to the study of gender and sexuality.

She will continue that work when she visits the University of Victoria’s Transgender Archives, Saturday Oct. 21.

Aaron Devor, chair of the Transgender Studies program at UVic calls Bornstein fascinating. “She’s one of our founding mothers in a sense,” Devor says. “She’s always out there leading people to be more inclusive, to be more kind.”

The trans archives at UVic are the largest collection of transgender history in the world, bearing records of research that date back more than 100 years. They are privately funded on a fixed term, but Devor is eager for them to remain, after he says items came flooding in, the amount of which now fills the length of a football field.

Bornstein’s 2006 book, Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws is part of those archives and a workshop based on it is planned for Saturday afternoon followed by a performance that evening that Bornstein describes as a trip down memory lane.

“I think that’s the job of an elder in any community, is to provide context and space for co-operation and that’s what I hope to achieve with this show,” she says.

Bornstein, now “69 1/2,” has made her home of the last 20 years in New York City, a place she calls “an island of sanity in an otherwise insane country.”

“[NYC is] active in terms of art, in terms of activism, there are coalitions here,” she explains. “People do know how to get along beyond race, beyond age, beyond class. I’ve never been anywhere where people have dealt with these divisions better.”

Formerly a Scientologist, Bornstein sailed the globe as a high-ranking officer of the Sea Org, which she documents in 2012’s A Queer and Present Danger. She split from the church in 1981 and transitioned in the mid-80’s, because she didn’t identify as a man, but a woman was the only other option.

“I’m writing about this,” she says of the labels society has imposed, based on its penchant for binaries. “I’m working on a new book, writing about how language has been in a crazy dance with the formation of all of our sex and gender communities.”

While the mainstream is just starting to have conversations around the fluidity of gender and sexuality, it’s been Bornstein’s life’s work. And as the concepts expand, she’s gone back to revise old editions of Gender Outlaw and My Gender Workbook. “I think enforcing a label or insisting that your label is never gonna change is foolish.”

Of the archives, Bornstein is tremendously moved to see the roots of her ancestors’ history. She is grateful Devor is at the helm of the project because he’s taken great care with it. She’s amused by the change she’s seen within the LGBTQ community, and her hope is that it continues to evolve.

“I found out early on … the trouble with gender is there are too many answers and not enough questions,” Bornstein says. “I don’t want to give people answers, there are enough answers.”

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Puff, puff, pass: Cannabis is officially legal across Canada

B.C. has only one bricks-and-mortar marijuana store

Majority of Greater Victoria youth likely to be steady marijuana users: UVic study

UVic psychology researcher studied cannabis use among youth in Greater Victoria for more than a decade

Parks Canada says cannabis use is allowed on campgrounds

Smoking and camping will be allowed at national parks across the country

Physician assistants say they can help B.C. health care woes

Reducing wait times, improving doctor efficiency is the goal

VIDEO: Victoria writer and filmmaker turns her mental illness into mental strength

Mental illness robs Victoria woman of happiness from age 10

VIDEO: How to roll a joint

The cannabis connoisseur shares his secrets to rolling the perfect joint

Advance voting begins Oct. 10 in Greater Victoria

The polls open at 8 a.m. for the 2018 municipal election with the general election taking place Oct. 20

Find your future at Black Press career fair in Victoria

More than 70 booths expected at Bay Street Armoury on Oct. 25

Scope of Hurricane Michael’s fury becomes clearer in Florida Panhandle

Nearly 137,000 Florida customers remain without power from the Gulf of Mexico to the Georgia border

Streamlined pardon process for pot possession convictions in Canada

Feds say legalization is first step towards objectives of getting pot out of the hands of kids and eliminating black market

Boeser tallies in OT as Canucks beat Penguins 3-2

Vancouver wins without star rookie Pettersson

Mayor of Kamloops says ‘history has been made’ with vote on B.C.’s lone pot shop

The store to be run by the province in B.C.’s Interior is opening Wednesday as pot sales become legal across Canada

New bus route to ‘replace’ Greyhound along Trans-Canada Highway

Rider Express Transportation says they will soon begin a bus service from Winnipeg to Vancouver

U.S. pot firm urges Trump to deny Canadian producers ‘competitive advantage’

The challenge for U.S. firms lies in the fact that while recreational cannabis is legal in nine states and medicinal pot in 22 others, it remains illegal under federal law

Most Read