Author Kate Bornstein threw conventional wisdom out the window as she discussed gender issues before about 100 people in the Michigan League last night.
“I want people to question gender,” Bornstein said.
Bornstein’s address, which served as the keynote speech for the Spring Pride and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health Week, delved into what it’s like to be transgender in a world that largely focuses on just men and women.
Bornstein was born a man and underwent reconstructive surgery 22 years ago to become a woman. After her transition, Bornstein discovered she still didn’t feel comfortable in her gender. She said she still feels like she’s pretending to be a woman.
“I am not a man, and I am not a woman,” she said.
Bornstein, also a playwright, performed excerpts from her books and plays chronicling her challenges with gender issues and the transsexual experience.
The crowd was enthusiastic throughout Bornstein’s address, bursting into applause after her statements and laughing loudly at her jokes. Before and after the performance, audience members approached her excitedly to introduce themselves and take pictures.
But Bornstein’s talk had a more serious side to it, too. At one point, she said she never thought she’d be traveling around the country to tell her story.
“I just want the freaky people to know that it’s okay to be freaky,” she said.
Event organizer Gabe Javier, an assistant director in the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs, said Bornstein is an important figure in the LGBT community.
“She talks about issues that most people don’t,” he said.
LSA senior Kelsey Gall, a member of Stonewall Democrats, said she was very excited to hear Bornstein speak.
“It’s not often you get a chance to see a transgender speaker like her,” she said.
Theater Associate Prof. Holly Hughes, a friend of Bornstein’s who attended the talk, described Bornstein as both an inspiration and a voice of experience.
“Whether you’ve had the transgender experience or not, she puts a spotlight on the whole experience of gender American culture,” Hughes said.