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 by Kate Bornstein | Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
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

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

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by Kate Bornstein

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A stunningly original memoir of a nice Jewish boy who joined the Church of Scientology and left twelve years later, ultimately transitioning to a woman. A few years later, she stopped calling herself a woman and became famous as a gender outlaw. 

Kate Bornstein—gender theorist, performance artist, author—is set to change lives with her compelling


A stunningly original memoir of a nice Jewish boy who joined the Church of Scientology and left twelve years later, ultimately transitioning to a woman. A few years later, she stopped calling herself a woman and became famous as a gender outlaw. 

Kate Bornstein—gender theorist, performance artist, author—is set to change lives with her compelling memoir. Wickedly funny and disarmingly honest, this is Bornstein's most intimate book yet, encompassing her early childhood and adolescence, college at Brown, a life in the theater, three marriages and fatherhood, the Scientology hierarchy, transsexual life, LGBTQ politics, and life on the road as a sought-after speaker.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bornstein (Gender Outlaws) is a former Scientology VIP and, for nearly 40 years, a man named Al. Before age five, Bornstein realized “I wasn’t a boy, and therefore must be a girl.” In college, he has sex with women, whom he loves, but also goes for men who make him feel like a girl. This tempest of confusions brings him to Denver, where he finds refuge in Scientology, learning that he’s a gender-free being called a thetan. “The battle of the sexes raged in my mind, day and night. Can you imagine a more appealing theology for someone like me?” For the next decade, Bornstein is blissfully happy with a wife and daughter, and at one point is outranked by only 50 other people in the entire organization. He writes that in 1982, he was excommunicated from Scientology after discovering some private information about L. Ron Hubbard. On his own, he starts therapy, concludes he’s a transsexual, and after living for a year as a woman, changes his name and has reassignment surgery. In the right body, refusing to claim a gender and calling herself a lesbian transsexual, she struggles with rejection from the transsexual, transgender and lesbian communities, but likes the person she is becoming. Bornstein can be a challenging and confusing narrator at times, but is sympathetic in her universal struggle to be comfortable in her own skin and her attempt to come to peace with the paradox that is her life. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
A nervy, expansive memoir from a pioneering gender activist. When she was Al Bornstein and a member of the Church of Scientology, Kate Bornstein (Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws, 2006, etc.) signed a billion-year contract pledging to serve the church in both his present and future lives. Though she eventually left the church, the idea that a soul can endure forever doesn't seem so implausible when you read her story, which takes us from a bizarre childhood to a troubled young adulthood to her stint in Scientology, which lasted more than a decade. That's just the first two parts of the book, and even one of those experiences could have been the basis of a full memoir. Bornstein then goes on to discuss, with frank and arresting detail, her diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, her transition from Al to Kate, her immersion in the S&M community, her emergence as a powerful voice in the transgender community and her success as a performance artist, author and speaker. Bornstein frequently exposes the slippery nature of truth by telling a compelling and believable story and then immediately informing the reader that it was fabricated. Late in the book, some of the dialogue with her friends in the lesbian/S&M community reads more like a script (Bornstein is also a playwright) than conversation. Nevertheless, the backbone of the book, and of Bornstein's life, is her admonishment in to "do whatever it takes to make your life more worth living." This cri de coeur, which appears in a letter to her estranged daughter and grandchildren, suggests that Bornstein has made real sacrifices to follow her own advice, and can therefore dispense it with integrity.
From the Publisher
“Brave, emotionally authentic, and riveting.” —Bitch 

“A nervy, expansive memoir from a pioneering gender activist.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A singular achievement and gift to the generations of queers who consider her our Auntie, and all those who will follow.”—Lambda Literary
“Disarmingly funny and a pleasure to read. . . . I think everyone can gain something from Kate’s honest, brave account.” —Feministing.com

"This memoir shines a bright, unflinching light on those reasons and the consequences of living on the far edge of the fringe… With the brave, adventurous life she's led, Bornstein gives us a reason to keep on living, too.” —Bitch Magazine blog

“Kate Bornstein is brave. She is very, very brave. Her memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger, should be located in all three of the LGBT, self-help and biography sections of your local library and bookstores.” —EDGE 

"This memoir manages to be both wrenchingly transformative and luminously wondrous, a sumptuous literary combination.” —Pride Source 

A Queer and Pleasant Danger is not for the faint-hearted, for reasons that become fairly evident (see: sadomasochism), but is ultimately uplifting, hopeful, even joyous.” —Shelf Awareness

“This is a softer, sometimes sorrowful, side of the always-outspoken Kate Bornstein, and I loved it…A Queer and Pleasant Danger is a wildly wonderful read.”—Long Island Pulse Magazine

“Bornstein is hilarious, honest, acerbic, and fearless in her writing…QAPD is at least three books in one, each of which is a page-turner.” —Religion Dispatches

