Kate Bornstein Talks Gender in Parker Theatre

Bornstein addresses the Trump Administration’s plan to redefine “gender,” as pertaining solely to biology by explaining the complexities of gender, and detailing her own experiences of being trans. Photo Courtesy of Santiago Felipe.

Kate Bornstein held a lecture in Parker Theatre to discuss gender and provide comfort to trans and non-binary members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

The Trump Administration has created a hostile, negative and bleak environment for the trans community in light of recent comments. Among these comments, solace is hard to find; Kate Bornstein works against these attacks to provide comfort to those who need it.

Kate Bornstein, an American author, playwright, performance artist and gender theorist, spoke in Parker Theatre last Thursday, Oct. 25, about her journey and struggles with gender. The audience listened intently to her advice, knowledge and life story. 

“It’s a breath of fresh air to see someone who stays true to their journey, their opinions and their stances, but still ultimately respects others,” said Ana Wilhelm, second-year psychology major. “Having someone like Kate come on campus teaches students that there is an appropriate way to go about discussing divisive topics. Nobody has to leave the room feeling excluded or silenced.”

While Bornstein uses she/her pronouns, she currently identifies as non-binary, which means she is neither a man, nor a woman. In her lecture, she explained how gender can be both a fun journey and an active practice. She gave a detailed, interesting look at how gender works and challenged the audience’s understanding of it. She gave various definitions of gender, in terms of biology, quantum physics, culture and geometry. These definitions helped the audience understand how gender can be looked at from many different angles. 

“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,” her website, katebornstein.com said. “You will come away energized, comforted and full of hope.”

She explained that her goal in sharing her experiences and living true to herself is to “delight people,” as she aims to “ease suffering and achieve happiness.” She follows a lot of buddhist practices and explained how they taught her to educate and help others. A main point of Bornstein’s was that “the way you do anything is the way you do everything,” showing how all our actions are connected. 

“Kate was very blunt and outspoken when speaking on gender,” Wilhelm said. “She’s not afraid to have someone in the room disagree with her. Her lecture was a perfect example of free speech, but without trampling on the rights of other minorities.”

Bornstein was invited to campus by student-curators of the current Dorsky exhibit, “Alive and Yelling: Trans Zines and Radical Subcultures.” Kate is a featured individual in another Dorsky exhibit, “The Trans List: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.”

“It is important to me that the diversity of our student body is reflected in both our exhibitions and programs,” said Anastasia James, Dorsky curator.  “As a curator, I try to prioritize alternative narratives and projects that aim to not only bring visibility to diverse identities, but empathy, understanding, and acceptance.”

The Dorsky aims to bring a wide array of voices and perspectives into their programs and exhibitions, making art accessible to all kinds of people. 

“I genuinely believe that it is through sharing our diverse stories that communities become stronger and strangers become allies,” James said. “And many times the way to do this is simply by turning over the microphone to those who have historically not been supported by museums. Museums should not be places of exclusivity, but rather places of inclusivity.”

The Dorsky program calendar for Fall 2018 includes even more events that promote active, progressive conversations, such as the family day on Nov. 12, that will feature activities for children and their families in conjunction with Timothy Greenfield-Sanders: The Trans List.

“The Dorsky has a robust program calendar that I develop in collaboration with our Manager of Education Zachary Bowman,” James said. “Right now, we are already planning our programs for the spring semester exhibitions which will feature solo exhibitions by two feminist artists: Linda Montano and Angela Dufresne.”

Bornstein is currently working on a new book, “Trans! Just for the Fun of it: Compassionate Gender Strategies for Divisive Times.”