Monday, July 7, 2014

A Queer and Pleasant Danger

I just finished reading Kate Bornstein's 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. And I'm wiping tears from my eyes. This memoir is kind of a fun romp -- Bornstein's prose is breezy and her tone conversational. She experiences many loves and much pleasure, and recounts many adventures. But ultimately she is reaching out to her daughter and grandchildren with whom she can't have contact because they still belong to the Church of Scientology. A Queer and Pleasant Danger is really written to them, with the hopes of connecting.

There are so many interesting elements to this story, from her conventional middle-class suburban upbringing to joining the Scientologists in the 70s where she became top ranked and worked for years on a ship. I confess that although I enjoyed her writing here, I found this part to be kind of puzzling. I just had a hard time relating to what lead her to join the Church, and I find nautical stuff in general kind of alienating and baffling.

After leaving the church, "Al" Bornstein begins to find his way to becoming Kate. And from there she becomes more creatively engaged with writing and performance art in San Francisco and Seattle. During this time she happily explores her sexuality as a trans lesbian masochist. She writes Gender Outlaw and emerges as a significant part of the queer community.

There is a lot of sex and a lot of love in this book, and although it is certain from parts of the narrative that there was real suffering through many stages of her life, what I came away with was a sense of joy. I felt like I read the memoir of someone who lived and lives fully, generously, honestly and without regret. I hope her daughter and granddaughter get a chance to meet her.

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