Leslie Feinberg, Revolutionary Communist, & beloved Transgender Warrior
Leslie Feinberg, Revolutionary Communist, & beloved Transgender Warrior
I’m delighted to write that my lung cancer continues to be officially in remission. What's more, my leukemia has dropped back down to Stage 0. So, here I go… heading back out on the road for a fall touring season. It’s been nearly two years since I was last out and about on a series of tours, performing, giving talks, facilitating workshops, and meeting with students and faculty.
Now, I’m still recovering from those years of surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, so my doctors, girlfriend, and touring agent have all laid down the law as to what I can do and what I mustn’t do. Used to be I could do a classroom appearance, a lecture, a workshop or a performance, a book signing, and meals with students and faculty—all in one day! I’d love to be able to continue with that kind of pace, but I haven’t yet built up enough energy and strength. So, I’m limiting myself to two of those events a day. What’s more, it used to be that I could live on fast food and Diet Pepsi. Now, I eat fresh veggies and fish. No sugar, gluten, or dairy. Lots of water. My presenters for this round of touring are making sure I eat well, and they’ve all built down time into my schedule.
I’m betting on a long-lasting remission, and ever-increasing health, energy and stamina. With all that in mind, I’m currently booking my winter/spring tour schedule. If you want to bring me to your town, please drop me a line at katebornstein at earthlink dot net. Any correspondence sent to this address for any reason other than booking tours, will not be answered. Twitter is still the best way to reach me for any personal reason. I hope to be tweeting updates from the road, as well as posting photos to Instagram. My account name at both Twitter and Instagram is @katebornstein.
So, here I go! If you can, please catch up with me at one of the following stops.
October 20: New Orleans, LA. Tulane University
October 22: Radnor, PA. Cabrini College, National Body Image Conference
October 27: LaCrosse, WI. U Wisconsin LaCrosse
October 28: Waukesha, WI. U Wisconsin Waukesha
October 29: Madison, WI. U Wisconsin Madison
October 30: Milwaukee, WI. U Wisconsin Milwaukee
November 8: Chicago, IL. U Chicago, conference “Transgender In the Academy and In the Arts”
November 20: Bristol, RI. Roger Williams College, Transgender Day of Remembrance
Laverne Cox, Holly Woodlawn, Kate Bornstein & more headline
September 9 - 13 at Baruch Performing Arts Center
Baruch Performing Arts Center presents GenderFluid, a weeklong festival of performance, film, and art by transgender and genderfluid artists, Sept. 9-14. Featured performers include Emmy-nominated Orange is the New Black star Laverne Cox, performance artist and Gender Outlaw author Kate Bornstein, Andy Warhol superstar Holly Woodlawn, stand-up comedian Ian Harvie, and more. Baruch Performing Arts Center is located at 55 Lexington Avenue (entrance on 25th Street).
Tickets are available at the box office, online at www.baruch.cuny.edu/bpac, or by phone at 212-352-3101.
Tuesday, September 9 - Laverne Cox and M. Lamar
Actor and activist Laverne Cox is one of the most well-known transgender women in the country, with a Time Magazine cover, an Emmy nomination, and numerous national television interviews to her credit. She is joined by her twin brother, artist M. Lamar, as they discuss growing up in Alabama, their growing realization of the paths their lives would take, their family, and their careers today. M. Lamar's solo art exhibition Negrogothic is at Participant Sept. 7-October 12; he also played Cox's character pre-transition on Orange is the New Black. This is the first speaking engagement Cox and Lamar have done together. 8PM; Mason Hall, 17 Lexington Avenue. $20; $100 VIP tickets include preferred seating and a backstage photo op with Cox and Lamar. Tickets: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/938829
Wednesday, September 10 - Gabrielle LeRoux and Victor Mukasa
South African artist Gabrielle LeRoux travels throughout Africa photographing transgender individuals. She will show short films she has created about them, as well as many of her photographs, and is joined by Ugandan gender activist Victor Mukasa to discuss the state of transgender issues in Africa. 7:30 PM; Engelman Hall, Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue (enter on 25th Street). Free.
Wednesday, September 10 - Andy Warhol: Celebrating the Famous and the Unknown
Baruch's Sidney Mishkin Gallery opens this exhibition of photographs and silkscreen prints by Warhol -- including many of his genderfluid friends. 5 PM; Sidney Mishkin Gallery, 135 East 22nd Street at Lexington, 646-660-6652. Free.
