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 Hardcover – May 1 2012
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“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
About the Author
Kate Bornstein is a performance artist and playwright who has authored several award-winning books, including Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and The Rest of Us, My Gender Workbook, and Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws. She has earned two citations of honor from the New York City Council and garnered praise from civil rights groups around the globe. Kate lives in New York City with her girlfriend, three cats, two dogs, and a turtle.See all Product Description
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Written in a casual, conversational, sometimes rambling manner, this is a very easy book to enjoy. One of its many quirks that I found so delightful was the way in which Kate would tell a story, swear it was the honest-to-gosh truth, then turn around a page or so later and admit that it was a lie. In most cases, they were stories she believed wholeheartedly for years - until she shared them and was promptly shot down by her brother. It's a quirk that not only adds a bit of a comic feel to some chapters than definitely need a pick-me-up, but it's also a playful element that ties into Kate's personality.
Really, this is three memoirs in one, as the extended title suggest: A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The true story of a nice Jewish boy (1) who joins the Church of Scientology (2) and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today (3).
Let's start with the nice Jewish boy. Kate (then Albert) realized at the tender young age of four-and-a-half that she wasn't a boy and, therefore, must be a girl. With that self-realization, a youth of lying to the world, putting on an act, and hiding her true self began. She doesn't spend a lot of time wondering why she was different, or looking for answers (biological, psychological, theological, or otherwise), but there's one passage early on where she talks about her mother's previous miscarriage that ably demonstrates how she has so creatively imagined herself:
"Now here's what I think: I think no one knows what the previous tenant of my mom's uterus had left behind for me to pick up and use. I'm sure that girl body had been meant for me."
It's clever and simple, and the kind of imaginative leap you can only make if you are well-and-truly comfortable in yourself.
The Church of Scientology occupies a significant portion of the book, but as interesting as it is to peek behind the curtain, it does tend to wear thin quite quickly. The attraction of Scientology, her life within it, and (most importantly) it's continuing impact upon her life is important, though, and it frames perhaps the saddest, most heartfelt element of Kate's memoir . . . but more on that later. To me, the appeal of Scientology has always been inconceivable, but I can't say there isn't something beautiful and profound in its appeal to Kate:
"...they [the Church of Scientology] said I'm not my body, and I'm not even my mind. They told me I am a spiritual being called a thetan - from the Greek letter, which we were told meant perfect thought. Male and female is for bodies, they told me. Thetans have no gender."
Definitely an interesting thought, and you can clearly see how the theory so hooked a confused young transsexual. What follows is, no matter how you want to put it, a life inside a very closed cult, including an extended period where she lived at sea, with nobody around but other members of the Church. It was a life of spiritual, mental, and financial slavery (although Kate never uses that word), and one that ultimately cost her the love of two ex-wives, her daughter, and the chance to ever see the grandchildren that would come later. The chapter in which she describes her Excommunication made me so furious, I literally threw the book across the room and let it sit on the floor for a good week and a half before I could pick it up again without feeling the urge to tear it to pieces.
It's definitely the low part of her life's story, but it's true what they say - at least when you hit rock bottom there's nowhere to go but up.
The third part of Kate's story is the most fascinating aspect of the book, and even if it's filled with pains of its own, the sorrows of her transition are both honest and (largely) self-inflicted. Really, Kate begins her entire life over again (several times, in fact) finding what should have been solace and support though the medical community, except she chose the wrong doctor, one who held her back rather than helped to guide her forward. It's not entirely clear what an impact the unprofessional nature of that relationship had on her transition until she moves on to a new doctor, one who has her best interests at heart.
"When I was a girl, I was a thirty-eight-year old man and I had to make up for lost time. It wasn't easy. I had to learn girl from the ground up, just as I'd had to learn boy. It wasn't pretty."
When Kate says it wasn't pretty, she's right. Her transition is marked by stories of self mutilation (cutting), drug and alcohol abuse, anorexia, and more. She clearly struggled hard to become the woman she is today, and even if we know she's a stronger person for those struggles, they are still hard to share. Relationships were, as you might expect, particularly troublesome for someone struggling as much with her gender as her sexuality. While some may argue she simply traded one cult for another, Kate's immersion in the BDSM lifestyle was absolutely fascinating for me, and probably the point at which I began to first notice real, genuine, powerful emotion coming through her story.
