Gender Outlaws

The Next Generation


By Kate Bornstein

By S. Bear Bergman

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This groundbreaking and inspiring collection of dozens of our most original trans voices is a “smart, sexy, and entertaining” (Jack Halberstam) exploration of gender today.

Transgender narratives have made their way from the margins to the mainstream and back again, and today’s trans and nonbinary people, genderqueers, and other sex/gender radicals are writing a drastically new world into being. Edited by the original gender outlaw, Kate Bornstein, together with writer, raconteur, and theater artist S. Bear Bergman, Gender Outlaws collects and contextualizes the work of this generation's trans and genderqueer forward thinkers—new voices from the stage, on the streets, in the workplace, in the bedroom, and on the pages and websites of the world's most respected publications. Gender Outlaws includes essays, commentary, comic art, and conversations from a diverse group of trans-spectrum people who live and believe in barrier-breaking lives.


To Stanley Safran Bergman,
the next generation

Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman
AIM IM 3/9/10 11:01 AM
S. Bear Bergman: Good morning, cutepants.
Kate Bornstein: What a perfectly delightful way to open a conversation.
SBB: It's easy to be delightful when one is delighted, in my experience.
KB: Now see, this is like the old days.
SBB: ::laughing:: It is, in fact. I went digging through old files in preparation for this chat, and we evidently used to have a lot of spare time to spend flirting.
KB: Next generation, huh? I have a serious typing thing that I do: when I try to type generation, it ALWAYS comes out genderation. I did it just now.
SBB: You're not alone in that, it seems. After I started forwarding the call for submissions for GO:TNG, a lot of the replies with submissions attached came to Gender Outlaws: The Next Genderation.
KB: Really? It just wants to come out my fingers like that.
SBB: Muscle memory?
KB: More like inner vaudevillian.
SBB: ::laughing:: I've never really thought of your vaudevillian as "inner," exactly, but okay.
SBB: If I'd been a different sort of a being, I might have taken up burlesque.
KB: As would I, my darling. And we'd do a double act and wow the crowds.
SBB: Yes, indeed.
KB: So what year did you and I meet?
SBB: I think 1993.
KB: Holy poop, 1993?
SBB: The oldest files of email I have are from 1994, and they seem clear that we'd already met in person. And they're from spring. So I think we met in person sometime in 1993. 17 years, give or take.
KB: ::shaking my head::
SBB: If our friendship were a person, it would be a college freshman by now.
KB: And you were how old? I shudder to re-ask.
SBB: In 1993? I would have been 18 or 19. But I was precocious.
KB: You were more than precocious.
SBB: I was looking for a kinder word than "insufferable know-it-all."
KB: That too, but you made it charming.
SBB: ::laughing:: Well, thank g-d for that.
SBB: I think we got to be friends just as the original Gender Outlaw was kind of hitting its stride, though. I remember you were suddenly touring more, and that to some degree we bonded over being pervs and Macintosh enthusiasts.
KB: Days of Gwen Smith's Gazebo, and my twice-weekly Star Trek text-based games in AOL chatrooms.
KB: That's right, 'cuz I was carrying my Mac Classic around with me on my back in the special convenient backpack Apple made for it.
SBB: Yep, and you logged on from everywhere—the first person I knew who did. But it really is, actually . . . wait, how long is a generation, technically?
KB: Length of time between end of the original series and beginning of the next gen series. Hang on, I'll check.
SBB: ::laughing::
KB: TNG premiered 21 years after TOS.
KB: 1987, my first year of womanhood. A lot more happens to a generation of queers in much shorter time. The cultural version of epigenetics, where evolution of a species is proved to have noticeably jumped in just one generation.
SBB: I feel like, by the time I knew you, you were already saying a lot about how gender wasn't what most of us thought.
SBB: ::quietly googles "epigenetics"::
SBB: How do you feel about where this "genderation" is starting, as opposed to where you started?
KB: In a word, thrilled. In more than a word, awed by the heights from which this gen of gender outlaws has leapt off into their unexplored spaces. People today are STARTING from further than I got to when I'd finished writing Gender Outlaw. That's EXACTLY what I hoped to live to see.
SBB: And I think part of why is because you did write Gender Outlaw. I see a direct link. I feel like I can easily trace a line through from the people I know who are roughly your age, or roughly your age-queer, through my cohort, and to the place where people who are just moving into the fullness of themselves are now.
KB: A lot was going on when Gender Outlaw came out. GO was the piece that went furthest into the academy. But the politics of transfolk were jumping by leaps and bounds.
SBB: There was a . . . kickstart? I am not sure I was as aware of it at the time. But I definitely saw trans-identified people for the first time, starting then.
KB: And it was mostly trans women who were leading the cultural charge. Today, the sitch is reversed: the cultural icon for transgender is young FTM, evolved from middle-aged MTF. That bit of evolution in just one genderation.
SBB: I always wonder why that is.
KB: Kickstart was Stone Butch Blues.
SBB: Published in 1993.
KB: All the queens died in the '80s, and Kings took up their tiaras. Lou Sullivan wrote his words in the late '80s. When was Gender Outlaw first published?
SBB: I would have said the same year, but Wikipedia tells me a year later: Stone Butch Blues in spring of 1993, and then Gender Outlaw in spring of 1994.
