Toward a Politic of Desire

I've been tip-toeing around the idea of a politic of desire, and I just started to get a handle on it when I spoke last November at the Transcending Boundaries Conference (TBC). They'd asked me to talk on the conference theme which was, that year, "beyond the binary." I was in the throes of deadlines for my memoir, and I had no fucking idea of what to write. The night before I was supposed to give my keynote, I skipped out on a performance by my friend, Kelli Dunham, and sat in my room writing notes on hotel stationery until maybe three in the morning.

The next day, I got dressed in my Battlestar Galactica Colonial Fleet fatigues—I was being old lady Starbuck—I needed her madness and her courage to help me get through the talk, which I delievered haltingly. It was new, and I was saying some of these words for the first time—or they were going in the order they were going in for the first time. I needn't have worried. The audience at the conference could not have been more encouraging or welcoming.

Much of what I talked about in the keynote is going to wind up in My New Gender Workbook, due out from Routledge Press in November 2012. Short deadline. So I'd like to have a conversation with you about this notion of a politic of desire. Yes, I'll check this blog at least once daily and I'll dialogue with you about the subject. I think it's an important one, and I think your voice is going to be instrumental in making the notion real and accessible.

So… if you like, please have a read of the text I dictated from those scribbled notes. 

Download KB_keynote_TBC_2012

OK—let's give it a stab at talking together, here in the comment section. Be gentle with me, it's a way early draft. And thank you for your participation.

kiss kiss

Auntie Kate


Wingnuts and Moonbats and Gender… Oh, My!

This blog is part of a series I'm writing while I'm undating the fifteen year old "My Gender Workbook" for Routledge Press. I'm asking for your voice to be included in the spiffy new version, because you are so much more than the first version of the book could have predicted. Every couple of days, I'll be posting a new question for you to ponder. If the question tickles your fancy, by all means please speak to it. Be sure you've read the submission guidelines before you write your answer. Thanks for your help.

Dear Gendered, Somewhat Gendered, and Non-Gendered Peeps,

The workbook update is moving along on schedule. Thank you for the terrific input so far. It sure looks like this version of the workbook will have more voices in it than the first.

Well, let me get right to it then—here's the next in the series of questions I'm posing for your consideration:

How does politics impact your gender?

Politics, like age, race, class, sexuality, etc, etc, is a space in which our identities, desires, and powers can be socially regulated. And, like gender and all those other spaces, the huge space that contains all the possible politics that could ever be, is masquerading as a binary. In the USA, binary politics plays out as left wing with extremist liberal moonbats, and right wing  with extremist conservative wingnuts. Each political point of view socially regulates gender by it's own take on what's a real man, what's a real woman; what's right behavior for boys and girls; and just how should we deal with the increasing number of people who claim they're both male and female and/or neither.

We are at the beginning of an election cycle here in the United States—and that means that the powers that be will ramp up every divisive binary they can think of. This country and by extension the world will be awash with us versus them, good guys and bad guys, moonbats and wingnuts, red states and blue states… every single one of them saying, my way or the highway. Divide-and-conquer has pretty much always been the modus operandi of choice by politics of power and identity politics. So, what does all that mean for your extremely personal gender identity and gender expression? Here are some questions for ya to chew on:

  • Have conseravtive or liberal social theories shaped your gender identity or expression in any way?
  • Have you been cut off from someone or some group or place that you love because your gender expression violates someone's politics?
  • Do politicians and elected officials stand up for you and people gendered like you?
  • Has your gender identity or its expression left you defenseless against the social domination of some extremist law?
  • Do you define as left wing or right wing politically? If so, how does that help or hinder you express yourself through your gender?
  • Are you more or less safe or at risk compared to others of your gender who have another political point of view?
  • Have you been empowed because of your political views, compared to people with genders other than yours?
  • Have you been disempowered by your political views, compared to people with genders other than yours?

Yes, yes—there's a lot more to politics than moonbats and wingnuts. But those are the folks who are currently vying for control of the so-called free world, so those are the politics I'm most interested in. OK then… politics, gender, and you. Ready? Set? Go!

kiss kiss



@PinkBatPrincess asked if trans politics was included in the question. How cool! I hadn't thought of that. Yes, by all means you can speak to any gender politics, including but not limited to trans politics. And yes, please do write about issues around political correctness and gender policing within our own communities. Where possible, please tie these ideas into the larger binary of liberal/conservative politics. Thank you, @PinkBatPrincess. The pink background is for you!

Reminder: You can answer in the comments section of this blog, but Twitter is the very best way to respond. Response length, wherever you do it, is maximum 280 characters, two tweels. Your tweets do NOT have to be addressed to me, but DO remember to put the hashtag #MNGW on ALL your tweets about this or any other gender-y thing that might pop into your adorable li'l head.