Thursday, September 11 - Passing Ellenville
A screening of the short documentary Passing Ellenville, which looks at the lives of James and Ashlee, two transgender teens living in a small, impoverished town in the Hudson Valley. Followed by a talkback with the filmmaker Gene Fischer. 7 PM; Engelman Hall, Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue (enter on 25th Street). Free.
Thursday, September 11 - Busted! The Musical
Bianca Leigh stars in this funny and moving autobiographical one-woman show about her decision to fund her gender reassignment surgery by working as a dominatrix - a decision that led her to Riker's Island. Original songs by Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q), Taylor Mac, and other theatre notables. Directed by Tim Cusack and presented by Theatre Askew. 8 PM; Engelman Hall, Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue (enter on 25th Street). $20 ($15 students and seniors) Tickets: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/938455
Friday, September 12 - Kate Bornstein: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us
Kate Bornstein is the original gender outlaw, and this is an evening of her favorite autobiographical spoken word pieces—her most personal stories, her favorite comic and dramatic monologues from over a quarter of a century on the stage with this material. With great love and tenderness, Kate gently guides audiences through a moving, rollicking, and ultimately uplifting journey through sex and gender beyond the binary of men-and-women-only. 8 PM; Nagelberg Theatre, Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue (enter on 25th Street). $30 ($20 students and seniors); $60 VIP tickets include preferred seating and a backstage photo op. Tickets: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/938556
Saturday, September 13 - Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Hedwig was willing to undergo a sex change to marry the soldier she loves and escape Communist East Germany - but things didn't quite go as planned. A screening of the rock musical film starring John Cameron Mitchell (the play is currently running on Broadway). 6 PM; Engelman Hall, Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue (enter on 25th Street). Free.
Saturday, September 13 - An Evening with Holly Woodlawn
Film Director Paul Morrissey will introduce Warhol superstar Holly Woodlawn. Holly will be interviewed onstage by Michael Musto about her life and career, and share rare clips from her own collection of her films, TV appearances, and live stage appearances. She'll also perform a few songs live, including the classic "Walk on the Wild Side" - which Lou Reed wrote about HER. A rare evening with a legend.
8 PM; Nagelberg Theatre, Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue (enter on 25th Street). $25. ($20 students and seniors); $50 VIP tickets include preferred seating and a backstage photo op. Tickets: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/938557
Saturday, September 13 - Ian Harvie: Superhero
You may know Ian Harvie as Margaret Cho’s opening act, a cross-country headliner or a groundbreaking trans comedian unafraid to joke about subjects no other comedian has ever touched. Harvie is hilarious, poking fun at topics from top surgery, to his fear of public restrooms, to his active sex life. Harvie’s unique act queers the traditionally macho, sex-obsessed world of stand up in ways you won't believe, proving that laughter cuts across all gender identities and ultimately unites us all. You can see him co-starring on the new TV series Transparent on Amazon, out at the end of September. 9:30 PM; Nagelberg Theatre, Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue (enter on 25th Street). $20. ($15 students and seniors). Tickets: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/938464
Baruch Performing Arts Center is celebrating its tenth anniversary this fall. With four separate theatres, BPAC presents a full slate of theatre, music, dance, lectures, films, and panels throughout the year. Located on the Baruch College Campus, BPAC is under the aegis of the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences. The Weissman School celebrates its fifteenth anniversary this fall.
First, here's a video (shot by audience member, Jim Fouratt) of Barbara Carrellas presenting & Kate Bornstein accepting the 2014 Lambda Literary Award. The text of both their remarks follows.
Barbara Carrellas Remarks,
Presenting Lambda Literary Pioneer Award to Kate Bornstein
Imagine with me, please. Imagine a place that is not here and a time that is before now. Imagine a gathering of ancient bodiless souls, all drinking tea and deciding the social priorities for the 20th Century. One gay soul suddenly turns serious. “I am calling for us as a soul group to congregate in the United States in the mid-20th century. Our time on earth will be short. Almost all of us will have died of a plague they will call AIDS before the millennium. Our task? To love and care and fight for each other so fiercely, to become so strong and so visible, that gay men and lesbians in a large portion of the world will have equal rights shortly after our deaths.
There are gasps of awe and enthusiastic shouts of agreement. “Count me in! Me, too! Me, three!” When the cacophony dies down, one lone, lovely creature speaks “That is wonderful but, it’s not enough. What about everyone who doesn’t fit into the binary of gay or lesbian? Or man or woman? What about every sexual outlaw and freak of gender? Who’s gonna fight for their rights?”
