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A Queer and Pleasant Danger

The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today

Author: Kate Bornstein

“I was born male and now I’ve got medical and government documents that say I’m female but I don’t call myself a woman, and I know I’m not a man. . . . ”

Scientologist, husband and father, tranny, sailor, slave, playwright, dyke, gender outlaw these are just a few words which have defined Kate Bornstein during her extraordinary life. For the first time, it all comes together in A Queer and Pleasant Danger, Kate Bornstein’s stunningly original memoir that’s set to change lives and enrapture readers.

Wickedly funny and disarmingly honest, this is Bornstein’s most intimate book yet. With wisdom, wit, and an unwavering resolution to tell the truth (“I must not tell lies ”), Bornstein shares her story: from a nice Jewish boy growing up in New Jersey to a strappingly handsome lieutenant of the Church of Scientology’s Sea flagship vessel, and later to 1990s Seattle, where she becomes a rising star in the lesbian community. In between there are wives and lovers, heartbreak and triumph, bridges mended and broken, and a journey of self-discovery that will mesmerize readers.
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A Queer and Pleasant Danger is a brave, funny, edgy, and enlightening new memoir. I loved it and learned from it. Kate Bornstein shares her fascinating journey—through gender, Scientology, and more—and it was a thrill to tag along on the ride. This book is unbelievably powerful and affecting. If Kate Bornstein didn’t exist, we would have to invent her. But luckily for queers, straights, gender outlaws, and general readers, Bornstein is out and out there.” —Dan Savage, author, columnist, and architect of the “It Gets Better Project”

“To me, Kate Bornstein is like a mythological figure or a historical literary character such as Orlando or Candide who, by illustrating her struggles, shows the rest of us how to live. This book is destined to become a classic.” —Mx Justin Vivian Bond, author of Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels

“Kate Bornstein’s journey from moon-eyed Scientologist to queer icon is harrowing, heartbreaking, and amazing. This narrative is surely not for the squeamish. And yet, in the story of a sea-dog named Al who became a trans goddess named Kate, we see the messy, unsettling, inspiring struggle of a lady trying—and at last succeeding—to let her own soul be known. Disturbing and wondrous.” —Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of She’s Not There and I’m Looking Through You

“I read A Queer and Pleasant Danger over four nights in a bathtub and bed and was totally transported to Kate Bornstein’s world. Kate boldly lets us look under the hood of her own transformations as Jew, Scientologist, boy, girl, Buddhist and parent, leaving us with a richer understanding of the true identity underneath: human. A Queer and Pleasant Danger is a page turner, making sweet love to the paradoxes we all face.” —Amanda Palmer, musician and co-founder of The Dresden Dolls

“Bornstein is hilarious, honest, acerbic, and fearless in her writing…QAPD is at least three books in one, each of which is a page-turner.”—Religion Dispatches

“Breathless, passionate, and deeply honest, A Queer and Pleasant Danger is a wonderful book. Read it and learn.”—Samuel R. Delany, author of Dhalgren


Review by: Alison Peters, East Bay Express - November 21, 2012
"Bornstein injects humor and love into the memoir of her life, and you'll walk away richer for having known this amazing person, even if only on paper."
Review: The Huffington Post - October 10, 2012
"Captivating, emotional and eye-opening, I'm having trouble putting it down long enough to do simple things like brush my teeth or buy more roach killer."
Review: Shelf Awareness - May 15, 2012
A Queer and Pleasant Danger is not for the faint-hearted, for reasons that become fairly evident (see: sadomasochism), but is ultimately uplifting, hopeful, even joyous…”
Review: Lamda Literary - May 15, 2012
"A Queer and Pleasant Danger is truly a singular achievement and gift to the generations of queers who consider her our Auntie, and all those who will follow."
Review: - May 15, 2012
"…Disarmingly funny and a pleasure to read…I think everyone can gain something from Kate's honest, brave account."
Review: Bitch Magazine - May 15, 2012
"This memoir shines a bright, unflinching light on those reasons and the consequences of living on the far edge of the fringe… With the brave, adventurous life she's led, Bornstein gives us a reason to keep on living, too."
Review: EDGE - May 15, 2012
“Kate Bornstein is brave. She is very, very brave. Her memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger, should be located in all three of the LGBT, self-help and biography sections of your local library and bookstores.”
Review: Pride Source - May 15, 2012
"This memoir manages to be both wrenchingly transformative and luminously wondrous, a sumptuous literary combination."
Review: Long Island Pulse Magazine - March 15, 2012
“This is a softer, sometimes sorrowful, side of the always-outspoken Kate Bornstein, and I loved it…A Queer and Pleasant Danger is a wildly wonderful read.”
Review: Kirkus - February 1, 2012
“A nervy, expansive memoir from a pioneering gender activist.”
From Chapter 1, “Go”

