Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us

Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us - Kate Bornstein OK, I'm not getting sleep any time soon, so I am going to go ahead and write this review.

I loved this book. I love it a lot. I already knew I was going to, as Bornstein left a hugely positive impression on me during her key-note speech at Gender Odyssey '15. The book is pretty dated, but the message on the gender binary is something that speaks across the years of shifting cultural landscapes of the LGBT community. Her points on the concept of androgyny simply reaffirming the binary by implicating male and female as two natural bases and everything else as an in-between of those bases, were especially nice to see put into words.

While I agree with basically all of the meat of Bornstein's theorizing and critiques regarding the binary gender system, the issue of its enforcement particularly on transgender people, and some criticisms of the cisgender LGB populations, there were a few things I have to criticize.

(ETA: I forgot to include this in the review:)

The big one I disagree with is Bornstein saying that when it comes to homophobia, it is all based on gender nonconformance, and sexual practice has nothing to do with it. As a gender nonconforming gay trans man, I extremely disagree. Yes, when you are noticeably GNC, noticeably read as 'gay', you are opened up to so much more scrutiny, debasement and violence from homophobes. But that doesn't mean gender-conforming, "straight-passing" gay people are in the clear. How many times has a gay person gotten along in life without anyone realizing they were gay, because they don't "look or sound gay", and then ended up dead as soon as they think it's safe to come out?

Hetero perceptions of "gay sex" are absolutely a huge part of homophobia. The very basis for homophobia in Western society comes down to Leviticus 18:22: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." How much homophobic rhetoric and insults from straight men directly target sex between men? How many straight men flip out when learning a friend or acquaintance is gay, because "what if he tries to fuck me?" How much of the disgust straight men voice for gay men comes down to the idea of bottoming for anal sex or sucking another man's dick, because it's "the woman's role" and debasing, that to be the receptive partner is a sign of weakness?

"Gay sex" in itself could be seen as transgressing SEXUAL gender roles (gay/bi men taking the "woman's role" and vice verse for lesbians/bi women), which could then fit into Bornstein's theory, but she went out of her way to assert her belief that gender roles are separate from anything sexual in the instance of homophobia. It is just beyond naive to me.

Another issue is the insinuation that BDSM subculture and by association other alternative sexuality/kink subcultures are inherently "queer" and thus face the same issues as LGBT people. Very untrue. I don't know what it was like in the 80s/90s, and I don't know what it was like in Bornstein's particular S/M scene, which she describes as lesbian S/M, but overall kink scenes are definitely dominated (no pun intended) by cisgender-straight kinksters. The sides of these subcultures where cis-straight people make up the bulk of enthusiasts is usually homophobic and transphobic, either overtly or in a fetishistic way spun into a positive light. This isn't even touching on the sexism/misogyny perpetuated by cis-straight male doms. Also I just hate this assumption that overly sexual subcultures all have to do with LGBT people, a group that has been demonized on the basis of our sexual intimacy, which is usually greatly distorted to OVERsexualize us to better be painted as morally depraved by Christian puritans.

Basically, at the end of the day, cis-straight kinksters are still cisgender and straight, and beyond their sexual tastes they are no different than non-kink cisgender straight people, and they get all the same societal and cultural benefits. I don't see why they should ever be grouped with LGBT people.

Other than that I love this book more than I can properly convey in writing at 6am on no sleep.

I really recommend this to all transgender people, especially if you identify as nonbinary, genderqueer, or are gender-non-conforming.