The thoughtful soul who had proposed AIDS to the group, says, “You’re right. But I don’t see how we can do it all in one go.” “Ah, but I do,” says the lovely one. “I’ll go down with you, but I’ll take another path while you take on AIDS. By the time you’ve finished, I’ll be ready. I need the time, anyway. I have research to do. I’ve been thinking that most of earth’s problems are caused by gender. Gender on earth operates like a evil cult. I need time to explore the nature of cults. I heard yesterday that someone is creating a new cult. I think they are calling it Scientology. I think I’ll check it out.”
The lovely loner was not alone for long. Many in the AIDS soul group were so taken with the Gender Project that they volunteered to jump back into new bodies right after their AIDS lifetimes. “Wait for us! We’ll be back to join you. You’ll recognize us. We’ll be the cute ones with great haircuts, unrecognizable gender presentations, and creative pronouns. But we’ll need to be caught up to speed quickly. Write us some books we can read while we’re growing up. Books that will help us keep ourselves safe and prepare us to fight for the new gender revolution.”
And thus it was decided.
Albert Bornstein was born in 1948. He joined the Church of Scientology in 1970, and learned cults from the inside for 12 years. In 1986, Kate Bornstein was born.
If you ask the question, as I recently did on Facebook and Twitter, “What does Kate Bornstein mean to you?” the overwhelmingly most popular answer is, “Kate Bornstein saved my life.”
As writers, we have all collectively and individually inspired lots of people. We’ve changed more than a few lives with the power of our words. But how many of us can say that our writing has saved thousands of lives?
It is my fiercest pleasure to present the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Pioneer Award to my beloved partner in life, love and art, Kate Bornstein.
Kate Bornstein Pioneer Award Remarks, Lambda Literary 2014
Thank you Lambda Literary, for this wonderful moment of recognition. You are perfect dears to be doing this for me.
OK—thank you to so many of you in this room. Last year—and again just over a month ago—over 3,000 people around the world joined together to raise more than $120,000 to help me get through cancer therapy, when I was too sick with side effects or recovering from surgeries, to go out on tour and earn my daily bread. What’s more—something I never thought would happen, but your gifts and well wishes completely crushed, once and for all, my low sense of self-esteem. You saved my life. You made me wanna stay alive. Bless your hearts.
Alright now-pioneering. Only a very few people do that solo. I sure didn’t. In the areas of gender identity and expression, I have many colleagues to thank—as well as writers I’ve followed, imitated, and stolen from. Their names will appear on my blog, but I do need to speak some names here, tonight.
My path as a writer of books has been guided by remarkable publishing houses and editors:
Finally, the editor who has been looking at all my words for 17 years now is my bubu, my muse, and my dear imzadi, Barbara Carrellas. When we were both souls outside of time and space, and we were deciding our rebirths: what could we do to ease the suffering of queer people? Well, it was Barbara who decided to make it her life’s mission to pioneer ecstatic sex that wouldn’t spread the plague. Thank you, bubu. You’ve brought ecstasy into my life and into the lives of all my kids—and you’ve always been there as an emergency power source all those times when I was nearly a goner. Love you, Miss Barbara.
We live in interesting times. For the first time since anything trans has come to public awareness on this planet, the face of transgender belongs to a woman of color, Laverne Cox. The literary face of trans belongs to a woman of color, Janet Mock. And the pop culture face of trans belongs to a tranny of color, RuPaul.
Interesting times, indeed. For the first time ever, there are three generations of sex-and-gender theorists, artists, and activists, all alive at the same time—each generation has its unique point of view, each with unique experiences and timeline.
I’m asking that we three generations of sex and gender artists, activists, theorists, and spiritual leaders come together in a pioneer coalition that deals with race and class within our community—for starters. I want we three generations of LGBTQetc to welcome family living beyond those letters, for we are legion.
Our legion of identities has the common denominators of sexuality, sex, gender identity, and gender expression. But because we live in a culture founded by Puritans, it’s shameful to talk about sex and gender. Nevertheless, all of us are here tonight because of terrific sex and/or fabulous gender. Now, Puritanical sex-negativity shames us into invisibilizing our terrific sex and our fabulous genders. And sadly, institutionalized sex-negativity extends into our own community. We shame each other. We’re being mean to each other. We have got to stop shaming, and distancing ourselves from sissies, sex workers, BDSMers, pornographers, sluts, burlesque artists, trannies and drag queens. These are the funnest people in our family—shaming these people and distancing ourselves from them is mean. It’s a Puritanically-generated mix of misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia. I’m asking you as your old Auntie: please stop doing that. Someone, pioneer a queer community that doesn't eat its own… please.
