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



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

Open Letter to LGBT Leaders Who Are Pushing Marriage Equality

To the leaders, membership, and supporters of The Human Rights Campaign, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and state-wide groups supporting marriage equality as your primary goal,

Hello. I'm Kate Bornstein, and I've got a great deal to say to you, so you deserve to know more about me: I write books about postmodern gender theory and alternatives to suicide for teens, freaks and other outlaws. I'm a feminist, a Taoist, a sadomasochist, a femme, a nerd, a transperson, a Jew, and a tattooed lady. I'm a certified Post Traumatic Stress Disorder survivor. I'm a chronic over-eater who's been diagnosed with anorexia. I'm sober, but I'm not always clean. I've got piercings in body parts I wasn't born with. I'm also an elder in the community you claim to represent, and it is with great sorrow that I must write: you have not been representing us.  



Let's talk about a love that unites more people than have ever before been united by love. Let's defend some real equality.

The other day, New York State's lesbian and gay bid for marriage equality went down in flames, enough flames to make people cry. Thousands of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people and their allies spent a lot of money and heart-filled hours of work to legalize marriage equality, with little to show for it. That sucks, and I think the reason it didn't work is it's because marriage equality is an incorrect priority for the LGBTQetc communities. 

Marriage equality—as it's being pushed for now—is wasting resources that would be better deployed to save some lives. There are several major flaws with marriage equality as a priority for our people:


  1. Marriage as it's practiced in the USA is unconstitutional… if you listen to Thomas Jerfferson's interpretation of separation of church and state. The way it stands now, if you're an ordained leader in a recognized religion, the US government gives you a package of 1500-1700 civil rights that only you can hand out to people. And you get to bestow or withhold these civil rights from any American citizen you choose, regardless of that citizen's constitutionally-granted rights. The government has no constitutional right to hand that judgment call over to a religious body.
  2. Marriage equality—as it's being fought for now by lesbian and gay leaders who claim they're speaking for some majority of LGBTQetc people—will wind up being more marriage inequality. Single parents, many of whom are women of color, will not get the 1500-1700 rights they need to better and more easily raise their children. Nor will many other households made up of any combination of people who love each other and their children.
  3. When lesbian and gay community leaders whip up the community to fight for the right to marry, it's a further expression of America's institutionalized greed in that it benefits only its demographic constituency. There's no reaching out beyond sexuality and gender expression to benefit people who aren't just like us, and honestly… that is so 20th Century identity politics.
  4. Marriage is a privileging institution. It has privileged, and continues to privilege people along lines of not only religion, sexuality and gender, but also along the oppressive vectors of race, class, age, looks, ability, citizenship, family status, and language. Seeking to grab oneself a piece of the marriage-rights pie does little if anything at all for the oppression caused by the institution of marriage itself to many more people than sex and gender outlaws.
  5. The fight for "marriage equality" is simply not the highest priority for a movement based in sexuality and gender. By simple triage, the most widespread criminality against people whose identities are based in sex and gender is violence against women. Women still make up the single-most oppressed identity in the world, followed closely by kids who are determined to be freaky for any reason whatsoever.

Lesbian and gay leaders must cease being self-obssessed and take into account the very real damage that's perpetrated on people who are more than simply lesbian women and/or gay men, more than bisexual or transgender even. Assuming a good-hearted but misplaced motivation for all the work done on behalf of fighting for marriage equality, it's time to stop fighting on that front as a first priority of the LGBTQetc movement. It's time to do some triage and base our priorities on a) who needs the most help and b) what battlefront will bring us the most allies. 

I'm asking that you to fight on behalf of change for someone besides yourself. Please. I promise the rewards of doing that will revisit you threefold. Who needs the most help is easy: women. To lesbian and gay leaders, I ask you to ally yourselves with the centuries-old feminist movements and their current incarnations. You want to get a bill passed through Congress? Take another run at the Equal Rights Amendment. Unlike gay marriage, the ERA stands a better chance of making it into law, given the Obama Administration and our loosely Democratic majority in congress. 

Stopping the violence against women and freaky children, and backing another run at the ERA have got the good chance of creating national front, lots of allies. On the home front of sex and gender, there's plenty of room for change that doesn't require millions of dollars and thousands of hours.

Looking into the community of people who base their lives on sexuality and gender, there's a lot of door-opening to do. Beyond L, G, B and T, there's also Q for queer and Q for questioning. There's an S for sadomasochists, an I for intersex, an F for feminists, and another F for furries. Our community is additionally composed of sex educators, sex workers, adult entertainers, pornographers, men who have sex with men, women who have sex with women, and asexuals who have sex in whatever manner they define their asexuality. You want to create some real change? Make room for genderqueers, polyamorists, radical faeries, butches, femmes, drag queens, drag king, and other dragfuck royalty too fabulous to describe in this short letter. 