SBB: Stone Butch Blues hit me like a truck. I probably read the entire book four times in a row before I could even consider picking up another book.
KB: I read it twice through on the first go, several times shortly afterwards. I know how deeply it spoke to FTMs and butches, but it spoke as deeply to femmes. At least it did to me. Stone Butch Blues taught me there would be butch women who would like freaky girly me. I'd met some butch women before that, and yeah they were gallant and breath-taking. But until Stone Butch Blues, I thought they were the exceptions.
SBB: Sometimes I have this odd, split-brain thing about the impact of the AIDS pandemic. My visceral memory is of the second wave of deaths, the early '90s, when I was chaining myself to things with ACT UP and dying-in with Queer Nation. But then I don't think about or talk about it in relation to trans politics. I think there's some sort of sanitized corner of my brain that is afraid if I talk about it, people will carry on thinking all transpeople are MTF street-involved sex workers with AIDS.
KB: For a long time, when I was coming out, the MTFs were in fact street-involved sex workers with AIDS. Two of my dear friends died the year I stepped through the looking-glass.
KB: The butch-femme dance then was gallant and gracious. That's the part of you that I responded to most quickly and deeply: the gallantry of you, the gentleman-ness.
SBB: The reverse thing was also happening for me. It was the perfect time to come out as a young butch. There were all these fantastic, hot, brilliant femmes who were so keen to help me refine and magnify my butch gallantry.
KB: Now see, I didn't meet femmes until later when I moved to Seattle. SF in those days was still Birkenstocks and plaid shirted lesbians who wanted nothing to do with men in dresses.
SBB: I learned how to do it, largely, by folding myself around the desires of the femmes I knew, like you, who loved the performativity of femme and taught me through it.
KB: You were SO attentive. Yes. Still are.
SBB: I felt seen for the first time. I felt . . . real, for the first time.
SBB: As though there was, fucking finally, a good reason I was like I was. It was the parable of the ugly ducking all over again. Though I wouldn't really compare myself to a swan, except for how noisy they are.
KB: and all that poop? ::ducking::
SBB: ::grin:: That too.
SBB: And you were, always have been, still are, one of my favorite flirt-partners, because you're also performative, and shape-shifting, and so . . . whimsical. So playful.
KB: Did you first feel that real-ness online or in-person?
SBB: Online.
SBB: Absolutely.
SBB: I translated it into my in-person life. Not without some hiccups, mind you. But eventually.
KB: Re: flirting, performance, and shape-shifting—sweetest of gentle creatures that you are—you KNOW it takes one to know one. We were teaching each other, and yeah that's how I learned to put that flirt energy into my offline life.
KB: Many hiccups.
SBB: Yes, many hiccups.
KB: The ouch is always gonna be there for outlaws.
SBB: Also, it turns out that when you learn some of your flirting skills from bathhouse fags, a certain . . . muting is required before trying them on college girls. Jes' sayin.
KB: hahahahahahahaha!
SBB: ::rueful smile::
KB: Even this new generation. They're starting with more, so the ouches are bigger. Higher stakes.
SBB: Because we don't get to practice our identities in junior high, when everyone else is also a fumbling idiot. We're busy trying to survive the bully culture, as you term it.
KB: It's not a simple case of "Gee, we have it so much better off than the old days of trans-dom."
SBB: No. And sometimes the ouches come from older transfolk who don't like seeing the binary they invested in get dumped out and turned into a hat by nineteen-year-olds.
KB: That's 'cuz yes, there's a new genderation, but it's not like EVERYONE is part of it. There's always gonna be transfolk entering the spectrum at the point I entered it back in the '80s. And 20 years from now, those folks are gonna be landing in the territory today's new generation has staked out. Can't fucking WAIT to see our grandkids, your son Stanley's gen.
SBB: That cartoon in the book, by Roe-Anne Alexander, where the last panel shows a kilted, lipsticked, bi-hawked young person saying "In twenty years all your kids will look like me"? I love that idea.
SBB: (Though please remind me of that the first time Stanley comes home with a surprise piercing, will you?)
KB: It's not gonna be a piercing that Stanley surprises you with, that's for sure.
SBB: Do you also spend a lot of time wondering how or why some people bust out into the new genderation, and some don't? I really think about that a lot—and how race affects it, and class.
SBB: And especially, what it means to look like a freak. And does that create freedom, or require it, or both?
KB: And citizenship and religion and all the other cultural forces and vectors of oppression that forge gender and sexuality.
KB: More please on your last question.
SBB: Okay. So I know some people who have so many skills, or so much money, or so much talent that they can almost be as freaky-looking or as gender-adjacent or whatever as they want, and they will still be fine—still able to eat and support themselves, still able to move in the world, still able to attract company and friends and lovers.
SBB: They have so much freedom because of some other place of privilege that they get extra slack.
SBB: But I also know people whose innate, insistent need to be exactly as they are has trumped even their need to preserve a survival strategy in terms of employment. They have ended up kind of busting up through the sidewalk, regardless.
SBB: And I don't mean to set those up as a binary, either. I am mostly just noodling around a lot, recently, in the questions of from which directions the pressure is generated and how it affects the results.