In this spirit of inclusivity, Dear Lambda Literary people, may I be so bold as to tickle your own fabulous pioneering spirit? Please, Lambda Lit, create award categories for sex education, queer Young Adult fiction, queer spirituality, and one more category for books written by people with sex and gender identities not yet expressed by LGBT.
OK, I’m wrapping up now. Here’s the deal: I’ve got lung cancer and leukemia. I know, I know I might be around for another 15 or 20 years, but just in case I’m not, I wanna say this now: Please, my darlings, all of you, take care of each other. Watch each other’s back. Stand up for each other. Please.
Now, go sissy your walk, children. Please, stay alive. Have good sex, have fun with gender, and write great stuff about that.
Auntie loves you.
Background: There’s been a firestorm around the word “tranny,” which has been extended to “she-male,” and even to “gender outlaw.” I thought I’d covered all the bases on my stand on tranny five years ago, in this blog post:
But no, the controversy continues. I’ve been in treatment with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, both of which tend to dull the mind. By last night, I’d recovered enough of my mind to realize that there’s been no definition of tranny to fight over, so I thought I’d come up with one that I could fit into 140 characters. Here’s what I came up with and tweeted:
“How I define #tranny: ANYONE who messes around w gender w little or no care as to how tht might effect their standing in mainstream culture.”
To my way of thinking, a proper and productive response to a proffered definition is to agree with it, disagree and refine it, or disprove it. The majority of responses to my tweet were all about how the word tranny has effected people’s lives. One person, however, managed to refute my definition by saying:
“I fuck with gender. I am not a t*****.”
For this person, I’m clarifying my definition. What I didn’t spell out is that I understand “tranny” to be a radical, sex-positive gender identity. Tranny is to trans person as fag is to gay man and dyke is to lesbian. More to the point of agreeing or disagreeing with tranny as a gender identity for oneself: I’ve been saying since I wrote the book, Gender Outlaw 20 years ago, that the only person who can name our gender identities is ourselves. In my own life, I’ve rejected the gender identities of both man and woman—despite the fact that I managed to live up to many cultural definitions of both those identities. I pass as a woman, I’m called she by strangers. AND I reject the gender identity of woman. Accordingly, if someone fits my definition of tranny and rejects that identity, then I respect their rejection of the identity.
Now, since I’ve opened this wound, I’ve decided to address some of the main objections to the use of the word, tranny. In no particular order, these objections are:
— Reclaiming a Hate Word Doesn't Work
Tranny is not a reclamation. Tranny has been our word for nearly half a century. Some trannies in Sydney, Australia came up with the term as an umbrella term to unite with love and as family the disparate communities transsexuals and drag queens. This makes it unlike words like nigger and slut. These, and other words invented by haters, have been reclaimed and are being reclaimed with great difficulty.
— Using the Word Tranny Promotes Transphobic Violence
Policing words out of existence will not stop transphobic violence. At best, it might change the words used during that violence.
— When Kate Bornstein calls themself a tranny,
it encourages and gives others the right to call all trans women trannies.
No, it doesn’t. Transphobes don’t look to me for permission or encouragement for anything. They may, and certainly have, used my words out of context to support their views. TO BE CLEAR: Nothing I've said here or anywhere else should be taken as permission to call another person tranny until you know that's a word they use for their own identity—some people find the word extremely hurtful. So, please err on the side of caution and compassion.
— FTMs are not allowed to use the word for themselves.
FTMs are certainly included in my definition if they want to be.
— Tranny associates me with pornography & sex workers.
Association with sex and sex workers is often a means of denigrating people. Classist sex negativity is no reason for me to cease celebrating my sex positive identity.
— Why all this fuss, just to protect an edgy word?
It’s more than an edgy word. Tranny is a valid, vibrant, and vital identity. Protecting that identity is what I’m making the fuss about.
In closing: that people are offended by what I call myself is simply not my problem. Transphobia is our communal problem, and I have stood and will stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone who’s fighting that hatred.
OK, done now. I’m going to get back to healing my body.
Auntie loves you. Have good sex and fun with gender. Kiss Kiss.
