On Wednesday, April 1, Kate Bornstein performed On Men, Women and the Rest of Us in Kelley Auditorium/Alter Hall on Xavier University’s campus as part of their queer week. Bornstein is a renowned gender theorist, performance artist, author, ex-Scientologist, former phone-sex operator and transperson. Neither man nor woman, Bornstein captivates every audience she is in front of, no matter the venue.
As Bornstein takes the stage she pulls out her cell phone and asks: “Would you all like to wave hi to the Twitterverse?” She snaps a photo and instructs the audience to follow the 61-year-old on the social networking site. It is now time for the show to begin.
Bornstein currently sticks to spoken-word pieces or readings from her published work, but as of late she has gone high-tech with photo slideshows set to music. But this doesn’t separate her from the audience – her pieces are less like performance and more like conversation. Bornstein will pause in a middle of a selection to explain background information or make comments as she deems necessary, thus every performance is unique.
One of my favorite piece of hers is a New York Times piece written about 15 years earlier about Bornstein’s mother. She prefaces this piece with a story about one of the New York Times editors, who called her the day before this story was to go to press to ask her to change the phrase “transgender movement.” Bornstein was taken aback by this and asked why. The editor replied: “If we put ‘transgender movement’ in The New York Times, then that means there is one.” Bornstein rationalizes that there must be one then, because he ran “transgender movement” in the paper.
Bornstein has lead an interesting and unique life – among other things – but she consistently sees the humor in her unusual situations. After undergoing “the surgery, ” she felt that she was neither man nor woman. And while she loves her vagina, (She quips, “My vagina cost more than the car I drive.”) she doesn’t let it define her.
Bornstein’s work lies bare the frankness of life and tries to show that no matter how terrible it may seem, it is worth living. The good can be found in every situation and every person – that is, if you are willing to look for it. Bornstein encourages doing anything that makes your life worth living, anything at all, as long as it isn’t mean. She contends that she cannot help you if what keeps you alive gets you into legal trouble, but if you end up going to hell, Bornstein will do your time for you. That is why at the end of the show she passes out “Get out of hell free” cards for people to give over to the devil if they should ever meet them. It’s okay, she’ll love it: Bornstein is a masochist after all.
I spoke to Bornstein after her performance and it was interesting. We decided to take pictures together and this is what resulted:
That’s right, Kate Bornstein decided to put her tongue in my ear. It tickled, that’s why my expression is so crazy. Well at least I know there is never a dull moment when she is around.
Upon walking out of Bornstein’s performance I saw the over 2,000 rainbow flags on the lawn in front of Alter Hall. These flags represent all of the queers that die in a year from hate crimes in the U.S.
Xavier’s queer week will continue with a showing of Milk on Thursday, April 2. Same-sex handholding day will conclude the week on Friday, April 3.