KB: Yes, and on the other side of the binary you don't mean to set up (but you don't have to set up 'cuz it really is there), there will always be more people who, given the same privilege, are gonna use it to wall themselves off and/or blend themselves into the culture that would otherwise call them freaks. There's a heart factor, a spirit factor that allows for the privilege to be used as a diving board into the depths of a culture.
SBB: I love that image.
KB: At its best, it's the concept of Bodhisattva: the conscious decision to re-incarnate as a lower and lower life-form lifetime after lifetime so that when you finally do attain enlightenment, the radiance will reach all sentient beings everywhere. Apply that to one lifetime, and that's what we do. At our noblest.
SBB: Whoa.
KB: Yeah. Who knew, right?
SBB: And when we say lower, we mean less powerful, less privileged?
KB: Give the gentleman a kewpie doll.
KB: It's the only way I can justify using what privilege I've got.
SBB: ::nod:: I hear that. For sure. And I'm glad we have some conversation about privilege in the book.
SBB: Though there was a lot more conversation about it outside the book. I don't know if we want to go there, but there was that entire argument that didn't make it into the book. Nobody wrote about it. . . .
KB: . . . do go on, please
SBB: Well, we used the word tranny in the call for submissions. And some people got very angry about that, and equated it with words of racist hate speech, and demanded that we remove it because it's a word that has been used to denigrate transpeople, especially transfeminine-spectrum people.
SBB: It felt really a lot like the arguments about Queer Nation, twenty years ago.
KB: Nice analogy
SBB: It did feel just exactly like when I was sixteen and being all Queer National and I would get screamed at—by gays!—for wearing a t-shirt identifying myself as queer, and being overtly sexual. In both cases I was told I had set "the movement" back twenty years.
SBB: Hey—twenty years. A whole generation. ::lightbulb goes on::
KB: Go for it
SBB: I'm going to get in trouble again.
KB: Mama lion is here to watch out for you, cub.
SBB: But many of the people, in both cases, who were so angry with me seemed to be people one generation older than I was. And maybe their fear of those words was too visceral to move past, you know? But it's as though all of those folks, having finally attained for themselves a little scrap of privilege, were just determined to protect it—even against me. Maybe especially against me. There was a real little surge of people just so excited to mention everything I have ever done wrong in my entire life which—as you know—is plenty of things.
KB: Yes, yes, yes. What I was saying about co-existing generations. The people angry with you are the same people who threw me out of a transsexual support group I co-founded in Philly in the mid-80s. They said I wasn't a real transsexual 'cuz I was a lesbian. All of us have held on to some precarious ledge of social decency. Some of us let go and fall into outlaw territory, others drag themselves up to cultural approbation.
KB: Queer was a homophobic slur before queers took it on as a badge of honor, but tranny was the other way round. I was using the word tranny way before it made it into the culture as a racist slur. So were you. It was a fun word we used for ourselves. Dominant culture always manages to steal and pervert those words, i.e. "It's so gay."
KB: Tranny was a word the US imported from the most fab drag culture in the world: Sydney Australia. The queens and the transsexuals (all MTF) hung out with each other. They both looked down on each other to be sure, but they knew they were family so they co-owned the word tranny. Originally, the word was used in the spirit of family. That's how I use it now. Fuck anyone who uses it as a slur.
SBB: Which, by the way, I do not see gays gathering together and trying to outlaw.
KB: Some gay folks are trying to outlaw "it's so gay." It's keeping them back from social acceptability.
SBB: I can see the argument for outlawing "it's so gay" better. They're trying to outlaw bullying, but "don't be mean" isn't—evidently—an enforceable school rule, so they list particular meannesses the young people are not permitted to engage in.
KB: But look at what happened a generation after people were damning the word queer. Now, it's something you can major in, in college.
SBB: Do you ever fantasize about how things would be if you were Queen of the World, and who you would put in charge of things. If I were King, I would love to put you in charge of shoes, gadgets, and junior high schools.
KB: ::nodding:: I'd take that from ya, yer kingship. Someone came up with a great identity on Twitter a couple of weeks ago: Warrior jester. That's what I wanna be. That and diesel femme.
KB: We need LOOKS studies, for sure. That's what it's gonna grow into.
SBB: Probably. Do you think we'll get Women's, Gender, and Tranny Studies?
KB: No, but we might somewhere get Queer and Tranny Studies.
SBB: I would like that.
KB: Me too. Someone who's reading this book is gonna make that happen.
SBB: The think I just thought is: people are who are super-protective to police the word tranny have no real confidence in the cultural power of transpeople. They police it because they fear that if not-trans-identified people get hold of it, their power will make it always and forever a bad word. And I, we, feel fine about it because we have a lot of faith in the cultural power of transfolks—of trannies—to make and be change.
KB: Smart you thinking the thought you just thought.
SBB: That feels like the crux of it to me, finally. Not even about their own privilege so much as fear.
KB: And the cool thing is that this book is full of people who disagree on a lot of theory but they all have faith in the cultural power of trannies to make and be change.