There are more and more people to add to this ever-growing list of communities whom you must own as family and represent in your activism. You cannot afford—politically, economically, or morally—to leave out a single person who bases a large part of their identity on being sex positive or in any way a proponent of gender anarchy.

That's what I have to say to you. That and thank you for the good hearts you've clearly demonstrated in your activism. I'm asking you to open your hearts further is all. 

You're welcome to leave comments on this blog, but the best way to engage me in a conversation or recruit me to help is to contact me through Twitter. I look forward to talking with you, and I hope we can work together on the terms I've outlined above.

Warmly, and with respect,

Your Auntie Kate 

My Moving Fingers Write and Having Writ, Move On

MyLife:I Was a Love Thief I'm out on the road, and I haven't been doing much blogging. I've been writing, but I've been writing for other folks. Here are some links to some new pieces:

I hope you have fun going through these new pieces. I'm on the road for another two weeks. Best way to stay in touch is through Twitter.

kiss kiss


My Keynote Address to Women’s Consortium, PA

Womens-coalition-luncheon I've recently completed a non-stop four day visit to Philadelphia as "visiting scholar," guest of the Pennsylvania State Higher Education Women's Coalition. Six colleges and universities in three days. On the fourth day, I was to deliver a keynote address to the Women's Consortium's annual shindig being held at West Chester University. I wrote the address the night before I delivered it at the Consortium's luncheon (pictured here), so the talk was about as close to extemporaneous as I allow myself to get while I'm out speaking. I promised my Twitter twibe that I'd post it here if it worked. It worked, so here are my notes for that talk.

kiss kiss,


A Theory of Othering Sex and Gender Outlaws

I'm going to keep this short and sweet, to keep myself from wandering off into Mobius strips of postmodern theory. I've been paying attention to some trans activists who are using the word cisgender. According to itvery own Wikipedia page:

"The word has its origin in the Latin-derived prefix cis, meaning "on the same side" as in the cis-trans distinction in chemistry. In this case, "cis" refers to the alignment of gender identity with assigned gender."

In my pants Who knew? Not me. I'd only begun to hear the word about a year ago but according to its own Wikipedia page, cisgender has been in use on the internet since 1994. So this is me trying to play catch up.

Here's what I've got worked out so far.

1) Cisgender/Transgender is a valid gender binary. I don't like the prefix cis, but that's my problem. A global binary exists that is worthy of examination for its impact on the quality of our lives.

2) Identifying people with fixed gender identities as sex partners is key to both the identities and desires of cisgender lesbians and gay men, as well as to heterosexual men and womenBisex, Polyamory, Asexuality, et al break cisgender rules of fixed desire. Trans, Genderqueer, Drag et al break cisgender rules of fixed identity.

3) To hold on to any power gained thru classimilation, middle class cisgender lesbians, gay men, and heterosexual men and women must defend their desires/identities as both correct & natural.

4) Cisgender people who are sex positive & gender embracing are more than allies, they're family. That's where the idea of any othering of trans by some monolithic cisgender identity ultimately falls apart.

5) Sex positivists and gender anarchists are simply too sexy for inclusion in any middle class arena, including the current "LGBT" movement whose agendas are set by mostly middle class cisgender lesbian women and gay men.

OK. That's as far as I've gotten. It has not been my intention to offend anyone. This is a theory in progress. I believe that no valid theory of identity, desire, or power can other a single sentient being. If you feel offended I was wrong. I'll do my best to right the wrong. I'm talking about this on Twitter so if you've got a comment please tweet me. I've got faster and more frequent access to Twitter than I have to this blog.  

Thanks & Kisses


The Yes Men: Not Your Grandpa’s Activism

I'm an old fart—a curmudgeon and a crone—so I get to say things like "Back in my day…" 

Like: back in my day (which was the '60s), we knew how to protest. Back in my day, we did street theater to fight the war in Viet Nam. And back in my day, we marched the streets in the very first Gay Pride parades, and we said things like "We're just like you…" which went over well with people who wanted to think they were worth us wishing we were just like them. 

All these actions sort of worked back then… before the right wing conservative think tanks figured out how to counter us. Bad news: the right wing has succeeded in countering old-fashioned activisms. Good news: there are new forms of activism they don't know how to fight yet.

Ny times by yes men This evening, I saw the film The Yes Men Fix The World. Please go see this movie if you can. It's the face of a new activism. It's an activism that the right wing think tanks haven't got a hold on yet, and I find that exciting. 

What do The Yes Men do that works? They lie. They lie BIG. They lie in a way that makes us wish they were telling the truth, and the right wing think tanks don't know what to do with that. Like this phony issue of The New York Times. Click on it to see it big, or download the full PDF.

Am I saying that activism in the form of big protest marches and street theater and shouting "We're just like you" are bad actions? No. I'm saying that these are your grandpa's activisms and they're not as effective as you might like them to be. 

