A Queer and Pleasant Danger
July 16, 2012 6:25 PM   Subscribe

Gender outlaw Kate Bornstein has written a memoir about her years in the Church of Scientology.
posted by Wordwoman (20 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
!!! This is highly relevant to my interests! Thank you for this post.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:28 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Fascinating stuff!
posted by Artw at 6:35 PM on July 16, 2012

"The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today."

Best summary ever.
posted by grabbingsand at 6:36 PM on July 16, 2012 [12 favorites]

I found myself standing behind Kate Bornstein once while waiting for a regional flight between Seattle and SF. We chatted about how the airline's logo was a chaos symbol.

She is a cool lady and I am very much looking forward to reading her book.
posted by smartyboots at 6:53 PM on July 16, 2012

Hmm. Chaos magician or Warhammer fan?
posted by Artw at 7:12 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bornstein's "Hello Cruel World" helped me though the worst time of my life and I'm eternally grateful. One day I aim to thank her for it. I think I'll start by reading the memoir.
posted by a hat out of hell at 7:19 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Scientology is actually a very small portion of this book, most of it is about her transition from male-to-female.
posted by PJLandis at 7:34 PM on July 16, 2012

Kate Bornstein is the kind of person who responds to every positive tweet she gets by sending an even more lovey tweet back.

I'm serious. You can try it.

The amount of sustained positive energy this lady projects into the world is just incredible. I hope I get to meet her someday.
posted by harperpitt at 8:54 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am literally angry that I've never thought of a pun half as clever as that.
posted by boo_radley at 9:08 PM on July 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

Some years ago, I was leaving my apartment one night, and, on my back doorstep, was Kate Bornstein.

"Hello," I said. (because this is what you say when you meet a stranger)

"This is Kate Bornstein," said my upstairs neighbor. "She's stashing her luggage in my apartment before the show tonight." (because she was basically a helpful person)

"Hello, Ms. Bornstein," I said. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I am afraid I'll miss the show; I have to work." (because my mother raised me right)

Then we shared, as I recall, a joke about the Snap-On Tools truck in my neighborhood. (because... well, why wouldn't you?)

It was that sort of house.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:28 AM on July 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

Kate Bornstein is the kind of person who responds to every positive tweet she gets by sending an even more lovey tweet back.

When she was doing readings for one of her earlier books, she handed out "Get Out of Hell Free" cards to the audience (I know I still have mine somewhere, but I found the text on it here):

Get Out Of Hell Free

Do whatever you need or want to do in order to make live worth living. Love who and how you want to love. Just don’t be mean. Should you get sent to Hell for doing something that isn’t mean to someone, I’ll do your time in Hell for you. Kiss, kiss - Kate

(Her justification for this is that she's a masochist--or, as she put it at the time, "a piggy masochist"--so she's just as happy doing time in hell.)

I'm going to enjoy that memoir.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:18 AM on July 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've read the book, it's awesome.

I also have my own "meeting Kate Bornstein" story!

I'd become acquainted with her work in college - she spoke at Hampshire twice and I saw her both times. She was a bit of a rockstar in the GLBTQ crowd that I hung out with and I quickly came around to admiring her - she's brilliant and incredibly funny.

Years later, I was working at Borders in Providence. I was working the regular cash register - it was a slow morning and I wasn't needed in the café where I usually worked. A tall, blonde woman came to my register with a friend of hers and she looked... familiar. Somehow. She bought a pack of Sandman notecards and as I was blabbing at how much I loved Sandman, she showed me her tattoo of Death - which was really amazing and lovely.

So, chatting with this woman and still trying to place her. I also had to do my stupid job and sell those stupid rewards cards. She didn't have one, but was willing to sign up after I made my pitch about "Oh, it's free, you get coupons, blah blah blah." I just needed an email address.

"Oh, it's Kate Bornstein at..."

At this point, I lost it like a 12 year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.


She was a little taken aback - I don't think she necessarily gets recognized and gushed over by random register jockeys. Anyhow. She was very gracious about it and gave me a "Get Out of Hell Free" card.

