Here’s what I’m touring with now. You can book me for any of these presentations, or ask me to tailor make something for your venue. Contact Jean at SpeakOut.
Leslie Feinberg, Revolutionary Communist, & beloved Transgender Warrior
Laverne Cox, Holly Woodlawn, Kate Bornstein & more headline
September 9 – 13 at Baruch Performing Arts Center
Baruch Performing Arts Center presents GenderFluid, a weeklong festival of performance, film, and art by transgender and genderfluid artists, Sept. 9-14. Featured performers include Emmy-nominated Orange is the New Black star Laverne Cox, performance artist and Gender Outlaw author Kate Bornstein, Andy Warhol superstar Holly Woodlawn, stand-up comedian Ian Harvie, and more. Baruch Performing Arts Center is located at 55 Lexington Avenue (entrance on 25th Street).
Tickets are available at the box office, online at www.baruch.cuny.edu/bpac, or by phone at 212-352-3101.
Tuesday, September 9 – Laverne Cox and M. Lamar
Actor and activist Laverne Cox is one of the most well-known transgender women in the country, with a Time Magazine cover, an Emmy nomination, and numerous national television interviews to her credit. She is joined by her twin brother, artist M. Lamar, as they discuss growing up in Alabama, their growing realization of the paths their lives would take, their family, and their careers today. M. Lamar's solo art exhibition Negrogothic is at Participant Sept. 7-October 12; he also played Cox's character pre-transition on Orange is the New Black. This is the first speaking engagement Cox and Lamar have done together. 8PM; Mason Hall, 17 Lexington Avenue. $20; $100 VIP tickets include preferred seating and a backstage photo op with Cox and Lamar. Tickets: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/938829
Wednesday, September 10 – Gabrielle LeRoux and Victor Mukasa
South African artist Gabrielle LeRoux travels throughout Africa photographing transgender individuals. She will show short films she has created about them, as well as many of her photographs, and is joined by Ugandan gender activist Victor Mukasa to discuss the state of transgender issues in Africa. 7:30 PM; Engelman Hall, Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue (enter on 25th Street). Free.
Wednesday, September 10 – Andy Warhol: Celebrating the Famous and the Unknown
Baruch's Sidney Mishkin Gallery opens this exhibition of photographs and silkscreen prints by Warhol — including many of his genderfluid friends. 5 PM; Sidney Mishkin Gallery, 135 East 22nd Street at Lexington, 646-660-6652. Free.
Thursday, September 11 – Passing Ellenville
A screening of the short documentary Passing Ellenville, which looks at the lives of James and Ashlee, two transgender teens living in a small, impoverished town in the Hudson Valley. Followed by a talkback with the filmmaker Gene Fischer. 7 PM; Engelman Hall, Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue (enter on 25th Street). Free.
Thursday, September 11 – Busted! The Musical
Bianca Leigh stars in this funny and moving autobiographical one-woman show about her decision to fund her gender reassignment surgery by working as a dominatrix – a decision that led her to Riker's Island. Original songs by Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q), Taylor Mac, and other theatre notables. Directed by Tim Cusack and presented by Theatre Askew. 8 PM; Engelman Hall, Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue (enter on 25th Street). $20 ($15 students and seniors) Tickets: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/938455
Friday, September 12 – Kate Bornstein: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us
Kate Bornstein is the original gender outlaw, and this is an evening of her favorite autobiographical spoken word pieces—her most personal stories, her favorite comic and dramatic monologues from over a quarter of a century on the stage with this material. With great love and tenderness, Kate gently guides audiences through a moving, rollicking, and ultimately uplifting journey through sex and gender beyond the binary of men-and-women-only. 8 PM; Nagelberg Theatre, Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue (enter on 25th Street). $30 ($20 students and seniors); $60 VIP tickets include preferred seating and a backstage photo op. Tickets: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/938556
Saturday, September 13 – Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Hedwig was willing to undergo a sex change to marry the soldier she loves and escape Communist East Germany – but things didn't quite go as planned. A screening of the rock musical film starring John Cameron Mitchell (the play is currently running on Broadway). 6 PM; Engelman Hall, Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue (enter on 25th Street). Free.
Saturday, September 13 – An Evening with Holly Woodlawn
Film Director Paul Morrissey will introduce Warhol superstar Holly Woodlawn. Holly will be interviewed onstage by Michael Musto about her life and career, and share rare clips from her own collection of her films, TV appearances, and live stage appearances. She'll also perform a few songs live, including the classic "Walk on the Wild Side" – which Lou Reed wrote about HER. A rare evening with a legend.