What’s A Gender Without an Age?

This blog is part of a series I'm writing while I'm undating the fifteen year old "My Gender Workbook" for Routledge Press. I'm asking for your voice to be included in the spiffy new version, because you are so much more than the first version of the book could have predicted. Every couple of days, I'll be posting a new question for you to ponder. If the question tickles your fancy, by all means please speak to it. Be sure you've read the submission guidelines before you write your answer. Thanks for your help.

Dauntless Gendernauts, Fearless Freaks, Intrepid Inverts et al,

Thanks for the great feedback so far. My editors at Routledge and I are thrilled with the range and depth of your observations! 

So, here's the next in the series of questions I'd like your response to.

How does your age impact your gender?

I'm of the opinion that boy, man, girl, and woman are four distinct genders. Hey, I also call myself a 64 year old man and a 26 year old young woman, because that's a true statement from so many angles. But even if you disagree with me, you've got to acknowledge that systemic ageism is overwhelming each and every one of us with its rules about gender and gender expression. Men don't wear dresses. Women don't have moustaches. Boys will be boys. Girls just want to be Disney princesses. — that's just a few of them. Age is built-in to our perception and performance of gender. That said…

  • What effect, if any, does your age have on your gender or gender expression? 
  • What part does gender play in the limits, freedoms, and boundaries imposed upon or empowered by your age?
  • Do (did) you get treated as a different kind of male or female or genderqueer or trans* or tranny or whatever because of your age?
  • Looking back on your life, how has your gender changed as you've grown?
  • Are you living more than one age the same time because of your gender?
  • What have you learned about age from the gender you are? 
  • What have you learned about gender from the age you are?
  • What's your burning age-and-gender issue that I haven't even touched on here?

So many questions!

So please… from your perspective, your experience, or your observations, what's your take on gender and age?

Thank you and love,

Auntie Kate

Reminder: Twitter is the very best way to answer. Response length is maximum 280 characters, two tweels. Your tweets do NOT have to be addressed to me, but DO remember to put the hashtag #MNGW on ALL your tweets about this or any other gender-y thing that might pop into your adorable li'l head.


Please Help Me Update My Gender Workbook

Dear Hearts,

I’m thrilled to write that I’ve been asked by Routledge Publishing to update my fifteen year old book, My Gender Workbook. We struck a deal, I’ve got the green light, and I’ve begun writing My New Gender Workbook. I’m so excited!


I’ve been in touch via Twitter, my blog, and YouTube with a lot of people who regularly read and use My Gender Workbook both in class and daily in their lives. It turns out that people really like the principles of the book—but that many of the cultural references and contexts—even the way some quiz questions are phrased—are out of date, and this sometimes gets in the way of grasping the important stuff. So, an update would involve a page by page combing out of outdated references. For example…

  • There’s much more awareness of intersections of oppression and marginalization.
  • There’s a much more sophisticated understanding of & experience with the Internet.
  • The geopolitical world has grown vastly more polarized since the book came out.
  • In a few places in the world, reat strides have been made in sex-and-gender freedoms.
  • At the same time, many ghastly practices of policing sex and gender have been uncovered.
  • Sex-and-gender activism has become globalized, and shuffled into the deck of social activism.
  • Young Female-to-Male has replaced Middle-Aged Male-to-Female as the face of transgender in the world.
  • Sex and Gender activism & awareness has become increasingly polarized along lines of class, race, and age.


As in the original book, I’ll be looking for a great many voices other than my own. In the original, there were hundreds of voices other than mine, appearing in lists, text boxes and call-outs.  In the new version, I’m aiming to include even more voices. My idea is to maintain a running commentary of multiple voices all through the book. 


All submissions for the workbook should be in the form of tweets, or at most double tweets—that is to say, all submission should be no longer than 140 to 280 characters, including the mandatory hashtag: #MNGW (My New Gender Workbook). Why so short? The very best voices in the original workbook were short, articulate, and right to the point. 


Any gender-related topic you damned please.

However, over the course of the next 4-6 weeks, I’ll be asking specific questions on this blog and on Twitter. There’s going to be a new question every couple of days. But you don't have to wait for the questions. If you’ve got anything to say in 140-280 characters, I WANT TO READ IT, and I promise I will.


The best way is to use Twitter. Remember, two tweets maximum. All submission tweets must include the hashtag #MNGW or they very likely will slip through the cracks and we most certainly do not want that!

You can also post your answer on this blog. If you do, make sure you give us a way to reach you if we need to. 

Or, you can email your submission to: mynewgenderworkbook at gmail dot com. 

Please note that we will use no one’s words without their express permission. 