Today is Monday, 5 May 2014. As of today, you have raised $22,181.00 to help Kate #StayAlive! Our goal is $75,000. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. xoxo
Hello friends and family,
This is Barbara, Kate Bornstein’s partner in life, love and art. I’m writing to ask—once again—for your help.
As many of you know, Kate’s lung cancer is back. It reappeared in late December in a lymph node behind her collarbone. The good news is that it did not travel far from it’s original site. Recent scans show it’s not in her brain or bones. The further good news is that it did not reappear anywhere that had been previously treated with radiation and chemotherapy. This means that the doctors can treat this new tumor aggressively and the treatment is likely to work. We have been assured that this cancer is still curable.
The bad news is that the treatment for this second round is way more intense than the last (and we thought that round was challenging!) This means that in addition to more intense chemo and radiation, she needs more supplements and alternative therapies to keep her fighting. She’s much weaker with this new treatment and needs to spend more on transportation to and from treatments. She has a hard time doing basic tasks, like preparing food for herself and the pets. Even getting dressed to go to chemo/radiation treatments is a challenge. Small tasks are not just physically, but also emotionally, overwhelming. This “brain fog” and the accompanying extreme energy drain are common, yet hideous side effects of the treatment. Worse yet, these effects will continue for months after treatment has stopped. This means we have no idea when she can return to work.
We are deeply grateful for your astoundingly generous donations of over $100,000 last year. It’s the support of her community—and we mean emotional, physical, and psychic support, as well as financial—that helps Kate #StayAlive. We still have a bit of that $100,000 left and we are stretching it as far as it can possibly go. (Let me take a moment to thank the people who are currently providing their services and products at reduced cost.) But Kate is going to run out of money very soon.
In short, if Kate is going to #StayAlive, she needs the financial support of her community once again. Kate wants me to be sure to tell you how hard it is to ask for this kind of support. She knows many of you have financial challenges of your own. Please give only if and what you can afford. All of the money raised goes directly towards Kate's treatment.
Here’s the PayPal link to donate: http://bit.ly/1pkRV4K
Whether or not you can donate, you can help Kate #StayAlive by letting others know how they can help. Please forward/post/distribute this message widely. For inquiries and/or offers of help, write to KateStayAlive(at) gmail (dot) com.
And just so you know, Kate is truly appreciative of all the supportive tweets and other messages she's been receiving. Please understand that although it’s hard for her to respond to all of them, they mean the world to her.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
& Team Kate
I began this blog on Sunday, Feb 16. I wrote that it was a bleak winter’s day in the city. You couldn’t really walk the sidewalks, you more or less had to shuffle along without lifting your feet. Storm after storm after storm here in the city, and most of us had given up trying to clear the stairs and sidewalks… or our salt ran out. The dogs were thoroughly delighted to be indoors and warm. They’re paper trained, but I wouldn’t give either of them an A+. The cats grudgingly adapted to the constant indoor doggie presence. The cats are raptors, see, with all their senses fine-tuned toward food that either B or I might have left out. To the cats, the dogs are a stinky, annoying distraction to the hunt. (We found that out through our animal communicator.) For Bruce the turtle, it might as well have been a blue-sky spring afternoon. Inside his terrarium, it nearly always is. And Barbara and I had a really sweet Sunday together, back when I began to write this blog. Well, I finished and posted it today, Wednesday, Feb 19. My next chemo treatment is tomoro. The chemo is causing me big time discomfort but no pain and I’m not throwing up. My brain comes and goes. I’m grateful that there’s no more to the side effects than that. (Knock wood!)
Two more weeks of treatments after tomoro's, THEN B & I go to Iceland to celebrate our birthdays (mine: March 15th & Barbara’s: March 16th). We found an awesome package last year when I first found out that chemo round one had worked, and the cancer was, for the time being, gone. Here’s our Iceland package: we’ve got five nights & 6 days hotel, a pass to the Blue Lagoon, a boat trip if the northern lights are shining, AND we've found a stable where we can go to ride short, stubby Icelandic horses!! (I think my knees are going to drag along the ground.) The day after we’re back, I begin 5 more weeks of weekly chemo and daily (weekdays) radiation. Then some more chemo for the fuck of it. Then I'm done. Or done for. Ha!!
