Kate Bornstein - artist, educator, author of Gender Outlaw and other great queer important life-affirming books - has lung cancer. The good news is, it is curable. The bad news is, cures are expensive.
Auntie Kate has helped a lot of people stay alive. You can help her stay alive by donating here.
Gender is used as a control mechanism… that’s just wrong. Gender is never anything to struggle with; gender is something to play with. Once you’re free of the rules that all these hierarchical, oppressive systems place on gender, that’s the tricky part.
November 20th is Transgender day of Remembrance (TDOR). I have changed my profile picture to memorialize and honor all of the beautiful transgender people who we have lost. May their memories be for a blessing
Kate Bornstein has cancer. The good news, direct from the team of skilled doctors on her case, is that the cancer is curable. However, the treatment plan that gives Kate the best chance of beating cancer is incredibly expensive. Kate has spent the past thirty years helping the rest of us Stay Alive—now it’s our turn to give back.
Let’s HELP KATE BORNSTEIN BEAT CANCER AND STAY ALIVE!
I’m sure most of you know who Kate Bornstein is (and if you don’t, you should). Please take a moment to donate a buck or ten to save her life. I’m sure she will appreciate it, and it will mean a lot to her and the community.
In the 15 years since the release of Gender Outlaw, Kate Bornstein’s groundbreaking challenge to gender ideology, transgender narratives have made their way from the margins to the mainstream and back again. Today’s transgenders and other sex/gender radicals are writing a drastically new world into being.
In Gender Outlaws, Bornstein, together with writer, raconteur, and theater artist S. Bear Bergman, collects and contextualizes the work of this generation’s trans and genderqueer forward thinkers — new voices from the stage, on the streets, in the workplace, in the bedroom, and on the pages and websites of the world’s most respected mainstream news sources. Gender Outlaws includes essays, commentary, comic art, and conversations from a diverse group of trans-spectrum people who live and believe in barrier-breaking lives.
Hello, Cruel Word: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws by Kate Bornstein
“I wrote this book to help you stay alive because I think the world needs more kind people in it, no matter who or what they are, or do. The world is healthier because of its outsiders and outlaws and freaks and queers and sinners. I fall neatly into all of those categories, so it’s no big deal to me if you do or don’t. This may be a scary time for you, and if that’s so, I hope that I can help you find your courage again.”
In this culture, gender attribution, like gender assignment, is phallocentric. That is, one is male until perceived otherwise. According to a study done by Kessler and McKenna, one can extrapolate that it would take the presence of roughly four female cues to outweigh the presence of one male cue: one is assumed male until proven otherwise. That’s one reason why many women today get “sirred” whereas very few men get called “ma'am.”
Labels aren’t all that bad when they’re used consciously, but a major downside of using labels to describe an identity—even the labels we wear proudly as badges of courage—is that lables set up us-versus-them scenarios. The next generation of gender outlaws is seeking to dismantle us-versus-them. As a people, none of us deserves to hear the words “You’re not welcome here,” or “You’re not good enough,” or “You’re not real.” My Goddess, we just have to stop saying that to each other, all of us whose identity somehow hinges on gender or sexuality. We have to stop beating up on each other.
“The first question we usually ask new parents is : “Is it a boy or a girl ?”. There is a great answer to that one going around : “We don’t know ; it hasn’t told us yet.” Personally, I think no question containing “either/or” deserves a serious answer, and that includes the question of gender.” - Kate Bornstein, Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us
Kate Bornstein — cult hero, writer, former Scientologist, and unapologetic advocate for “freaks and outlaws” — is the brassy patron saint to a ragtag collection of bullied and marginalized folks across generations, genders, and sexualities. She’s also a 65-year-old trans woman with modest means and a cancer diagnosis.
Bornstein has insurance and her lung cancer is curable, but she began putting her affairs in order back in February, when doctors told her she would need $100,000 in order to pay for the deductible, cross-country travel to cancer treatment centers, and the cabs she’d need to take to protect her immune system throughout radiation.
Her friend Laura Vogel, a professional fundraiser, stopped her. “I run fundraising campaigns all the time, usually for movies and creative endeavors, but why can’t we do it for this?” Vogel posited at the time. So, on March 20, Vogel launched the “Help Kate Bornstein Stay Alive” fundraiser on the site GoFundMe.
In less than a week and with support from big guns like MSNBC host and writer Melissa Harris-Perry alongside countless $5, $10, and $25 donations from fans around the world, they raised the money $100,000 needed to save Kate’s life.
“It’s a dream come true,” Kate says, reached by phone last week. She’s dog-tired, she says, exhausted from the radiation, nauseous, sick. And yet, “My people are carrying me, my kids are carrying me, my brothers and sisters are carrying me, my ancestors are carrying me. Melissa Harris-Perry is carrying me! GLAAD is carrying me. These are the happiest days of my life.”
To understand how a gender outlaw and queer elder with no family support was able to fund her own life despite a broken health-care system and a transphobic society, you need to understand Kate Bornstein.
Last year she released a brilliant, funny, deeply humane memoir about her life pre-transition, which included a 12-year stint deep in the heart of the Church of Scientology. Though she expected retaliation from the Church and was extremely frightened upon its release, she wrote the book for her grandchildren, who — along with her family — are forbidden from contacting her. Though Kate was embedded in a religion that makes everything about her “wrong,” the book is a testament to her belief that everyone is worthy of love, her stubborn refusal to allow anyone — even herself — to succumb to less.
“All the stuff I write about gender, and about bullying, and about ‘stay alive’ — they’re good ideas for getting together and being family, and being inclusive, but they’re ideas, they’re theory,” she says. “To know that people have held me in their hearts as much as I’ve held them, that’s overpowering.”
“The thing that has been really powerful for me has been watching Kate go through a radical acceptance of herself,” Vogel says of Kate’s reaction to the support she’s received. As of this writing, people have donated $104,000 to Kate’s campaign. Many messages on the GoFundMe site credit Kate with saving lives: the donor, or their partner, or their child.
But a lot of the money has come from people who’ve never heard of Kate’s work, Vogel points out. A lot of pretty mainstream folks — including Vogel’s old middle-school friends — were outraged that someone with insurance, who’d “followed the rules of health care,” could still die from lack of treatment. “We’re told that the American Dream is 'pick yourself up by your own boot straps,’” Vogel says of Kate’s predicament. “That’s levitation.”
Now that they’ve met their initial goal, Vogel’s turning the campaign’s attentions to keeping Kate alive after this round of treatment, encouraging people to continue donating to help Kate manage her next year of fighting to keep the cancer away — flights to and from medical centers for checkups, expensive supplements, and a restrictive diet. “A huge number of our donors have been giving five dollars. Think about the power that giving five dollars has. You literally have saved Kate’s life,” she says.