Finally, there's no promise that your name will appear next to your words, or that your words will be used. Everyone whose words are used will be credited with the name of your choosing in the acknowledgements.

There’s only one more rule for submissions: don’t be mean. 


What’s your gender?


I cannot WAIT to see your kickass smart answers to this simple li'l question.

Please do retweet and repost and link to this blog to as many places as you can—even the surprising places.

Thank you in advance for all your help and support.

Big love,

Auntie Kate




How Do You Spot a Bully?

Yelling guy via art parts I put the question out on twitter: how do you spot a bully? what is it that bullies do that makes them instantly recognizable as bullies. I'll be using these answers in a new book I'm working on, but I think the way articulate feedback I got is important enough to share right now, along with the twitter names of the folks who wrote them. Some folks, including yours truly, came up with several ways to spot them.

So… watch for these signs:

@katebornstein: They hurt/pick on/target ppl who aren't in a position to fight back. Like #BofA charging $5 a month to use yr debit card.

@katebornstein: They ask you either/or questions, eg my way or the highway.

@katebornstein: They shout you down, don't let you speak your ideas or opinions.

@mary_menville: They believe that the only way to meet their needs is at the expense of yours

@msmanitobain:  stare at you; mutter derogatory names at you as they pass by

@musingvirtual: the more subtle ones gaslight, reference "Are You Being Gaslighted"

@UrbanRoguery: They make 'you' statements bc its easier to attack than reflect and hear. They fight to 'win' not solve.

@fgg23: they think laughter is a weapon in itself, and sometimes it works

@fgg23: They are always SO SURE that they will get away with everything.

@fgg23: They use ignorance to their benefit. "I don't understand you" = "You're wrong"

@blurabbit147: they laugh at the suffering of others, not from a place of relating, from a place of cruelty.

@sbearbergman make themselves feel big by making you feel small

@AHaefner: ad homenim attacks (eg: They attack your words instead of responding to your point)

@SaraEileen: They belittle your emotions / opinions / sense-of-self by insisting you can't understand them, or yourself.

@Siniful They spread misinformation, for either their own gain or to put down others. They thrive by ignorance.

@LauraVogel They put forth their views in a way that make you feel dumb for disagreeing. "I'm right, you're stupid."

@supermattachine They insist they know you better than you know yourself.

@AliceSinAerie: they use you to make themselves look/feel more important

@AliceSinAerie: they intentionally embarrass you in front of others

@heavenscalyx They hurt you (physically, emotionally) then claim it was a "joke". Or maybe that's #howtospotanabuser

@BigDaddyKeltik: they'll test you, see how you respond, if you show weakness, you become a target. They'll test with little attacks, comments, questions, and it'll build from there. Whatever your weakness is, thats what they exploit

@danielsiders: references NY Times article "Why Cyberbullying Rhetoric Misses the Mark"

@MSvairini: They act like they have nothing at all in common with you.  Not even humanity.

@NJrugger45 almost nothing stops them. Not ignoring it, not talking back, not crying. Usually takes someone to intervene

So, wow, right? These seem pretty spot on to me. If you have any to add, please do so in the comments section below.

Wishing you safe bully-spotting.


Auntie Kate




Trans Pride — Talking Points, Toronto 2011

Trans Pride Cherub I was invited to Toronto this year to speak at Trans Pride. I don't often get invited to speak at Pride events, so not too many people have heard or read what I think about LGBTetc Pride, and more specifically Trans Pride.

A lot of what I said at Toronto Trans Pride is part of a book I'm working on for Seven Stories Press, called No Votes For Bullies: Democracy For The Rest of Us. If all goes according to plan, the book should be out in September, 2012—a couple of months after my memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger, comes out from Beacon Press in June, 2012.

So, here are the talking points I used for my talk on Trans Pride, delivered to some hundreds of lovely gender anarchists and sex positive, sex inclusive outlaws at the post-march Gender Revolution stage in Toronto on July 1st, 2011.

Click to download Talking Points PDF file

Okey dokey, then. I'm still writing the first draft of my memoir, It goes to the printer at the end of August and I have miles to go before I sleep.

Happy Summer!

kiss kiss



A Tribute to Mx Justin ViVian Bond


 Last night—Monday, April 25th, 2011, I was honored to present Mx Justin ViVian Bond with an award of recognition and appreciation from Performance Space 122 in New York City. 

PS 122 is celebrating it's 30th anniversary, and last night they were honoring three performing artists: Carmelita Tropicana, Danny Hoch, and Justin ViVian Bond.