Years later, I found her again on Twitter and just sent her a note "I doubt you remember me, but I met you in Borders a few years ago" and lo, she very much remembered me. Thankfully, she even remembered me *fondly* as opposed to "Wow, what a weirdo." And now, here I am, sort of internet-friends with Kate Bornstein. It's... mind-boggling. She's already said that she wants to hang out with me when she comes back to Western MA and... ZOMG I'M SORT OF INTERNET FRIENDS WITH KATE BORNSTEIN.

Anyhow. Read the book. It's great.
posted by sonika at 8:36 AM on July 17, 2012 [6 favorites]

Scientology is actually a very small portion of this book, most of it is about her transition from male-to-female.

Huh, this wasn't my take on it at all. The memoir is written with her daughter in mind - who is herself a member of Scientology - and the Church plays a pretty big role in Kate's story. Her transition is another huge part of the story, but she really goes to great pains to *not* make it another "trans memoir" that's only about her gender transition.
posted by sonika at 8:39 AM on July 17, 2012

Kate Bornstein stories?

She called me a collaborator once, over the phone. She was very angry. And exercising on a treadmill or exercise bike - I could hear her panting. I was so taken aback that I couldn't speak. She began to explain to me what a collaborator was - "You know, like when the Nazis were occupying France, some of the French..." I spat back, "I know what a collaborator is."

We both got over it. Her writing and speaking have been groundbreaking in so many ways, and I look forward to reading this.
posted by rtha at 9:16 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

sonika, it makes me happy that I am internet friends with someone who is internet friends with Kate Bornstein.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:56 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd no idea Ms. Bornstein had been in Scientology. I love the title of her new book, and hope there are a lot more ex-Scientologists writing and speaking publicly about the cult. The more there are, the more that dilutes the power of the cult and its lawyers to aggressively go after those who speak out.
posted by notashroom at 12:05 PM on July 17, 2012

dlugoczaj: Should you get sent to Hell for doing something that isn’t mean to someone, I’ll do your time in Hell for you. Kiss, kiss - Kate'
So she's an incarnation of Guanyin?

Finally in desperation he used his hands. Miao Shan, realising the fate that the executioner would meet at her father's hand should she fail to let herself die, forgave the executioner for attempting to kill her. It is said that she voluntarily took on the massive karmic guilt the executioner generated for killing her, thus leaving him guiltless. It is because of this that she descended into the Hell-like realms. While there, she witnessed first-hand the suffering and horrors that the beings there must endure, and was overwhelmed with grief. Filled with compassion, she released all the good karma she had accumulated through her many lifetimes, thus freeing many suffering souls back into Heaven and Earth. In the process, that Hell-like realm became a paradise.

I'm OK with that!
posted by IAmBroom at 9:35 AM on July 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

"[I] hope there are a lot more ex-Scientologists writing and speaking publicly about the cult."

She certainly expresses her disillusionment with Scientology, and her understanding that it wasn't a religion when she joined, but she's not all that harsh on the organization. She seems to think a lot of it can be helpful to people. She didn't leave by her own choice, they ousted her for asking questions about Swiss bank accounts.

The sad part is that her ex-wife took their child when she still young, raised her in Scientology, and they've never spoken since. She frames the book as a message to her estranged daughter.
posted by PJLandis at 11:49 AM on July 19, 2012

I am interested to read her memoir (her gender workbook was one of my first Babeland book purchases), but after seeing her on MSNBC's show hosted by Melissa Harris-Perry, I am even more interested in knowing where she buys her glasses. We look a bit alike and I think those lenses are badass.
posted by JLovebomb at 12:49 AM on July 20, 2012

[S]he's not all that harsh on the organization.

It was my understanding from the article that she's been too fearful to speak out at all about the organization for a long time (with good reason), so it's understandable that she'd still be cautious with what she said. Also, with her tragically estranged daughter still in the organization and her trying to reach out to her through the book, it would be counter to that purpose to be too harsh on the organization.
posted by notashroom at 7:37 AM on July 20, 2012

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