Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

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

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

4.0 5
by Kate Bornstein

See All Formats & Editions

“I know I’m not a man . . . and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m probably not a woman, either. . . . . The trouble is, we’re living in a world that insists we be one or the other.” With these words, Kate Bornstein ushers readers on a funny, fearless, and wonderfully scenic journey across the terrains of gender and identity.


“I know I’m not a man . . . and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m probably not a woman, either. . . . . The trouble is, we’re living in a world that insists we be one or the other.” With these words, Kate Bornstein ushers readers on a funny, fearless, and wonderfully scenic journey across the terrains of gender and identity. On one level, Gender Outlaw details Bornstein’s transformation from heterosexual male to lesbian woman, from a one-time IBM salesperson to a playwright and performance artist. But this particular coming-of-age story is also a provocative investigation into our notions of male and female, from a self-described nonbinary transfeminine diesel femme dyke who never stops questioning our cultural assumptions.

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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“In an age of often hostilely expressed gender politics, Kate Bornstein . . . is sweet, sincere, lucid, and sometimes as corny as Kansas in August.”
The New York Times
“A foundational voice. . . . Kate Bornstein is a historic figure in the queer and trans community.”
The Huffington Post
“[Bornstein is on the] leading edge of contemporary debate about sexual identity and gender. [She] asks fundamental and challenging questions about what it means to be a man or woman in our society.”
San Francisco Chronicle
Gender Outlaw is an eye-opening book, combining the emotional force of a coming-of-age story with a savvy cultural critique.”
“A radical document.”
The Nation
“While Bornstein covers an incredible range—from the ‘nuts and bolts’ of her surgery to more abstract musings on a brave new gender-free world—the book never stops fascinating. [She offers us] an abundance of questions—thoughtful, disarming, revelatory questions. Gender Outlaw is an invitation to a dialogue, and it’s a conversation well worth having.”
“Kate Bornstein argues eloquently and passionately for scrapping the categories of women and men. Agree. Disagree. Read it!”
—Leslie Feinberg, author of Stone Butch Blues
“The first book of gender theory written by a transgendered person . . . includes countless insights, trenchant cultural analysis, and generous wit. . . . [It] will surely become a classic.”
Washington Blade
“Kate Bornstein celebrates the power of claiming an identity without getting mired in the tarpits of identity politics. A breath of fresh air, the best of both worlds, strong enough for a man, yet made for a woman.”
—Holly Hughes, performance artist
“Kate is an orgasm on two legs. Reading this book gives me a heart orgasm, and it could give you one too! Gender Outlaw is a great work of love.”
—Annie Sprinkle, performance artist
“Kate Bornstein is a fierce and funny voice on the front lines of gender and sexual identity. Her wise heart and wild imagination challenge us to really own our bodies, our desires, our dreams.”
—Tim Miller, performance artist
Library Journal
Bornstein considers herself a gender outlaw because she breaks the laws of nature. A former heterosexual male and now a lesbian woman, Bay Area Reporter writer, and actor who has appeared on talk shows, she has completed the transsexual process, including surgery. As she considers her workplace the theater, about a third of this autobiographical work is devoted to queer theater, including her play, Hidden: A Gender. The black-and-white photos were not seen but are apparently a significant part of this informative and humorous book.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st Vintage Books ed
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.19(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.57(d)

Read an Excerpt

first things first
(Note: for electronic purposes, the paragraph formatting in this excerpt has been simplified. The paperback and ebook editions contain the fully formatted text.) 

I keep trying to integrate my life. I keep trying to make all the pieces into one piece. As a result, my identity becomes my body which becomes my fashion which becomes my writing style. Then I perform what I’ve written in an effort to integrate my life, and that becomes my identity, after a fashion.
Transgender Style
Some Fashion Tips
People are starting to ask me about fashion. I love that! Maybe they think the doctor sewed in some fashion sense during my genital conversion surgery.
I see fashion as a proclamation or manifestation of identity—so as long as identities are important, fashion will continue to be important. The link between fashion and identity begins to get real interesting, however, in the case of people who don’t fall clearly into a culturally-recognized identity—people like me. My identity as a transsexual lesbian whose female lesbian lover transitioned to gay male is manifest in my fashion statement—both my identity and fashion are based on collage. You know—a little bit from here, a little bit from there? Sort of a cut-and-paste thing.
And that’s the style of this book. It’s a trans style, I suppose. I can see it in the work of Susan Stryker, Sandy Stone, David Harrison . . . the list is getting longer and longer.
But the need for a recognizable identity, and the need to belong to a group of people with a similar identity—these are driving forces in our culture, and nowhere is this more evident than in the areas of gender and sexuality. Hence the clear division between fashion statements of male and female, between the fashions of queer and straight.
In my case, however, it’s not so clear. I identify as neither male nor female, and now that my lover went through his gender change, it turns out I’m neither hetero nor homo. What I’ve found as a result of this borderline life is that the more fluid my identity has become—and the less demanding my own need to belong to the camps of male, female, gay or straight—the more playful and less regimented my fashion has become—as well as my style of self-expression.