I've known Mx (Justin ViVian's salutation of choice) Bond… well, it's coming up on twenty years. V (Justin ViVian's pronoun of choice) is simply one of the dearest people I know. But I had to be brief. The evening's coordinator, Lucy Sexton, was quite clear that I had only two minutes to speak, and no more. I stretched it to three, maybe four. Afterwards, she laughed and told me that she'd only said two minutes so I wouldn't go on for ten or fifteen! I could have done that easily. But here's more or less the text of what I had to say before presenting Mx Bond with v's award.


Justin ViVian, I love you. Always have, always will.

kiss kiss

Auntie Kate

My Tribute Talk to Mx. Justin ViVian Bond

Being More or Less What I Said About Justin ViVian Bond
at a P.S. 122 TributeNew York City, April 25, 2011

I’m wearing the top hat I wore twenty years ago, in a play I wrote, called Hidden: A Gender. It was November 1991 when Mx Justin ViVian Bond and I made our New York debut together on the downstairs stage of PS 122. Lori E. Seid brought us to New York, and produced the show. Mark Russell, PS 122 Artistic Director, welcomed us to town. Thank you Lori and Mark. 

Justin ViVian Bond is fond of saying how I discovered him so many years ago, and gave him his start in queer showbiz. Well, that’s true. But I want to tell you what Mx Justin ViVian Bond has given to me over all these years. I write cool books on postmodern gender theory. Well, Justin ViVian, you have been my muse all this time. You’ve always led me from theory into practical, and I’m so grateful to you for that.

I first met Justin Bond in San Francisco, 1989—a few months before the big earthquake. I was casting Hidden: A Gender. Stage director, Noreen V. Barnes, and I were looking for an actor to play the role of Herculine Barbin, a real-life 19th Century French hermaphrodite. The actor would have to play Herculine in Act I as a happy, vibrant young girl growing up from ages 12 to 18… and later in Act II, the same young woman is forced to live as a young man—and in his mid-20s, he ultimately kill himself out of despair. We couldn’t find anyone skilled in both acting and gender-bending to take on that role. Then I saw Justin.

I first spotted him onstage in a mediocre musical based on the life of gay King Friedrich of Prussia. Justin was the romantic leading man. Imagine that. I saw the girl in him. I offered him the part immediately. He—for he most certainly was a he in those early days—he was at once thrilled and terrified of playing Herculine. He wasn’t sure how his gay male friends would react. On top of that, he wasn’t sure he could pull off being girl. Imagine that. I knew he could work magic with his gender. And now the world knows that, too. 

Mx Bond asked me to tell you about the evening I stood up to his mom. We were on a road tour of Hidden: A Gender, and we made a stop in Maryland to meet Justin’s family. Halfway through dinner, Justin’s mom began to berate him, making Justin feel small about being… fabulous. Well—I thought to myself—fuck that! No one talks like that about my beloved. So I told Justin’s mom just how talented Justin was, what a generous and kind person he was. I told her that she had every reason to be proud of her son, who was saving lives with his art. Ah, if looks could kill, both me and Justin’s mom would have died on the spot.

A few months ago, Mx V paid a visit to v’s parents. V mentioned that v and I were in touch and doing more work together. V’s mother raised an eyebrow and without missing a beat, said: “Kate Bornstein? What, she’s still alive?” 

Yes I am, Mrs. Bond, and so is your beautiful, talented, earth-shaking child. V is so much more than a distant role model for fabulous gender fuckery. Yes, yes… I stood up for Justin all those years ago. Well, in art and life, V stands up for people who don’t get stood up for. V opens doors for emerging artists—at PS 122 and around the world. V is fierce in the face of homophobia, transphobia, and enforced heteronormativity.

Justin ViVian, when you first walked onto the stages of New York, and far beyond… the world was not ready for you. Now… it’s precisely because of all the work you’ve done, all the lives you’ve saved by your shining example, and all the love and fierce strength you bring to your art… it’s because of all this, that the world is finally ready for you, my darling. Here’s to decades more of well-deserved awards and recognition.


To T, or Not to T. That’s The Frakking Question.

T Last night, I wrote a blog in which I apologized for using the word tranny. I said I'd try my best not to use it in public any more. Well, I did try my best and it made me feel miserable. I cried myself to sleep, and I woke up crying. I woke up feeling weaker than I've felt in a long time. 

I like the word tranny. It makes me feel strong and happy when I do use the word tranny. I like other people who use the word tranny affectionately with one another. I don't want to stop using the word. Of course I don't want to be mean to people who are hurt by the word, but the fact is I have never used the word tranny with the intention of being mean to people. 

I've been on an extremely rigorous tour schedule for the past few months, and I'm exhausted. I made the decision to post last night more out of fear and overwhelm than out of strength of conviction. So, I've reconsidered what I said and why I said it, and I've taken down that post. 

Kiss Kiss,

your everlovin' tranny auntie kate