Kate Bornstein

Kate Bornstein

Trans Icon, Author, and Performance Artist



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

Currently, you can see Kate onscreen as Joan, the church lady, in the film, Saturday Church. Kate is the subject of Sam Feder's award-winning documentary, “Kate Bornstein Is a Queer and Pleasant Danger.” Kate's work on suicide prevention, and her advocacy for marginalized and at-risk youth has earned her two citations of outstanding citizenship from the New York City Council.

Kate has been on the road lecturing and performing for over 25 years, at colleges, high schools, and anywhere people gather to talk about gender. At this time, Kate is writing a new book: Trans! Just For the Fun Of It: compassionate gender strategies for divisive times, sections of which she's developing interactively on her blog, where she invites your input and feedback.

If you haven't read Kate's work or heard her speak before, get ready—she is the radical role model, the affectionate best friend, and the guiding mentor all in one. You will come away energized, comforted, and full of hope.

Trans 101: Beyond the Tipping Point On May 29, 2014, transgender actress Laverne Cox graced the cover of Time Magazine, along side the headline: "Transgender Tipping Point, America's Next Civil Rights Frontier." Ever since then, there's been more and more evidence that proves Time's point. So how are you going to mindfully articulate, discuss, and otherwise navigate the world beyond a transgender tipping point? For example... Is gender a binary, a spectrum, or many of both at the same time? What's the big difference between Transgender and Trans? Other than gender, can you name ten factors that define your sexuality? What are three can't-fail ways that you can be an ally in Trans civil rights? What words for trans must you never use? (Hint: there aren't any) Can you name a definitive truth of gender that everyone can agree on? If you needed a search engine to answer three or more of these questions, then this lecture/workshop is just what you need. You will learn all you ever need to know about pronouns, bathrooms, and what to call your friends, co-workers and relatives who've transitioned.

NonBinary Is the New Trans: Exploring the Gender Paradox with Kate Bornstein Not man, not woman. Not boy, not girl. That's nonbinary…an identity that describes what one is not. It's the language of negation—and in this talk/workshop you'll learn how that's a perfectly accurate way to describe a gender identity. Participants will explore the structure and dynamics of binaries, and what's left over when a binary is shattered. You'll become familiar and comfortable with analyzing gender by means of the principles and language of not only postmodern theory, but also Buddhist philosophy, and quantum mechanics. All of this leads to the discovery of the inarguable, definitive truth of gender…and how you can have the most fun transgressing gender.

Beyond the Binary (...and why it's fun and important to think that way)

For thousands of years, both sex and gender have been understood as binary phenomena—two, and two only: men and women, straight and gay. But over the last decade, that’s become less the case. More and more people identifying with nonbinary gender, and queer sexuality. This raises some good questions: if gender isn’t a binary any more, what is it? Is binary/nonbinary just another binary? And if sexuality is more than heterosexual and homosexual, might the nature of desire be virtually limitless? Join trans icon and academic jester, Kate Bornstein as she explores these questions, and shows how the simple act of asking these questions is both an act of revolutionary politics, and a source of delight.

Transgender is Here to Stay - So Now What Do You Do? With Laverne Cox on the cover of Time, and Jazz Jennings with her own television show, it's clear that the world of transgender is itself in transition. Kate Bornstein speaks to the changing language of trans, the clear division that runs through almost every trans community, and a strategy for unifying all our new and disparate trans identities without invisibilizing anyone. "This new world beyond the tipping point," says Kate, "helped me sort out a brand new gender theory that works, and it's not at all complicated. I call it Bornstein's Theory of Relativity."Kate designed this lecture or workshop to give you the tools you'll need to mindfully articulate, discuss, have fun with, and navigate on your own terms, the world beyond a transgender tipping point

On Men, Women and the Rest of Us Come spend a cosy evening with your very own Auntie Kate, who promises you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll gasp out loud as she speaks about the last thirty years of her life as a nonbinary identified queer trans dyke. This is an evening of her most favorite heartwarming anecdotes, touching and sometimes painful personal trials and tribulations, and inspiring tales of putting the world to rights. Her performance is at once deeply personal and universally acceptable, weaving together stand-up comedy, theatrical monologues, and heart-to-heart storytelling to convey the experience of her long, rich nonbinary trans life. And just to show how much she loves you, every audience member will leave the theater with the gift of a Get Out of Hell Free card.

Not a Man and Not a Woman? Then Which Exam Room? Nonbinary is a gender identity defined by what gender we are not, and this begs the question: what gender are we? As thousands more nonbinary people enter healthcare systems, providers and caretakers need to do more than scratch their heads in puzzlement, or sneer in disbelief. Kate Bornstein has been living nonbinary gender and writing about nonbinary gender for over thirty years, and in this talk she gives us an idea of how to welcome and provide good care to someone who’s not one, and not the other.

Trans: For the Fun of It In late May, 2014, Time Magazine proclaimed a transgender tipping point. Since then, Kate Bornstein—pioneer nonbinary trans author, activist, and performance artist—has been studying and exploring trans identities that have made no such headway into mainstream culture. 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.”

Other Lectures

Achieving World Peace Through Gender Anarchy and Sex Positivity Dangerous Dreams & Damned Desires: The Personal Politics of Sex Positivism & Gender Anarchy Sex, Bullies and You

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Kate Bornstein Speaking at the 40th Reunion of the Class of '69, Brown University


Kate Bornstein: A Queer and Pleasant Danger

In an age of often hostilely expressed gender politics, Ms. Bornstein gently leads audiences through her own psychic labyrinth without antagonism. She is sweet, sincere, lucid and sometimes as corny as Kansas in August. She really should have her own television show
The New York Times

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Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us


Gender Outlaw was decades ahead of its time when it was first published in 1994. Now, some twenty-odd years later, this book stands as both a classic and a still-revolutionary work—one that continues to push us gently but profoundly to the furthest borders of the gender frontier.

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