8 PM; Nagelberg Theatre, Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue (enter on 25th Street). $25. ($20 students and seniors); $50 VIP tickets include preferred seating and a backstage photo op. Tickets: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/938557
Saturday, September 13 – Ian Harvie: Superhero
You may know Ian Harvie as Margaret Cho’s opening act, a cross-country headliner or a groundbreaking trans comedian unafraid to joke about subjects no other comedian has ever touched. Harvie is hilarious, poking fun at topics from top surgery, to his fear of public restrooms, to his active sex life. Harvie’s unique act queers the traditionally macho, sex-obsessed world of stand up in ways you won't believe, proving that laughter cuts across all gender identities and ultimately unites us all. You can see him co-starring on the new TV series Transparent on Amazon, out at the end of September. 9:30 PM; Nagelberg Theatre, Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue (enter on 25th Street). $20. ($15 students and seniors). Tickets: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/938464
Baruch Performing Arts Center is celebrating its tenth anniversary this fall. With four separate theatres, BPAC presents a full slate of theatre, music, dance, lectures, films, and panels throughout the year. Located on the Baruch College Campus, BPAC is under the aegis of the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences. The Weissman School celebrates its fifteenth anniversary this fall.
You’re welcome to use this booklet and make as many copies as you like. I hope it makes your life more worth living. kiss kiss, Auntie Kate
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.
Responses to the query, What Does Mean Mean? from my Twitter twibe.
RT @ponyonabalcony: Those are variable. Some people steal for need. I think #mean requires intent to harm in a non-role-play non-controlled way.
RT @aboutsexuality: glad ur unpacking #mean ISN’T do unto others, i talk about it as a “sense of goodwill”, a desire to work with, not against.
RT @suzzzanna: Unkind. #Mean
RT @redsonika: To me, don’t be mean = don’t do something that you KNOW ahead of time will hurt someone else.
RT @rgarc8785: alexa used/copied parts of my idty and life as their own. That’s #mean to me.
RT @MollzieD: I think it is all about your intentions. If you intend to harm some1 w/ words/actions, u r being mean.
RT @aravain: I think being #mean HAS to have intent otherwise being selfish which is sometimes part of trying to #stayalive, would be mean
RT @LauraVogel: IMHO, it’s when that which makes you feel good primarily does so because it (non-consensually) hurts another. #mean
RT @JosephLobdell: #mean inc imo aspects of pettiness, makg ppls’ lives smaller, contracted, as well as one’s own. Enforcing discouragement.
RT @hootlord: Intent to harm is important! But hurting w/o intent and refusing to confront it to make amends is just as #mean
RT @jaimealyse: I think #mean means intent to harm. Or disregard, at least, about harming/hurting.
RT @sbearbergman: Don’t do things you know, suspect, or intend will hurt others, even if it makes you feel better/bigger for a minute. #Mean
RT @sbearbergman: I do best at avoiding #mean when I remember: I don’t want to be someone who acts like that.
RT @semacbeth: to me someone being #mean is when they are being malicious for the soul purpose of being hurtful.
RT @ramblingmads: not causing physical or emotional pain or hurt to another. #Mean
RT @mnome: being #mean is when you don’t think about how your actions affect others, or don’t care.
RT @Sarahgoat: #Mean=hurting another intentionally or recklessly, also doing so negligently and not regreting own actions.
Ogod, this is my first post in months. Sorry. I live my life like that, coming and going. It's very Holly Golightly. No, really. Read the book. She's in your life one day, she's gone the next. Poof!
Well, I'm back. I've been writing, just not for the blog. BUT… I'm proud of this review I just did for the film, Ticked Off Trannies With Knives. Here's da link, over at out.com.
I'm much more in touch on Twitter, and I'm diving into the memoir so there's a slim likelihood of more blog posts until the summer's over, when the book is due at the printer. ::gulp::
Okay, here I go poof again. And yes, I sleep with an eye mask and Cat.
I lived in Philly from 1982 through 1988. I moved here newly sober, with my third wife. I moved here less than a year after having left 12 years of 24/7 service to the Church of Scientology. I was diagnosed with PTSD and Anorexia. I was starving myself so I could pass as a girl, and there was no one to tell any of this to. There was no language, no theory, no way to analyze the intersecting madnesses of my life.
In 1986 and 1987, I marched in Washington side by side with women holding up signs that read Biology Is Not Destiny and Keep Your Laws Of My Body. I was a brand new baby dyke, and I was into goddess culture, crystal healing, and feminist theater.
