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Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us Paperback – April 25, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Bornstein considers herself a gender outlaw because she breaks the laws of nature. A former heterosexual male and now a lesbian woman, Bay Area Reporter writer, and actor who has appeared on talk shows, she has completed the transsexual process, including surgery. As she considers her workplace the theater, about a third of this autobiographical work is devoted to queer theater, including her play, Hidden: A Gender. The black-and-white photos were not seen but are apparently a significant part of this informative and humorous book.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

A thoughtful challenge to gender ideology that continually asks difficult questions about identity, orientation, and desire. Bornstein cleverly incorporates cultural criticism, dramatic writing, and autobiography to make her point that gender (which she distinguishes from sex) is a cultural rather than a natural phenomenon. The chapters range from ``fashion tips'' on her writing style to dialogue between herself and another about the ``nuts and bolts'' of the surgical process of a gender change (which she has undergone). Confronting transgenderism and transgendered people is not easy for many individuals, but Bornstein does it in a way that sparks debate without putting her audience on the defensive. She suggests that ``the culture may not simply be creating roles for naturally-gendered people, the culture may in fact be creating the gendered people.'' Her discussion of the ``parts'' of gender is based on respected sources and includes analyses of gender assignment, identity, and roles. Things get mixed up, according to Bornstein, because ``sexual orientation/preference is based in this culture solely on the gender of one's partner of choice,'' in effect confusing orientation and preference. Seeing queer theater as a place in which gender ambiguity and fluidity can and should be explored, she includes in the book her play, Hidden: A Gender. Bornstein uses the term ``gender defenders'' to describe those who work hard to maintain the current rigid system of gender, and she claims that her ``people'' (i.e., the transgendered) are just beginning to challenge the system and to demand acceptance and understanding. Bornstein's witty style, personal approach, and frankness open doors to questioning gender assumptions and boundaries. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 25, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679757015
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679757016
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Rivkah Maccaby on November 28, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read many books on feminism and gender, most of the Ms magazine ilk, and all of one mind, spouting the message that William can have a doll, and Sally can be a doctor when she grows up. Mainstream feminism is carrying this message into the 21st century almost unchanged from the late 1960's. This type of book always leaves me feeling a little unsatisfied.
Kate Bornstein has written and book that attacks gender roles at the root, and not the flower. She is a male to female transsexual, in that she was identified as a boy at birth, and raised accordingly (there's a picture from her Bar Mitzvah), and was later surgically altered to look like a woman when she stands naked.
She has a woman's body, and a female name, and prefers the pronoun "she," but Bornstein does not claim a gender in the way gender exists as a social construct. Few things are as personal as gender, and no one has a right to dictate another person's gender, or even that a person claim a gender. She talks about men, and women, and everyone in between. The "everyone in between," however, are not sexless celibates nursing their melancholia in solitude; they are sexual beings like anyone else.
Bornstein, by dispensing with gender, opens up sexual possibilities that were previously unthought of. There's lots of sex in this book.
This book is not an apologetic for transsexualisn, or gender dysphoria. If anything, it is in your face regarding not only personal choices, but anyone who would dare to judge someone else's choices. This is not a plea for understanding, as books on transsexualism usually are, not a heart-breaking tale of emotional pain, rejection and confusion.
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48 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Graham D. Lincoln VINE VOICE on July 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
As someone often mistaken for a woman, and as an Anthropologist, I highly recommend this wonderful, whimsical, Enlightened view of the Society vs. Gender dilemma.
People often do not realize that a person must read stacks and stacks of books, to even come-close to comprehending WHY Gender is such a Big Deal in most cultures (especially American culture, which is extremely Repressed and dysfunctional).
I have been asking myself Gender-related questions since I was a small child. Unfortunately, being raised in an environment that precluded the possibility of asking my parents any questions, or talking about such things in any other circumstances, all I had were Books.
Obviously, Kate has read her fair share of books, magazines, Psychological arguments (I mean views), etc. Luckily, she wrote about her research, personal experiences, the challenges involved with living "Alternative Lifestyles" and society's response to people dropping out of the tribe....
The most inspiring and interesting concept I found in this work, was the idea that "Gender" is a "Tribal" concept. If you do not act the way your Tribe ("Male," "Female" / "Man," "Woman") WANTS you to act, you get kicked-out.
I enjoy studying Anthropology and this concept makes more sense than a lot of the other theories I have read.
When Kate puts things into perspective, and shows (easily) that the Man Tribe vs. Woman Tribe theory is in-action every day, in most cultures....it is like a Revelation.
When you read this book, you realize that Males act as-if they are a Phallic Cult & Females act as-if they are a Non-phallic Cult.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By amanda_gender@yahoo.com on May 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Kate Bornstein asks questions that are for some uncomfortable. You are asked to question the Gender system as defined by Society. You are also given an insite into the life and feelings of a Transsexual, everything you wanted to ask (well nearly). If you have an interest in Transsexuality or general Gender confusion. Then you may find that you cannot put this book down. I found this book to be well written, funny, sad, confusing. But thoroughly enjoyable.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
If you consider keeping your identity a secret and keeping mum in order to perpetuate the status quo as being "accepted by society," then I suppose outspoken transsexuals like Bornstein have done a lot of damage. However, she does go to great lengths to address in her book the fact that some other transsexuals will undoubtedly disagree with her. I may disagree with separatist lesbians, but I would never deny them the right to speak out about their beliefs because "they make feminism look bad."
Now, Kate Bornstein is no "man-hater," after all, she used to be a man! But is she a woman now? Well, not exactly. while I may disagree with her occasionally cheesy use of the word "shaman" to describe exactly what she is, I know what she's getting at, because the beauty of this book is that most of us, transgendered or not, have been there, too.
The point is not that "she was a he who got his thing cut off." The point is that gender roles in our culture are way too stratified, too rigid. We need to play with them, to find out what would happen if, god(dess) forbid, we spent some time as neither, even if just while reading a book. As unradical and simple as that may sound, it is the point of Bornstein's book. it would be a start toward dismantling what she so astutely refers to as the cult of gender. She does include her e-mail address in her book, and I am eagerly awaiting a response from her to a message I sent.
I also recommend My Gender Workbook, which is illustrated by Diane DiMassa (who I met when she spoke at RISD!)
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