I owe YOU my life. Truth. So, thanks. Huh. Just writing that makes me want to stay alive even more. Funny, how that works. I'm diving back into Buddhism. It was my first really deep mind/spirit puzzler, back in college and in the 60s. Koans blew me away, and Zen slapstick tickled my funny bone in a most delightful way. Now, I'm more into Tibetan Buddhism, and I'm boning up on wisdom and compassion. This, along with my dialectic behavioral therapy skills, is keeping me remarkably stable during this time. I’ll blog more when I can articulate what exactly it might be that I’m learning.
OK, here’s what’s not been a joy about this time: I’ve had to cancel my entire winter/spring touring season, over a dozen engagements that I was SO looking forward to. I’m sorry to disappoint—do know that I’m disappointed as well. I’m asking for rain checks from all the schools who wanted me to come speak or perform. Now... if you’re looking for an awesome speaker or act to bring to your campus or event, please consider contacting my booking agent, Jean Caiani at SpeakOut - the Institute for Democratic Education & Culture. These are way cool, leftie folks who make space for more radical leftie, loving voices. I really enjoy working with SpeakOut, and I know you will too.
Sad to say, I’ve also had to cancel out on International Ms. Leather, where I was slated to be both a judge and the keynote speaker. Most sincere regrets to the leather ladies of all genders. I was SO looking forward to being there with you at the reboot of such a wonderful BDSM gathering. I’m grateful and pleased that my replacement is none other than my pal & co-editor of Gender Outlaws: the next generation— the gallant, wise, well-spoken, and sexy S. Bear Bergman. Wishing him and you all a terrific time of it.
In closing—wow—I’ve finished this—it’s a beautiful, bright sunny winter’s day in the city, and that brings me to the very last thing I wanted to tell you: in what mode has your Auntie decided to face this round of treatment. Well, darling, I’m going for perky. Yes indeedy! Move over, Mary Tyler Moore. (Miss Holly Hughes says I’m more than Moore, and she wants to be my Lou Grant! Oh, purr.) Yep, perky me—that’s how I’m looking at these days of mine: with a smile on my face, a song in my heart, and a dance in every footstep.
I love you, and I’ll be in touch again sooner or later.
PS: In the spirit of perkiness, here are some signals I’d like to boost.
Art Saves Lives
I’m a firm believer in the notion that art saves lives. To that end, I wanna support some artists who are dear to me:
1) Photographer, and queer arts impresario, SD Holman has kick-started a project called “Butch: Not like the other girls.” The title alone should tell you why it’s a no-brainer that I’m backing this project.I was supposed to contribute some writing to this piece, but then my cancer took over my life’s priorities. Do check it out and contribute if you can, cuz its a jaw-dropper, a real yum-dinger.
2) I know songwriter Steven Alvarado from Twitter. Recently, I put out a call for help in dealing with nameless fears. Steven tweeted me back saying, “Stand like Wonder Woman.” I tried it. It worked—I felt better! Now, Mr. Alvarado is in a pickle and needs help with his rent. If standing like Wonder Woman makes you feel better, please help Steven out with his rent.
Reading Books Saves Lives
I can’t read much when my brain’s all foggy, but here’s what’s on my reading cue just now. These are my spirit books. I’m reading and re-reading these books by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama:
1) Advice on Dying, and Living a Better Life
2) The Essence of the Heart Sutra
3) Practicing Wisdom
For my physical #stayalive regimens, I’m reading these:
1) all of Kris Carr’s books on Crazy, Sexy Cancer
2) Healing Spices, by Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD, with Debora Yost
3) Life Over Cancer, by Keith Block & Andrew Weil MD
These are the fun books up on my cue, to read when I can’t write or just need to live inside someone else’s words besides my own:
1) The Rhapsody of Blood trilogy by Roz Kaveney
2) Redefining Realness, by Janet Mock
3) Changers, Book One, by T Cooper & Allison Glock-Cooper
4) The Reason I Jump, by Naoki Higashida & David Mitchell
5) The Sandman: Overture, by Neil Gaiman
6) Christian Science, by Mark Twain
Hello, Dear Heart
My lung cancer is back—not in my lung, but in some lymph node. Here comes surgery, chemo, and radiation again. Now, kindly allow me to put this in a perspective and context that I promise is NOT scary. Really, I’m doing super well with this, and I’ve got a lot to tell you that I’m finding out, so please hang in here with me. Trust me, I’m The Auntie.