As ultimately uplifting and inspiring as her story may be, however, it's framed by a sadness so deep, it's difficult to experience. She begins and ends the book with a virtual shout-out to her daughter, a heart-felt plea for understanding, acceptance, and simple acknowledgement. It's a testament to the intensely personal nature of her final passage, the raw openness of her plea, that she was able to so completely overcome those feelings of rage and betrayal I originally felt over her excommunication. Instead of throwing the book across the room and wanting to tear it to pieces, I instead clutched it to my breast and cried for what might have been . . . and for what, if there is any justice in the world, still might be.
For many people who are familiar with Kate, this book is a fascinating journey from point A to point Z. In that sense, it demonstrates the vast magnitude of life. Her journey stretches from Jewish boy to fabulous gender outlaw, with a pit stop as a high ranking official in the Scientology universe.
The book overall, demonstrates a great sadness, as it opens and closes with an appeal to Kate's daughter, who remains in Scientology, and has not had contact with Kate since Kate was excommunicated by the church. Despite this sadness though, Kate's style of writing remains as playful as ever. She is a suberb storyteller, and she plays with the reader, sometimes poking fun of what is real and what is imagined, and leaving the reader to wonder if it even matters what is true or not. She at least confesses to the truth at some point after every lie (at least to my knowledge), which is another important statement:
Living a lie is okay if we can someday have the bravery to face the truth.
This book is unbelievably brave. The ramifications of writing about Scientology especially is expressed early in the book. Kate could easily find herself the brunt of a wave of Scientology harassment. The church may never admit to this policy, she states, but it exists.
For everyone who has gone through life pretending to be something they're not, this book is for you.
For everyone who has gone through life living life as they feel it must be lived, and been persecuted for it, this book is for you.
For everyone interested in transforming their suffering into a positive message for others, this book is for you.
For anyone who might just be a wee bit curious about the life and times of one of the most renowned gender outlaws in the world, this book is for you.
It included a lot about her days in scientology and how she lost her daughter to them.
My God one day she gets back to Clearwater, Florida from a scientology "mission" and takes her daughter to school. But then she is forced to undergo what is called a "gang bang sec check" by scientology's "International Finance Police". Here she is falsely accused of all sorts of crimes, screamed at by a group of scientology goons while being on their version of a crude lie detector. Kate is then immediately routed off scientology's staff (this is 1982) without so much as being able to say "goodbye" to her family who were made to disconnect from Kate.
Now she has two grandchildren who she has never even seen. And she loves them and her daughter very much. In the book Kate tells her daughter her story and why she never came back that day and how she tried to reconnect. She hopes that someday her daughter/grandchildren will get out and be able to read this book written for them.
One can feel the honestly in this book and the pain. Kate tells of her being at the point of suicide when her ex wife hung up on her and would not let her speak with her daughter.
I am ASHAMED to have ever been a friend of Kate's EX!!!
Kate offers her daughter/grandchildren some advice on life and a home should they ever need it, although she does not suspect she will live all that much longer.
It was heartbreaking!!!
Scientology is so unbelievably cruel and dangerous. And my heart goes out to Kate. I also feel sorrow for her loved ones who are IMO yet another family that has been devoured by organized scientology for worldly gain.
Still, I hope that somehow there is a reconnection in what time is left. It makes me sad to see every once is a while Kate post on an ex scientologists forum asking if anyone has any information about her daughter and/or grandchildren:(
As a fellow transgendered ex scientology staff member and just as a human being I was touched very deeply by this story. And, I thank Kate so very much for sharing it. It must have been very hard on her to write all this.
Kate has such a charming humor and flowing writing style that makes the cities and people in her story come alive. With her honesty, she takes away the shame and sting of her darker thoughts and behaviors. Because as painful as the topics of suicide and cutting can be, I ended up inspired by her hope and courageous spirit as she grew brighter as a person after every low point.
Just from what I knew of Kate, and from her "It Gets Better" video, I expected to fall for her in this memoir. And as smitten as I was through the whole story, her letter at the end completely captured me. If all parents could communicate with such empathy, love and sincerity to their children, well, this would be a lot kinder world to live in. I would give anything for my parents to have such genuine curiosity about my feelings and empathy for my place in life like Kate is offering to her daughter.
Thank you, Kate, for sharing your story. Your book has a cherished spot on my bookshelf beside Urban Tantra.
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