Kate Bornstein is one helluva gender-role-destroying tranny, with excellent artistic timing. Her memoir, released just as the celeb-couple “TomKat” imploded, provides a provocative look into the inner circles of Scientology (albeit from thirty years ago), a depiction of a world that would make your hair curl. And that’s just for starters.
Bornstein reads from the mesmerizing A Queer and Pleasant Danger: 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, on Wednesday, August 15, at Diesel (5433 College Ave., Oakland). You will laugh as this S&M-practicing woman cozies up to a friendly coven of lesbians. You will cry for the little Jewish boy growing up with a bully for a dad and a notion that something about his body is just not right. But most of all you’ll get to know the extraordinary story of a person who refused to continue living by the rules of a binary society and started taking decisions into his, and her, own hands.
Bornstein wrote the memoir for her daughter, whom she hasn’t seen in decades. They are forbidden from making contact, as Bornstein is a fallen Scientologist or Subversive Person (SP). Back when Kate was still Albert and still had a penis, Bornstein struck out cross-country on a mission of enlightenment or death through anorexia, and was rescued on a Denver mountaintop by Scientologists offering free pizza and the promise that gender was irrelevant. Bornstein rose to become a member of Scientology’s high-ranking Sea Organization, holding meetings with and carrying out the will of The Commodore himself, L. Ron Hubbard. “The first six months were the happiest days of my life,” Bornstein recalled. “I was working under a hot Moroccan sun, tarring decks and sailing little boats back and forth. And at night there was a heaven full of stars I’d never seen, so that part was good.” Lured into a world of souls who merely inhabit male or female bodies, Bornstein power-coupled-up with another rising Thetan in the body of Molly, who would become Bornstein’s first wife, mother of his only child. Life was peachy until Bornstein was banished over a misunderstanding and denied all contact with his family.
Post-Scientology, Bornstein reconnected with family and friends, had gender-reassignment surgery, and moved west. In San Francisco and Seattle, as a writer and actor, she became a poster child of sorts, an outspoken, unapologetic mouthpiece for the conversation about gender. “By saying no to man and saying no to woman, I found it ridiculously freeing, along the lines of the Buddhist path I was trying to follow before this Scientology thing,” Bornstein said. Her ideal world is one of radical welcoming: “The idea of …. ‘Yeah, you’re weird as fuck, but you’re welcome here.'”
A fairy tale for anyone who has ever felt Other, Questioning, or merely Curious, A Queer and Pleasant Danger serves as a reminder that we cannot all be described by neat little census boxes. Bornstein wrote the memoir, warts and all, for the adult daughter she’s never known. “Her name is Jessica Leah Baxter, and if any of your readers know of someone who knows someone who knows her, please tell her her daddy wrote her a book.” 7 p.m., free. 510-653-9965 or DieselBookstore.com