Right, history first: I was first diagnosed with lung cancer on September 24, 2012. I had surgery to remove the upper lobe of my right lung. The surgical team tried real hard, but they didn’t get it all. Normally, I would’ve gone straight on to chemo and radiation. But a big deal medical oncologist determined that there was no chemo that would work on me. If I wanted to live, he told me, it had to be by radiation alone. To be fair, the doctor was confronted by a challenge in me. I’ve got a whacky health status and, an immune system compromised by chronic lymphocytic leukemia that was first diagnosed in 1996. Plus, I’ve got a body grown on testosterone, that’s now running on estrogen. Genital conversion surgery aside, I’m minus a gall bladder, half a liver, and 12 inches of intestine. I’ve got cervical dystonia and scoliosis. I’m a rambling wreck! And, hello… I’m OLD! (Oh yes, I am. More on that later.) But y’know what the last straw was—the final thing about me that would bar me from all approved chemo regimens? Tinnitus. All my life, I’ve had a ringing in my ears. I didn’t learn until high school that I was the only one hearing all those mad bells and buzzers. I thought you heard them, too… all the time, like me. Well, tinnitus is a common side-effect of most chemo, and what it could do to me was make me deaf, and maybe even kill me. Like in Buffy or Haven, blood would leak out of my ears and I’d die, that’s what he implied anyway. Yes, honey, I do tend to exaggerate, but truly: it was the ringing in my ears when the big deal medical oncologist threw up his hands and, with a look of pity, handed me over to the radiologist.
My girlfriend and I did a lot a research—friends gave us terrific advice for alternative treatments. Through my touring work and book income, I’ve been able to pay for insurance that covered me fairly well for medicorp-government-approved procedures. But I had insufficient money to cover any forms of treatment outside the approved regimens—not to mention the cost of living while getting those treatments. That’s when my miracle happened. That’s when some friends came to my side. Thousands and thousands of friends and family came to my side. Maybe one was you—maybe you sent me money and/or you sent me love. One week of crowd-sourcing raised me over $100,000. Thousands of you. Thousands of people told me they love me. Can you imagine what a lasting blow that was to my low self-esteem?!
Well, the money raised covered it all. Thank you. Acting on the advice of Kris Carr, I found a clinic in Chicago where the doctors did their homework and found a chemo treatment that had just passed a stage two clinical trial. I began chemo on my birthday, March 15 2013, and I continued to travel to Chicago every three weeks through June. At the same time, I received 33 days of radiation, here in New York City. And it all worked. The cancer was gone, and it had been a year to the day since I was first diagnosed. Such relief and joy!! I had six amazing cancer-free months, during which I got back out on the road for some unforgettably wonderful engagements. What’s more, I’ve had the time and circumstances and good health to begin a novella—a book I’m writing just for the love of writing it. It’s delightful fiction that I’ve been wanting to write now for over a decade, but other books needed to come first. As of this past Christmas, I’d got through the first two chapters. Then, on December 30th, a PET CT revealed, and a fine-needle aspiration confirmed: yep, the lung cancer is back.
Darling, those were always the odds. That’s how cancer works. So now, I’m simply moving on with the next phase of living with cancer: more treatment. Treatment this time around begins with surgery at the end of January—then weekly chemo + daily radiation starting probably in the second week of February.
As to my touring schedule, I’m still working out my calendar with the doctors, but I’ve confirmed that I can do my week-long, six-city tour of Wisconsin, February 3-8. After that, I’ll do my very best to make all the gigs I’m already committed to. And for now, my booking calendar is closed for any new engagements before May or June. I hate to disappoint, and I thank you for your kind understanding.
Dear heart, please know I am dealing REALLY WELL with this. Of course I get scared, and I’ve named my fear as a realistic dread of the inevitably noxious side-effects of chemo and radiation. BUT… I’m not beating myself up for feeling scared, and I’m changing my perspective by reflecting on the delightful paradox: chemo and radiation are exactly what’s gonna let me live longer. Wanting to live longer is new for me. I’m not used to it. But I like it. Why do I wanna live longer? Well… for you. Truly. I so enjoy being your old auntie, and what’s an old auntie without her nieces and nephews?? So, fuck dread. And fuck cancer. I’m gonna write another non-fiction book about my life with cancer… I’ll get to that after I write my novella. See, now? I do plan to be around for awhile. That’ll get me two new books, and (lots) more time with you. I’m so looking forward to that. Thank you for your love.
Here’s the bullet: The docs have scanned me, and the scan came back and
it says two wonderful things: 1) There are no new cancer cells in my
body and 2) The places where there was cancer have shrunk a LOT
already. So the chemo and the radiation, and the supplements and change
of diet are WORKING. Holy crap and yippee! It’s the best possible
post-chemo scan a person can get. AND I’m still not out of the woods.
