Kate-Bornstein

Ok that last post got me fired up so we’re gonna have a quick chat about queer history and respecting your elders.

Nothing makes me more angry then when I see some 14 or 15 year old kids try to talk over queer elders and tell them what they can and cannot say about themselves and about their community. 

The queer community has a long, painful, and constantly evolving history. From things like early lesbian couples and Boston Marriages to Stonewall to the AIDS crisis, a lot of shit has happened, a lot of identities have existed and a lot of words have been used. 

Remember that if you’re young right now, you grew up in a time completely different than that of queer elders. You didn’t live through this stuff but you’re coming into it and you’re expecting to bend it to your own thoughts and needs. And that’s ok, you’re allowed to want to better your community and you’re allowed to change things where you see problems.

The problem arises when you haven’t done your research. When you come into the community with no background in it and try to change things. When you don’t know what happened in the past, but you think it should change or you think you know how to change it. 

So story time.

I live in a very liberal dorm. A very queer liberal dorm. And each semester we have guests come speak to us about whatever they do. A couple semesters ago we had Kate Bornstein come speak to us. For anyone who doesn’t know, ze is a trans author. A much older trans author. And the entire trans club at my school decided to attend hir talk. An email was sent out by the LGBTQ resource center beforehand explaining that if people chose to attend the event, they should be aware that ze was older and probably had differing views and to take it with a grain of salt.

So I attended the talk and first of all Kate is the loveliest human. Just very sweet and ze really wants to help queer youth. But, yes, ze is a little different than say a trans 15 year old. Ze explained how ze likes to use the word tr*nny. Why? Because when ze was figuring hirself out ze found a group of other trans people who referred to themselves that way and it felt like a family. Tr*nny became a family word. However, people in the audience immediately started questioning her on this. And being rude about it. 

So my takeaways from this are essentially that this was carried out horribly. First of all, I find it cringe worthy that the trans club felt the need to tell us to “take it with a grain of salt” and I found it cringe worthy that these kids fought a trans elder on zir own life story. 

Why? because this wasn’t a lesson in being queer now. This was a lesson in queer history. This was a person talking about what it meant to be queer in the past and educating us on where our community came from. And that’s important.

You don’t get to tell queer elders who they are. They know who they are and what they’ve been through far more than you do. You need to sit down and learn your history before you try to tell a queer elder what it means to be queer and what words they can and cannot use. Because you know damn well that if anyone tried to take your words away from you it would hurt. 

TL;DR: the queer community has a history, please learn it before you try to shit on it

If you need educating, please read And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts and Odd Girls and Twlight Lovers by Lillian Faderman. They’re a good start, but there’s always more to learn, please don’t stop.

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Sitting in Bathrooms with Trans People Episode 4 is here, with the legendary Kate Bornstein. (link)

I first read Kate Bornstein’s Gender Outlaw when it was assigned to me in college. It was one of those books that you end up devouring in one night, not caring that you’re blowing off a term paper. For the first time, I was reading a gender theorist whose words made the world make a little more sense. And whose ideas helped me make sense of myself. Her complex ideas weren’t masquerading in complex academic language; she told it exactly as it needed to be said. Last week I got to interview her for “Sitting in Bathrooms with Trans People.” We talked about Caitlyn Jenner, Doctor Who, tardises, and more. We sat on tandem toilets and made poop jokes. (The poop jokes were cut.) But what remains is an interview I’m incredibly proud of. Thanks, Auntie Kate. Love you.

My mother thought I had a messiah complex - sort of true. All my life, I’ve resonated with any expression of the idea that the only way to save the world is to take on its suffering.
—  Kate Bornstein, A Queer and Pleasant Danger

“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 BornsteinGender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us

“I have this idea that every time we discover that the names we’re being called are somehow keeping us less than free, we need to come up with new names for ourselves, and that the names we give ourselves must no longer reflect a fear of being labeled outsiders, must no longer bind us to a system that would rather see us dead.” 
-  Kate BornsteinHello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws

It’s so tempting to arrive at an identity and simply stay there, isn’t it? I’ve done that over and over in my life. The fact is, no single one of my identities, no matter how comforting they were at the time, has been able to sustain the legion I keep discovering myself to be.
—  Kate Bornstein, “Identity As the Bermuda Triangle of the Soul” from My Gender Workbook