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— What a Memoir!!!
Bornstein, Kate. “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”, Beacon Press, 2012.
What a Memoir!!!
Kate Bornstein is one of my personal heroes and I hope she sees this review and learns that. She dares to go where others dasn’t (I love that word but spell check obviously does not). Here is her memoir which is revealing and tender and powerful, all at the same time. Bornstein was born a nice Jewish boy who joined the Church of Scientology, stayed with it for twelve years and then left and became a woman. After that she stopped using the term woman and labeled herself as a gender outlaw. So here is where I say that I doubt others have had the same experiences. Bornstein is a gender theorist, one of the leaders of the transgender movement, an author and a performance artist. I understand that one of her goals with this book is to change people’s views and their lives and with a quick reading, I can see how that will happen.
Bornstein does not hold back in their memoir and it is an absolutely fascinating read. We learn of her adolescence and her college years at Brown, her work in the theater, her three marriages, becoming a father, joining the Church of Scientology, becoming a LGBT activist, life as a transsexual and what it is like being one who speaks for so many. We have finally reached the point where transgender has become a major issue and people are now speaking openly about it. Bornstein has been doing just that for a long time.
What attracted me most about this memoir is its honesty and as I said before, Bornstein tells it like it is. It has not been an easy journey and we get to experience it right here—we get a sense of what Kate felt as she struggled to be who she is. By sharing in those struggles, we learn something about living. Balancing humor and sadness, we become enlightened about so much—gender, Scientology, life and more. This is unquestionably one of the most intense books that I have ever read and probably one of the most intense books that I will ever read.
Bornstein’s style reminds me of a Jewish mother who invites you and offers everything she has. Almost conversational in tone, I felt like I was speaking with Bornstein rather than just reading her words. Born Albert, Kate realized early on that she was not really a boy and felt as if she lied to everyone by pretending to be what she wasn’t. Later when attracted to the Church of Scientology, Kate became a member of a cult and was surrounded by other members of the church. Bornstein says she felt as a slave and I find it hard to understand the attraction of such a group of people—but then, I am an Orthodox Jewish gay guy and I am sure that there are those that say the same about me and my involvement in my religion. Some things are better off not being questioned. The concept of gender in Scientology is very strange and Bornstein was told that she had no gender (But remember that during this period she was still physically male). Ultimately she was excommunicated and lost the love of two of her ex-wives, her child and the yet to come grandchildren.
We get to the part of the book in which Albert transitions to Kate and it is a bit painful to read. There came the time for Kate to begin living all over again (almost as if she had never lived before). There were periods of self-mutilation, drugs and alcohol usage, anorexia and so on—this was not a happy time. She moved from lifestyle to lifestyle as she searched to find who she really was and there is a great deal of emotion expressed here. There is a sense of sadness that borders Bornstein’s life and there were times that I felt she was crying to be accepted and understood. (I can identify with this has my niece just transitioned to become my nephew and while it was easy for him, it was somewhat difficult for me).
This is a book that cries out to be read and I can assure you that you will not be the same once you close the covers. It is rare to have a book that has so much to say especially even when I wanted more when the read was over.