Film & Video
1 min

Bornstein this way

Doc about trans activist’s life unveils a welcome warmth

Kate Bornstein, in Kate Bornstein Is a Queer & Pleasant Danger.

Activist, author, gender-fucker, Scientology survivor and SM enthusiast Kate Bornstein hasn’t just been a groundbreaker for the trans community; her seminal writings Gender Outlaw and My Gender Workbook provided a template for an entire generation to deconstruct societal understandings of gender. For many trans people, she offered the first glimmer of hope that accepting and manifesting their true selves could lead to happy and fulfilling lives.

How it’s possible that there’s never been a documentary about Bornstein before, I’m not sure. But this year sees the release of the much-anticipated Kickstarter-funded project Kate Bornstein Is a Queer & Pleasant Danger. Taking its name from her 2012 memoir, the film manages to provide a newly intimate portrait of a person who’s rarely shied from spilling the most visceral details of her life in public.

Director Sam Feder films Bornstein at speaking engagements, on photo shoots, at the beach and lying around the house with her partner and their numerous pets. The documentary delves into her art practice, her process of discovering and creating language, and her struggle with intense depression.

Even if you think you know everything there is to know about Bornstein, Feder’s film will show you sides you hadn’t imagined were there. With unbridled warmth and occasionally self-effacing humour, she tracks the journey that’s made her the person she is today.

The film opens with Bornstein discussing her motivations for making it. “The real reason why I agreed to do it?” she says. “Because you said you were going to make me a star. If I was a star, by golly, I could bring about world peace. That’s the ethical reason why. The personal little-kid reason is that I always wanted to be a star, just like I wanted to be a girl.”