Before pledging my allegiance L. Ron Hubbard, the only skill I’d learned was acting: I knew how to make people laugh, gasp, and cry. But I never knew what value that had in the world. I was a soldier of the arts, at the beck and call of no political movement that had included a freak like me. I’d left graduate school after my first year, and I went out looking to see where I might be of value. Within three months, I’d found Scientology. Twelve years later I left Scientology. Five years after that, I was co-founding a lesbian theater here in town. We called it Order Before Midnight—because that sounded somewhat goddess-y and militant, even though it was just the catchphrase from a late night television Billy Mays commercial for Ginsu Blades: But wait! If you order before midnight, we’ll send you another 78 piece set absolutely free! Order before midnight. Well, our theater company produced plays by lesbian playwright Jane Chambers. We made people laugh, gasp, and cry. Nonetheless, I was only the second out transsexual woman in the Philly lesbian community for over seven years, and the first one had made a real mess of things when she tried to take over the leadership role in the local lesbian community.
Mine was not a trustworthy identity in the lesbian community, in the women’s community. I was accepted on a trial basis. I had no language, no theory, no way to analyze the brand-new intersecting desires and identities. I couldn’t describe myself to anyone.
Lesbians were telling me I wasn’t a woman, not a real one. I had male energy, they said. I had male privilege. I agreed with them. I didn’t feel successful at being girl back then, I didn’t have a way to say what kind of girl or woman I wanted to be. I was one year old and I behaved like a one year old. I left this campsite dirtier than when I found it, and I didn’t know how to say that back then. Over the last twenty years, I’ve discussed with my therapists the possibility of me being a borderline personality. We were all pretty sure I was mildly bipolar—if such a thing is possible. All this to say I was a scared, lonely thing at the end of my stay in town. I had no language, no theory, no way to analyze my obsessive mindful reconstruction of my identity, my desire, and my power.
I was living in Philadelphia when I attended my first ever academic conference: The Women In Theatre caucus of American Theatre in Higher Education. I’d just gone through with my gender change surgery. I’d been living as a woman for a full year. I’d been unwelcome in the Women’s movement, and the lesbian movement. I didn’t match up, and I didn’t have language to describe my identity to anyone else. I couldn’t find any other people like me because I couldn’t describe myself well enough to find a community, a tribe of gender transgressors. There were no words for that in the late 1980s. The words were hegemony, patriarchy, deconstruction, signifier, and the male gaze. I was viewed as the patriarchy in sheep’s clothing. I fell back on theater, on what I could do best: I could make people laugh and I could make people cry. I knew I was acting, living as though I was a woman. To communicate that, I performed three monologues from three different roles I’d played: as a man, as a drag queen, and as a woman. This was the language I had available.
Since then, I’ve forged productive alliances with the world of women’s academic theater. We help each other with language, theory, and analysis.
OK, I’ve said a mouthful. But I can say all of this to you, because you know how to peel apart these very dense facts of my life. This is after all a Consortium of Women’s and Gender Studies. You weren’t here twenty-one years ago when I was spinning out of control with obsessive self-analysis. So returning here to keynote your shindig this afternoon leaves my jaw hanging slack with wonder at how much you have accomplished over the last two decades or so. Bless you for the great good work you do in giving your students and your colleagues the gifts of language, theory, and feminist analysis. I’ve been in town four days now, and I’ve been to now seven of your campuses, and everywhere I went, I saw hope for the future of gender and sexuality as it plays itself out on the leading edge of radical lefty politics. You made this space possible.
What began as a purely academic theory is now the heartbeat of a vibrant counter-culture beyond the wall of the academy. The students who’ve been studying feminism and postmodern gender theory for the past twenty years are now coming into their power, and they will continue to rely on your support for language, theory and analysis. I’m asking you for help in building bridges through a carefully deconstructing, unpacking and ultimately dismantling the binaries of theory versus practical, and secular versus spiritual.
There are hundreds of activist groups out in the world whose focus is the sex and gender matrix. For example, there are queer activists out there who are inventing language to communicate their rage. They’re using the words cisgender, cissexual, and cis-people to name who they’re calling oppressors: most of you who were born and assigned a gender and it worked for you. There’s a radical fringe trans activist movement who names you as our oppressor. Did you know that?