SBB: Yes. In fact, we may well have selected along that theme without even being able to articulate that yet.
SBB: But we definitely chose work from people who were looking forward, with their tools in their hands.
KB: Yeah. For a while, I thought the criteria was "hopeful for the future," but that's not the case in every piece in this book. Many entries in here are bleak and scary. But every single one of 'em keeps moving forward with their lives. Every single one of 'em, I admire for that.
SBB: And they also show us some portion of what it takes to do that. What they draw on for strength or inspiration, or how they imagine themselves into a really uncertain future.
KB: (I am partial to the sexy make-you-laugh-gasp-cry pieces though)
SBB: There are certainly some of those—even one with pictures.
KB: And that's a HUGE stride forward in this next generation. Why, in my day. . . .
KB: ::stroking long, white beard::
SBB: ::pulls up a stool next to your armchair::
SBB: ::leans my head toward you, face shining::
KB: In my day, we weren't allowed to associate sexy with trans because in the eyes of the dominant culture, sexy diminished the value, import, and significance of the trans experience.
KB: ::patting your sweet upturned cheek::
SBB: I think people are still being punished for being trans and sexy, for wanting to be desirable. For having the temerity not to just be quietly grateful for anyone's sexual attentions, but to insist that people learn about our bodies, learn how to touch us and talk about us. Which is why I'm so glad to have gotten the hott submissions we did, and were able to publish.
KB: Sexy is one step below tranny, something that respectable transfolk can look down on. So the fact that this next gen of gender outlaws has leapt merrily into sexy is that Boddhisatva version of lower, meaning less powerful, less privileged . . . more radiant.
KB: We have an excellent hott quotient in this book, yes. Would have been dreadful without that.
SBB: And a fairly satisfying amount of crankiness.
KB: Queer theory only works side by side with queer practice, otherwise queer theory is straight.
KB: Cranky. Ah yes, at my age I walk the fine line between crone and curmudgeon.
KB: CUTE crone.
KB: CUTE curmudgeon.
SBB: I love that transpeople are now at a place, culturally, where we're not just quietly grateful for being allowed to live. Some of the essays in this book reflect people's righteously cranky reflections on gender politics. That feels new, and totally important.
KB: That IS new, IS totally important.
SBB: You know I have always had a curmudgeon fetish.
KB: ::making a note::
KB: Ogod, I just had this picture of you and Andy Rooney. Noooooooooooo ooooooooooooooooooooo!
SBB: I think because I see my own curmudgeonliness in the not-so-distant future.
SBB: Oh, dear.
SBB: How about me and Clint Eastwood?
SBB: Wait—is he a Republican?
KB: Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo!
SBB: You wouldn't watch me fuck Clint Eastwood?
KB: Ok, I'd watch that.
SBB: ::grin:: Phew.
KB: But I don't like his politix.
SBB: Maybe I can introduce him to a new spirit of openness.
KB: Is this where I ask you if you'd watch me fuck Sarah Palin?
SBB: One of my lovers has the idea that all world leaders should be fucked up the ass on a regular schedule, to promote flexibility and compassion.
SBB: Oh, honey. Sarah Palin? She does not deserve that.
KB: "One of your lovers." You say it so casually. Poly is a HUGE leap forward for this next gen of outlaws.
KB: She not only deserves it, she'll get it any time she asks for it.
KB: I bet Sarah Palin tastes good. All that moose for dinner.
SBB: Well, I think because there's a previous generation of gender outlaws whose refrain—from the doctors of the university system—was "keep quiet, or no one will ever want you, and maybe not even if you do." But then we had this—
SBB: oh, you're killing me with this.
SBB: ::squick::
KB: purrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
SBB: Ahem.
KB: I NEVER envisioned schools actually teaching Gender Outlaw. I wrote it for people who wanted to study it from a different point of view, but never thought it would catch on like it has. Eerie. David Harrison predicted it'd take off the way it did.
SBB: As I was saying. There are certain bad grrl smartypants tranny sexpot authors who really went about seeding the idea that it was okay to be sexy, and I think transfolk started to embrace a more . . . abundant idea about what relationships could look like. From there, poly was a short step.
SBB: Your books are taught in hundreds of universities. You pack rooms when you lecture about gender, and what it's not and never has been. That's always been my experience, or one of my experiences, of transgender.
KB: ::reaching down, lifting your chin up to bring your eyes to mine:: You are a very good bad boy.
SBB: ::grinning right up into your eyes:: Why thank you, ma'am. I do try.
KB: I know re: yours and others' experience of your generation. And that's WEIRD!
KB: All I wanted to do was be pretty.
KB: Really.
KB: Honest.
SBB: I know. But you know how that authenticity thing works. It draws people like nothing else in the world. It certainly drew me.
KB: Oh, so you're not bad . . . you're just drawn that way? ::ducking::
SBB: ::nods solemnly::
KB: I want you to know I'm being very good in not writing down all the thoughts I'm still having about me and Sarah Palin out on some Pacific Northwest island. Ogodogodogod.
SBB: But seriously—my early experiences of trans-anything were you, or Les Feinberg, both wicked smart and nine kinds of hot, standing at the front of the room, respectfully introduced by a university professor to waves of applause. It gave me, and people my age-queer, a kind of freedom that was unprecedented.
SBB: I never felt like being trans was The End Of The World.