"Kate Bornstein's journey from moon-eyed Scientologist to queer icon is harrowing, heartbreaking, and amazing.  This narrative is surely not for the squeamish.  And yet, in the story of a sea-dog named Al who became a trans goddess named Kate we see the messy, unsettling, inspiring struggle of a lady trying—and at last succeeding—to let her own soul be known.  Disturbing and wondrous."—Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of She’s Not There and I’m Looking Through You

“Breathless, passionate, and deeply honest, A Queer and Pleasant Danger is a wonderful book. Read it and learn.”—Samuel R. Delany, author of Dhalgren

"To me, Kate Bornstein is like a mythological figure or a historical literary character such as Orlando or Candide who, by illustrating her struggles, shows the rest of us how to live. This book is destined to become a classic." —Mx Justin Vivian Bond, author of Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels

"A Queer and Pleasant Danger is a brave, funny, edgy, and enlightening new memoir. I loved it and learned from it. Kate Bornstein shares her fascinating journey—through gender, Scientology, and more—and it was a thrill to tag along on the ride. This book is unbelievably powerful and affecting. If Kate Bornstein didn't exist, we would have to invent her. But luckily for queers, straights, gender outlaws, and general readers, Bornstein is out and out there." —Dan Savage, author, columnist, and architect of the "It Gets Better Project"

"There are a number of adjectives that one could use to describe A Queer and Pleasant Danger: snarky, funny, anguished, frightening, heartbreaking, brave, honest...this is a book that is dangerously appealing." —The Gay and Lesbian Review, July-August issue


Product Details

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6.36(w) x 9.12(h) x 1.01(d)

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter 1, "Go"

Disney  will never  make  a movie about  my life story, and  that’s a shame—I’d  make  a really cute animated  creature.  But I was born and raised to play the role of young hero boy. I spent  my first four- teen years living in Interlaken, New Jersey. It’s an upper-middle-class island  in the middle  of Deal Lake, just  one town inland  from  the summer  seaside resort of Asbury Park in its glory days. My family was one of a handful  of Jews who lived there. I was four and a half years old when I realized I wasn’t a boy, and therefore must be a girl. I still lived the life of a boy. People still saw me as a boy, and later as a man—and I never had the courage to correct them. Instead, I lied to everyone, telling them I was a boy. Day and night, I lied. That’s a lot of pressure  on a little kid.

The Saturday Evening Post arrived each week, by mail. Norman Rock- well, craftsman  of the American dream, painted most of the covers. I longed  to be each  and  every one  of those  corn-fed midwestern freckle-faced Rockwell girls—engaging,  grinning  in the face of adversity, defiant, weeping with the loss of love, dependent on the men in her  life. Rockwell girls are especially dependent on daddy. And they were blonde.  Oh, how I wanted  eyes the color of cornflowers and hair the color of fresh-picked corn.
   Well, here’s  a cover that  Norman  Rockwell would  never  have painted: my mother  on the delivery table, knocked out from not only the anesthesia,  but also the pitcher of martinis  she’d drunk over the course of her six hours’ labor with me. I was born drunk and loving drugs. The first words I heard were, “Welcome to this world, honey. Welcome.” Twenty-four years later, the same doctor—Griff Grimm— would hold newborn  Jessica and  say those  same  words. Griff and my dad  were resident  physicians  at Fitkin  Memorial  in  Neptune, New Jersey—a small hospital serving a cluster of small seaside sum- mer towns.
   Living on the Jersey Shore, the Atlantic Ocean was our magic, and the boardwalk was our magic carpet. Summertime meant  sharing that with the tourists—we all had summer jobs that depended on the tourists.  In a summer  town, the father-son bonding  seasons are autumn, winter, and early spring.
   My dad and I bonded over old-school pro wrestling—we shared that fandom.  Dad had once been the Indiana  State College Middle- weight Wrestling Champion.  He took me to the pro matches  in As- bury Park’s Convention Hall.
   “Remember,  Albert,” he’d say to me, “it’s all an act. But there’s a lot of skill in making it look real.” I knew that already. I had a lot of skill in making myself look and act like a real boy.
   My father  was a doctor, so we could afford to sit ringside.  He rarely stayed seated. Dad was up on his feet most  of the time—as close to the ring as he could get—shaking  his fist and bellowing at the bad guys, or at the referee  for a bad call. That was his anger. He showed some of it at home, but ringside he really let go. My dad thought  he saw me, his son, caught up in the bloodlust of the sport. Nah. It was plain old lust for me. I watched those matches shivering in sexual turn-on. Pre-match, the wrestlers would strut  around  the ring. One for one, the good guys always gave me a wink. They gave everyone a wink, but I took it personally. When they winked at me, I was a beautiful  young girl and I longed to be caught  up in their arms. Any bonding  my dad and I did over wrestling, or fishing, or baseball was—like everything else in my life—based on the lie that I was a boy.
Paul Kenneth Bornstein, MD
That was the name,  hand-painted on the pebbled-green-glass office door to my father’s medical office on the second floor of the Medical Arts Building in Asbury Park. When I turned  thirteen  and became a man, I was told that one day my name would be painted right underneath  his, and we’d share a practice together. It never occurred to me to question that future, and besides, I never argued with my dad. My big brother  and I called him dad. Only girls called their fathers daddy. Dad’s patients  called him  Doc—so did most  of the  trades- people and store clerks up and down the shore. To them, I was Doc’s son, as in “Doc’s son is here for the prescription,”  or “You got those roast beef subs ready for Doc’s son?” or “Hey, Doc’s son is here delivering Christmas  presents.”  Yes, we were Jews but back then  we weren’t supposed  to shout  about  it. We celebrated  Christmas,  not Hanukkah. I was bar mitzvahed  but, as I’ve mentioned and as you may have noted . . . it didn’t work.
   My dad’s parents immigrated from Russia—or Poland—or what- ever they were calling that strip of land that drifted back and forth. I don’t know my family’s town of origin, but growing up, I heard vague references  to Minsk  and  Pinsk.  Minsk, Pinsk, someone  would say, and Uncle Davy would unconsciously rub the camp number tattooed on his forearm. He always wore long sleeves. Minsk, Pinsk, someone would say, and invariably someone  would recite “The Ballad of Max and Anna Come to America.”
   Max and Anna, my father’s parents, were age fourteen and twelve respectively. They were lovers who together  supported  the  radical Red Russian  forces seeking to overthrow the czar. Young Max was captured  by the White Russians—forces  of the czar, not unlike the Stormtroopers  in Star Wars. Max was banished  to a POW camp in Siberia.  Thousands of miles  west  of Siberia,  in  Minsk  or  Pinsk, Anna—twelve years old, remember—set off to rescue  her  radical lefty lover boy. She was dirt-poor, so she had to walk—but like a heroine in some Disney cartoon, Anna could sing, so that’s what she did.