And there’s a rebirth of feminist analysis of misogyny directed at transwomen. There are internecine wars over power. On one side, there’s the established, well-funded self-proclaimed LsGsBs and Ts who want nothing more than gay marriage, joint stock certificates, and Gay Day at Disneyland. On the other side is the counter-culture that you’ve been teaching for the past twenty years. We are out there now, and we need your help just like we’ve always needed it.
Please, analyze us, find a language for what it is we’re doing. Please find the cultural matrix that not only includes transgender people, but also all sex positivists and gender anarchists. And here’s a partial list of ‘em:
L for Lesbian
G for Gay
B for Bisexual
T for Transgender
Q for Queer
F for Feminists
F for Furries
F for Femme
Q for Questioning
A for Asexual
A for Adult Entertainers
S for Sadomasochists
S for Sex Workers
S for Swingers
D for Drag Queens
D for Drag Kings
D for DragFuck Royalty
I for Intersex
B for ButchM for MSM
W for WSW
G for Genderqueer
T for Two Spirit
K for Kinky
P for Pornographers
P for Pansexual
P for Polyamory
H for Queer Heterosexual
ETC for et cetera
AI for ad infinitum
AI for queer Artificial Intelligence
And lastly, a W for women.
I’ve run all those letters through half a dozen anagram machines, and nothing of any use showed up. All I know is that these are identities that are somehow primarily based in gender anarchy and sex positivity, so we could call this new emergent sub-culture G-A-S-P, gasp! Here’s a challenge for you, if it intrigues you: as a movement, we must locate and articulate the common thread of all these emerging outlaw identities.
I wrote Gender Outlaw almost a quarter of a century ago. During my visit here to Philly, someone reminded me that I had triaged gender activism and found the group most routinely and massively wounded by the bipolar gender system is women. I’m so very sad to say that hasn’t changed. In addition to addressing their own immediate needs, any sex/gender movement needs dedicate a large percentage of their time and resources to ending the violence against women.
The leaders of all the new groups which form an activism capable of dismantling and reconstructing the sex/gender matrix need your help. Please, reach out beyond your classrooms. Continue to encourage those kids you’ve been teaching. Please keep in touch with the students who bowled you over they did so well. They’re out on the front lines now. You discover and perform the academic equivalent to baking them cookies and knitting scarves for them. They need you.
In closing, I want to locate us politically: The false binary of the left and right wings of American government are in the process of imploding, deconstructing themselves. The right-wing looks like the Wicked Witch of the West at the end of Wizard of Oz. They’re melting, they’re melting! The left wing hasn’t managed to stop itself from chasing it’s own politically correct tail. A viable third party is forming with the name Conservatives. They are not conservative. They are radical right win. We need a vocal radical left wing to counter that movement and let the current system shift itself into something more healthy than what we’ve had for the past forty years. The last person I know of who was uniting the left wing was Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. He had God on his side. So here’s another challenge for ya:
Today’s students need to hear from you about God, goddess, human spirit, higher power of whatever kind. I’m not asking you to preach any particular religion or spiritual path, but I beg of you: please at least build an on-ramp to spirituality from the academic super highway you’ve now got.
The radical right wing is daily battering the culture with its message of anything-but-Christian hatred, greed, and arrogance. As Women & Gender Studies scholars, I’m asking you to work even more closely together with feminist religious scholars to articulate for a cosmology and ethic of feminist spirituality that includes sex positivists and gender anarchists.
I have one more favor to ask you: please can we talk more about sex? Can we teach more about sex? May I beg the most radical of you to hook up with Planned Parenthood, COYOTE, and the legion of sex bloggers and sex educators that have mushroomed over the last two decades? They’re feminists and scholars too. Annie Sprinkle and Carol Queen have PhDs in sexuality. Did you know that? They’re your colleagues.
In these scary days of political upheaval and rightwing backlash against sex/gender freedom, we need to be reminded that sex for any reason other than procreation is a political act. Please take this to heart, and pass it along to your students.
In closing, I’m going to tell you what I’m telling all my tribe and loved ones: please do whatever it takes to make your life more worth living. Anything, anything at all. Just don’t be mean.
Thank you for your great good work to date, and for your kind attention this afternoon.
Last week, New York City's Gay City News published their endorsement for the New York City Council, representing New York's 3rd Council District—traditionally an edgy, outsider, outlaw kind of place to live. Their endorsement of the incumbent council member—a moderate Democrat—just didn't sit right with me. We don't have that many plain-speaking left wing lions left, and I think we need to elect them whenever and wherever we can. So, I wrote this letter to Paul Schindler, Editor of the Gay City News. I'm endorsing Yetta Kurland for New York City Council in the upcoming election.