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
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.