Will the identification with a trans writing style produce an identification with a trans experience?
Anyone who knows fashion will tell you that the operative word is accessorize! That’s how I dress in the morning. That’s how I shift from one phase of my life to the next—first I try on the accessories. And that’s also part of the style of this book: I’ve added some accessories here and there to spice it up a bit.
Welcome to my runway!

Meet the Author

Kate Bornstein divides their time between New York City and the Rhode Island shore. She can be seen in all episodes of Season 2 of the reality TV show I Am Cait. Their stage work includes the solo performance pieces The Opposite Sex Is Neither, Virtually Yours, and On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us. When not writing or performing, Kate can be found cuddling with Maui, following Doctor Who, prowling Twitter and Instagram, or playing pinball in their hometown of Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
JimRGill2012 More than 1 year ago
Bornstein’s book—part memoir, part commentary, part cultural analysis, part drama (it contains the full text of Hidden: A Gender, a two act play she wrote)—provides frank and intelligent insight into gender as a social construction and its damaging effects. Whether discussing her own transition, questioning the cultural tendency to consider gender strictly as a binary construct, educating readers about the questions she’s asked and the discourse of the trans community, or designing her vision of what a genderless society would look like, Bornstein comes across as an amiable and eager guide; her intellect and her wit enable her to establish an immediate rapport with her readership. Originally published in 1994, the book contains some dated language (notably her use of the adjective “transgendered”—the “ed” ending is omitted in most current usage); her ideas and insights, however, remain relevant and urgent. Despite the passage of over twenty years since it was written, Gender Outlaw is still required reading for anyone who needs a clear and informative introduction to the trans community and the concept of gender identity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could tell that this was a book undeserving of its praise & icon status early on, specifically when I got to the part where Bornstein seriously oversimplifies phalloplasty surgery & essentially shrugs off Trans men, whom she insists make up half of the TS community (an idea supported by purely anecdotal and speculative data), by saying that they can just bind, score some hormones & then live happily stealth w/o any questions from anybody. Her suggestion to abolish any sort of gender traditions is simply bizarre & based largely on second wave feminist gender theory a'la Shulamith Firestone's The Dialectic of Sex -- a book which I'd highly recommend over anything by Bornstein as it's not bogged-down by gimmicky elements such as this one's quasi-autobiography format & obscenely heavy use of sidebar text; the sidebars probably take up around 20% of this book's content & make it doubly trying to follow as it causes the reader to jump around the page or @ least constantly go back & forth between & w/i chapters. Basically, a book that says surprisingly little yet still manages to pass itself off as a challenging read to the easily confused by simply adopting an unorthodox format that's difficult to follow.

Furthermore, her spiels on "indoctrinating" people into a societally-conceived stable of gender normalities based on natally-determined sex simply don't apply to a large amount of TS persons I've known: When one's internalised sense of identity is & always has been "boy" or "man", it really doesn't matter how many dresses & lipsticks & what-not are thrown at you, literally or figuratively, it's just not going to take. She also compromises the TS voices wanting basic gender dignity by likening TS persons to this glorified "other" concept that can lead to deeper closeting --after all, if you're not even what you've always known yourself to be, & this high-profile post-op woman is saying so, then what's the point? Reading this book was one of the worst pre-transition things I ever did, as it pretty much fostered that kind of thinking for years; the fact that she also seems to go out of her way to ignore or just somehow diminish what she herself insists is a whole half of the TS community yet is held as an icon by both MTF and FTM persons definitely rubbed some sand into the sunburn.

While I acknowledge that expecting our heroes to be perfect means that we won't have any, there should be a certain expectation for some bare-minimum excellence in our icons. Bornstein is so thoroughly undeserving of her icon status & it's very apparent why she has it: She promotes "othering" of TS persons rather than fundamental gender dignity in a world full of non-TS people othering the TS community left, right, up, down, & in circles. Her rally to abolish the status quo in social gender is based largely on reinforcing the status quo through an elaborately layered form of reverse psychology and based on largely ignoring very basic social anthropology, specifically why any sort of sense of gender normalcy exists in the first place & why that should make gender dignity a higher priority to the greater TS community than the simple othering that TS people are bombarded with on a daily basis (sorry, just cos it's coming from one of your "sisters" doesn't make the message true). Her fundamental ignorance of mere basics of Trans men's existenc
Guest More than 1 year ago
An outstanding view of gender and it's role in society. Kate has a way of taking this issue and presenting it with some humor while being serios at the same time. I recomend this book to anyone who is dealing with gender issues or just wants to learn more.