  • "Gender Outlaws takes the word gender and does to it what each new generation does with its inheritance: take what was handed down, sample and remix the hits of yesterday, and then reinvent and reimagine itself into a new being that only occasionally looks like its parents."—Ivan E. Coyote, writer and performer
  • "Bornstein, Bergman, and their rogue gallery of contributors explore the human genderscape with wit and soul. Gender Outlaws is required reading for anyone who has a sex or a gender... especially if you already think you know everything you need to know about them."—Hanne Blank, author of Big Big Love, Unruly Appetites, and Virgin: The Untouched History
  • "Finally, a book that gathers together the voices of new generations of gender outlaws! Edited by two trans-legends, this book manages to be smart, sexy, and entertaining. Gender Outlaws continues older conversations, starts new and often transnational dialogues, and gives us new ways of thinking about and inhabiting trans bodies, politics, and identities. Don't just read this book, become it!"—Jack Halberstam, author of The Queer Art of Failure

On Sale
Aug 31, 2010
Page Count
304 pages
Seal Press

Kate Bornstein

About the Author

Kate Bornstein is an author, playwright and performance artist. Kate’s plays and performance pieces include Strangers in Paradox, Hidden: A Gender, The Opposite Sex Is Neither, Virtually Yours, and y2kate: gender virus 2000. Kate’s books are taught in over 120 colleges and universities around the world, and ze has performed hir work live on college campuses as well as in theaters and performance spaces across the USA, in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Austria. Kate lives in New York, NY.

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S. Bear Bergman

About the Author

S. Bear Bergman is a writer, a theater artist, an instigator, a gender-jammer, and a good example of what happens when you overeducate a contrarian. Ze is the creator of three award-winning solo performances, as well as a frequent contributor to anthologies on all manner of topics. Bear lives in Ontario, Canada.

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