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Kate Bornstein is a Queer & Pleasant Danger

Distributed by Sam Feder
Produced by Sam Feder and Karin Winslow
Directed by Sam Feder
DVD , color, 72 min.
High School - General Adult
Acting, Activism, Gender Identity, Homosexuality, Transgenderism, Sexual Behavior

Reviewed by Caron Knauer, LaGuardia Community College, Long Island City, New York

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
Date Entered: 3/10/2016

A charming, ebullient documentary about the charming, ebullient self-described “transdyke” Kate Bornstein, this film memoir takes the viewer on a journey into the inner and outer life of the nearly sixty-eight year-old tattooed and pierced writer, actress, performance artist, cancer survivor, bon vivant.

Born Albert Bornstein to a conservative Jewish doctor and housewife in Asbury Park, New Jersey, in 1948, Kate Bornstein studied theater at Brown University, married, had a daughter, joined and publically left Scientology, and underwent gender reassignment surgery in 1986. Though a single parent for awhile, Bornstein hasn’t been in touch with her daughter Jessica in more than thirty years. Jessica is still a Scientologist, and is forbidden from being in touch with Bornstein, who has two grandchildren that she doesn’t know.

In addition to her eponymous memoir upon which this documentary is based, Bornstein’s books and plays include Gender Outlaw (1994) and Hello Cruel World (2006). Bornstein is shown at bookstore and class readings; at Toyland, a downtown sex toy shop; and visiting her family home and the shore. There’s archival footage of her meeting with her mother, who clearly got a kick out of her daughter. She tells her coming out story from her mother’s point of view. Bornstein meets with mentors and friends, including Sandy Stone, a transgender woman who worked as a recording engineer with Jimi Hendrix. Bornstein talks about being suicidal, and we learn of her lung cancer diagnosis in 2012.

Bornstein’s been living in New York City with sexologist/performance artist Barbara Carrelas for more than fifteen years, and “not a day goes by that she doesn’t scare or astound me,” Bornstein claims. Both women talk frankly about sex and orgasms. Bornstein reveals herself to be “a sapiosexual – I am attracted to brains, like a zombie.”

Bornstein puffs on her e cigarette and discusses the proliferation of transgenderism as well as the battle going on between transgender people who call themselves tranny (she does) and those who don’t. She curiously claims that “rallying around marriage equality was a big mistake” and that all the money spent on the issue was “fucking selfish,” but it would have been good if she explained her opinion more fully as most gay activists laud the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling.

After finding out her lung cancer is progressing, Bornstein philosophizes about what makes life more worth living. She talks about her love of Twitter and about life and death. She reveals that in her next lifetime she’d love to be “a golden retriever that belongs to a great butch lesbian.” The heartening coda of the film reveals that Bornstein’s chemotherapy and radiation treatment worked, and that her cancer is in remission. Whatever Bornstein’s gender or for that matter species expression is, we’re happy to have her around for a long time.