The right wing has learned how to carve up the radical left wing into virtually separatist groups working hard to achieve equity in ten seemingly disparate arenas: race, age, class, gender, sexuality, looks, ability, religion, citizenship, family status, and age. Any truly radical 21st century activism must effect a coalition of all ten vectors of activism.

The Yes Men are pointing the way to a new activism. Like Michael Moore, The Yes Men are pranksters. Like Stephen Colbert, The Yes Men tell great big lies. Like Jon Stewart, they're smart. The Yes Men throw wrenches into corporate America's well-oiled machine. They're not alone. My friend Andrew Boyd, founder of Billionaires for Bush makes us laugh, makes us cry and makes us get off our butts and actually do something. If you're looking for a new activism—one that has a chance of succeeding beyond your wildest dreams and the planet's deepest needs—check out the links on this page.

As an old fart activist, I'm asking you: please, create or contribute to a new activism that fights for equity across the boards—including whatever might be your own oppression, as well as the systems oppressing others. That would make your activist grandma and grandpa proud. I promise. 

And I promise to do whatever I can to help you make that happen. Really. Tweet me, and let's see how we can build a shiny new coalition of activists.

With curmudgeonly and cronely love, respect, gratitude, and best wishes for success, I remain…

Your Auntie Kate

Has Germaine Greer Become A Ghastly Parody?

GermaineGreer_cJonathanRing  I’m feeling pretty damned good about ground gained in western culture by transgender people. I was there at the beginning of this loosely-knit yet somehow united movement, and things are a whole lot better for trans people today in Western culture than they ever have been.

There are many people who are claiming and living lives far beyond man or woman. There are many people who live fluidly gendered lives.  There are many people who know the dangers of gender when it plays itself out as an unconscious social binary. 

It’s not Mission Accomplished, not by a long shot. But talented trans people are scaling the walls of political power and artistic genius. There are deeply compassionate trans people who are religious scholars and clergy. Transdora's box is wide open and we're never going back. I am tranny, hear me frakking ROAR! 

And then along comes Germaine Greer—genuine warhorse and goddess of feminism—on 20 August, 2009 with an Op-Ed piece in The Guardian she calls Caster Semenya sex row: What makes a woman? In this new piece, Ms. Greer refers to transwomen—me and my brave sisters and mothers and daughters—as “ghastly parodies” of women. 

I’m not going to talk about Caster Semenya’s dilemma beyond saying that she’s being treated with intolerable rudeness and disrespect by the media. It’s the same savagely uncaring journalistic strategy used against Dr. Renée Richards when she was so rudely outed to the world in the 1970s and 1980s.

Yes, yes. Ouch. It hurts to be called a ghastly parody. And that kind of talk feeds transphobia across the world. So, shame on The Guardian for printing these hateful words. But who is Ms. Greer to be hurling these invectives, and why? Greer is no one to dismiss as an idiot or complete jerk. Through her relentless work, Ms. Greer has raised the volume of women’s voices in the world. She got people around the world to start taking women more seriously. 

And here's the problem: all the time she was doing that great social activism, Greer believes to the core of her being that woman is an essential identity. The gender battleground on which Germaine Greer fought and learned her political strategies was gender-as-man-and-woman-only. On that battlefield, it's easy to attack transgender people as freaks.

The good news is that Germaine Greer's transphobia is more the exception among todays scholars, artists and activists. They work as tirelessly as Greer herself on issues of gender rights, freedoms, parameters, and dignity. Postmodern gender theory has been taught in colleges and universities around the world for over fifteen years. It's over-spilling the walls of academia. The battlefield/playground has shifted. Nothing is essential any more. 

Germaine Greer's tragedy is that she has not considered as even possible the theory of gender fluidity. For her kind of activism to work, MAN and WOMAN can and must be essential as well as easy to tell apart from each other. Greer is a fierce warrior, but to nail down the gender binary, she concludes her op-ed piece by saying,

“People who don't ovulate or menstruate will probably always physically outperform people who do.” 

Ms. Greer is claiming that biology is, in fact destiny.

The price of being a writer of vitriol is that it reveals your most private fears, which you've penned in the form of an attack on someone else. And sadly, that makes Ms. Greer a ghastly parody of herself. What she wrote was painful and destructive. But the loss of her fierce presence on the front lines of feminism is more to be mourned than scorned.

And the point of all this is to assure you: it really has gotten a lot better for transgender people. There's a long, long way to go. But it's much, much better. I promise.

Kiss kiss,

Your Ever-Loving Kate

You say goodbye. I say hello.

Hello goodbye

Watching Inauguration 09 in my living room. Shot this on my iPhone using an App called Quad Camera. (click image for full size photo)
Four snaps for President Barack Hussein Obama! Big love for all of us!
— Kate