Here’s what it means. It means I’ve got a good hope.
I’ve never been a big one for hope, but I always fall into it. There’s
dumb hopes, and greedy hopes, and impossible hopes, and tragic hopes.
But every now and then, you get a good hope, and with this scan, I just
The purpose of this scan is to determine a baseline picture of cancer
in my body, to match up against a more accurate PET scan that I’ll get
in 2 to 3 months. Why wait 2-3 months? I’m done with chemotherapy and
radiation, but they’re not done with me. The radiation and chemo are
going to keep working in my body for at least that long. And THAT means
I’m going to be chemo-brained, exhausted, and weak for that time. BUT
NOW I HAVE A GOOD HOPE!
A special thank you to everyone who contributed to my GoFundMe account.
You made this possible. Yes you did: you bought me my new diet, my trips
to Chicago, my nutritional supplements—in short, you kept me alive.
Thank you so very much. I've got good hope.
I have such a good hope that I’m booking gigs. The earliest I’ve got
right now is a week in USA’s heartland in mid-September. If you’d like
to book me to speak or perform this fall, winter or spring, please
tweet me @katebornstein, or send me an email at my touring account,
katebornstein at earthlink dot net. Please be kind and only use this
address for touring questions.
OK—living with hope is new for me, so here I go. I promise I’ll keep
eating well, taking my supplements, and exercising as I can. It took an
awfully long time for me to write this, but when I get more of a brain
I’ll write some more, I promise that too. So, have good hope. I love
It's been just over three months since my robotic lung surgery. Doc
removed the top third of my right lung. Last Thursday, I got the
results of a new PET CT.
The good news is they got all the lung cancer tumor. There's no cancer
growing in my lungs. The not so good news is that a couple of cancer
cells found their way into my lymphatic system, and they're spreading
out from the site of the original tumor, more quickly than any of the
docs are happy with. I'll be meeting with radiologists and oncologists
and naturopaths and psychics this week, and then I'll know more about
my treatment options.
Ever since my diagnosis back in September and surgery in October, I've
had to examine the very real possibility of the great big goodbye.
Every time I've looked hard at it, I've come up with the same
conclusion: I'd rather stay alive. To this day, that's still the truth of it.
I'm not saying that what I'm going through now is the great big final
cattle chute to the grave, but I need to treat it like it is—if only
for rehearsal's sake. All my life, I've been curious about Death to the
point of establishing a pretty good relationship with Her Ladyship.
Now, it's time to establish that kind of a relationship with Life. My
pal, Caitlin Sullivan, came up with that equation.
If you've read any of my books, you probably ran across one of my
favorite Zen koans:
The way you do anything is the way you do everything.
In other words, I can look at everything I do in my life through the
lens of "this is just a rehearsal for everything else I have to do in
life." I look at gender that way. There's a meta in gender that can be
applied to other cultural binaries like race, age, class, and
citizenship, among others. I wonder how much of what I've learned in
postmodern gender theory will apply to the binary of life & death.
Whether I'm dying now or later isn't what's important. That I'm in the
middle of yet another transition is what's important. And it doesn't matter
whether or not I initiated this transition. What matters is how
conscious I am, as this transition is moving forward.
So… my thoughts and life focus are switching gears. Again. And since
you read my stuff, I thought it safe enough to tell you what's going on
with my cancer, the same way I've been telling you what's going on with
my gender. More of my focus might be on the binary of life-and-death.
I'm not giving up or giving in. I'm going to see to it to the best of
my ability that the cancer is gone. I'm going to do the best I can to
carry on with life. That said, I'm booking touring engagements for this
winter, spring, and summer. My landlord needs his rent, and I tend to
feel most alive when I'm engaged with scholars, activists, and artists.
So… please do book me if you can. Here's a copy of my new catalogue:Download KB Tours 2013-14 I thought about using the tag line,
"Bring Kate to Your Campus Before She Dies,"
but I decided against it. Heh.I CAN tell you that I'm seriously considering writing a mini-memoir
about this time of my life. I've already got the title: Be Careful What
You Wish For: confessions of a failed suicide. Great, huh? OK… that's
enough for now. I'll post more when I know more. Meantime, I've got a
FaceBook page! Come visit! And thanks so much for sticking with me. I'm
grateful for your company on this journey of mine.