Meet the Author

Kate Bornstein is an author, playwright, and performance artist whose work is in service to sex positivity, gender anarchy, and  building a coalition of those who live on cultural margins. Her work recently earned an award from the Stonewall Democrats of New York City and two citations from New York City Council members. She is the author of four award-winning books. 

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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 lovel 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was well familiar with Kate's gender outlawery (I'm a fan) and her S&M interests (I saw her theater show with her wife on this), but I was really quite surprised and fascinated at the contents of this book. This is an engrossing tale of a lost and vulnerable person, who joins, excels and fails within the most well-known contemporary cult and who manages to pick herself up afterwards. Gender and S&M (as well as lots of heteronormative sex) are included, but not what I'd consider the heart of this tale. Mostly, it is about the intertwining of the rise of Scientology and the personal ambition/striving of Kate's former self. l I found the inside view into Scientology very interesting intellectually, and this was anchored to emotion by the viewpoint of Kate as man/woman, showing such great compassion and vulnerability in sharing the full details. I found it both endearing and (at times) heartbreaking, a wonderful read and highly recommended to anyone who has ever tried to be accepted, been outcast, or ever had any interest in cults or social manipulations/marketing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ms. Bornstein's autobiography is so compelling, there are times you might think to yourself, "This is too entertaining to be true." But I think most people have a friend like that in their life; someone who regails you with stories of random adventures and dubious life choices (like, say, Bornstein's decision to become a Scientologist as a way to deal with her gender dysphoria), I mean, even *I* went to Clown College for a semester...anyway, you have one of these friends and you tell them repeatedly, "You should write an autobiography!" Well, Kate Bornstein did. There are so many interesting and unexpected twists in her life, from aspiring street performer to advisor to L. Ron Hubbard to transsexual to activism, no matter what your interest, Bornstein has been there, done that, and has the tattoo to prove it. This is an amazing, inspiring book that encourages readers to live lives of daring authenticity, and we all could use a reminder of that from time to time. The pages roll by, and I was so entranced I barely noticed I had consumed the whole thing in one sitting, less than four hours (and I'm not a speed reader by far); the prose is just that welcoming and conversational. Kate Bornstein is an amazing woman, an inspiration to generations of freaks, weirdos, genderweirds and queers who can't ever pass as heteronormative (and why would they if they could live such a fascinating life?) She assures them they, too, have a right to be who they are in this world, no matter what that might be, as long as they aren't mean or harmful to others. One of my most treasured autobiographical reads, I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A monologue in book form of a facinating life. I wish the book had been twice as long.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is were the party is....:)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago