Keynote Speaker

Trans...Just For the Fun Of It

Kate Bornstein

Kate Bornstein

SpeakOut - The Institute for Democratic Education and Culture

9AM - 10AM - 10:00:00

Session Overview

In May, 2014, Time Magazine proclaimed that America had reached a transgender tipping point. Since then, Kate Bornstein—pioneer non-binary trans author, activist, and performance artist—has been studying and exploring trans identities that have made no such headway into mainstream culture: trans people who define themselves as non-binary and gender nonconforming, claiming that they’ve shattered the gender binary. Proceeding from the premise that a major sticking point in understanding gender is that there are too many answers, Kate will ask the questions that usually don’t get addressed:

• What’s your personal gender based on?

• How did you come to base your gender on that?

• What becomes of gender after you’ve shattered the gender binary?

• Why are there so many definitions of transgender?

• What is the definitive truth of gender?

• Why is fun is a legitimate reason to explore gender?

In this talk, Kate will use basic tenets of postmodern theory, Tibetan Buddhism, and particle physics. “They all overlap at slapstick comedy,” she insists, going on to say, “transgender life has gotten awfully serious as of late, and I want to remind people that there’s a great deal of physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual joy that can be had by creating and living one's gender mindfully.”.


Since 1989, trans trailblazer Kate Bornstein has—with humor and spunk—ushered us into a world of limitless possibility through a daring re-envisionment of the gender system as we know it. Kate identifies as nonbinary: not a man, and not a woman—and she’s been writing about nonbinary gender identity for nearly thirty years. Kate was born Albert Bornstein in 1948, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. At an early age, he came to the conclusion that he wasn't a boy, and that she didn't want to grow up to be a man. To Albert, being a boy was all acting, and pretending to be a boy. In 1984, she began her hormonal, surgical, and social transition from male to female, which she completed in 1986—she was a woman! In less than two years, she realized that being a woman was for her no more than acting and pretending...just like it had been for being a man. So in 1988, Kate gave up the idea of being a woman, and now she lives on the edge of paradox: she is not a man, and not a woman. She looks beyond the gender binary to see gender as both a conscious practice, and a playful journey. Kate's work is taught in five languages, in over 300 high schools, colleges, and universities around the world. The titles of her books say a lot about who she is, and how she views things: • Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us (now in its 2nd edition) • My New Gender Workbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving World Peace Through Gender Anarchy and Sex Positivity (now in its 2nd edition) • Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws • 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