I’ve never been that comfortable with abrupt change, and so it’s not that often that there’s a clearly defined instant, a switch-flipping moment, to mark the line between one part of my life and another. I tend to make my transitions gradually, only moving quickly when I’m forced to, and so it’s shocking—but not necessarily bad--when something happens that pushes me into a new place without warning. Maybe that’s why reading Kate Bornstein’s Gender Outlaw at the age of twenty-two was such a formative moment for me: it came out of nowhere, like a backhand from a stranger who I’ve since unexpectedly grow to love.
I’d been pretty heavily into feminist theory for a few years before that, reading my bell hooks and Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich and so on and so forth, but Kate Bornstein was my first encounter with what is perhaps more accurately termed “gender studies”, and she changed way of considering the world more radically over the course of two-hundred-some pages than any of them ever had. To be fair, I was totally naïve; I had never conceived of the possibility of no gender, or fluid gender, or even gender variance really, in any sort of realistic way, and suddenly here was this person telling me that all of these things were real and people were living them and that there was just so much possibility and I could hardly contain myself. In memory, I was manic for weeks; the glimpse I had caught, or almost caught, of a different way of thinking was explosive. I vibrated with the energy of new ideas, and I radically reconsidered my vocabulary, my preconceptions, and my own identity. Gender Outlaw was the first book that I ever reconsidered not returning to the person who loaned it to me; it was the book I gave my best friend when he came to me with questions of his own.
But really, what I’m trying to say is that Kate Bornstein will be speaking at Northwestern next week, and it’s totally worth the trip to Evanston. Her autobiographical interactive signature piece "On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us" is "Postmodern Gender 101 with a comic twist." These are Kate’s most personal stories, favorite comic and dramatic monologues, and pieces from her upcoming memoir, "Kate Bornstein Is A Queer and Pleasant Danger."
McCormick Tribune Center (1870 Campus Drive) Northwestern University, Evanston Monday, February 22nd @ 7:30pm FREE
Presented by The Gender Studies Undergraduate Board with support from Northwestern’s LGBT Resource Center, the Performance Studies Department, the Theatre Department, SHAPE, and the Gender Studies Program