Disney will never make a movie about my life story, and that’s a shame--I’d make a really cute animated creature. But I was born and raised to play the role of young hero boy. I spent my first four- teen years living in Interlaken, New Jersey. It’s an upper-middle-class island in the middle of Deal Lake, just one town inland from the summer seaside resort of Asbury Park in its glory days. My family was one of a handful of Jews who lived there. I was four and a half years old when I realized I wasn’t a boy, and therefore must be a girl. I still lived the life of a boy. People still saw me as a boy, and later as a man--and I never had the courage to correct them. Instead, I lied to everyone, telling them I was a boy. Day and night, I lied. That’s a lot of pressure on a little kid.


The Saturday Evening Post arrived each week, by mail. Norman Rock- well, craftsman of the American dream, painted most of the covers. I longed to be each and every one of those corn-fed midwestern freckle-faced Rockwell girls--engaging, grinning in the face of adversity, defiant, weeping with the loss of love, dependent on the men in her life. Rockwell girls are especially dependent on daddy. And they were blonde. Oh, how I wanted eyes the color of cornflowers and hair the color of fresh-picked corn. Well, here’s a cover that Norman Rockwell would never have painted: my mother on the delivery table, knocked out from not only the anesthesia, but also the pitcher of martinis she’d drunk over the course of her six hours’ labor with me. I was born drunk and loving drugs. The first words I heard were, “Welcome to this world, honey. Welcome.” Twenty-four years later, the same doctor--Griff Grimm-- would hold newborn Jessica and say those same words. Griff and my dad were resident physicians at Fitkin Memorial in Neptune, New Jersey--a small hospital serving a cluster of small seaside sum- mer towns. Living on the Jersey Shore, the Atlantic Ocean was our magic, and the boardwalk was our magic carpet. Summertime meant sharing that with the tourists--we all had summer jobs that depended on the tourists. In a summer town, the father-son bonding seasons are autumn, winter, and early spring. My dad and I bonded over old-school pro wrestling--we shared that fandom. Dad had once been the Indiana State College Middle- weight Wrestling Champion. He took me to the pro matches in As- bury Park’s Convention Hall. “Remember, Albert,” he’d say to me, “it’s all an act. But there’s a lot of skill in making it look real.” I knew that already. I had a lot of skill in making myself look and act like a real boy. My father was a doctor, so we could afford to sit ringside. He rarely stayed seated. Dad was up on his feet most of the time--as close to the ring as he could get--shaking his fist and bellowing at the bad guys, or at the referee for a bad call. That was his anger. He showed some of it at home, but ringside he really let go. My dad thought he saw me, his son, caught up in the bloodlust of the sport. Nah. It was plain old lust for me. I watched those matches shivering in sexual turn-on. Pre-match, the wrestlers would strut around the ring. One for one, the good guys always gave me a wink. They gave everyone a wink, but I took it personally. When they winked at me, I was a beautiful young girl and I longed to be caught up in their arms. Any bonding my dad and I did over wrestling, or fishing, or baseball was--like everything else in my life--based on the lie that I was a boy.


Paul Kenneth Bornstein, MD

That was the name, hand-painted on the pebbled-green-glass office door to my father’s medical office on the second floor of the Medical Arts Building in Asbury Park. When I turned thirteen and became a man, I was told that one day my name would be painted right underneath his, and we’d share a practice together. It never occurred to me to question that future, and besides, I never argued with my dad. My big brother and I called him dad. Only girls called their fathers daddy. Dad’s patients called him Doc--so did most of the trades- people and store clerks up and down the shore. To them, I was Doc’s son, as in “Doc’s son is here for the prescription,” or “You got those roast beef subs ready for Doc’s son” or “Hey, Doc’s son is here delivering Christmas presents.” Yes, we were Jews but back then we weren’t supposed to shout about it. We celebrated Christmas, not Hanukkah. I was bar mitzvahed but, as I’ve mentioned and as you may have noted . . . it didn’t work. My dad’s parents immigrated from Russia--or Poland--or what- ever they were calling that strip of land that drifted back and forth. I don’t know my family’s town of origin, but growing up, I heard vague references to Minsk and Pinsk. Minsk, Pinsk, someone would say, and Uncle Davy would unconsciously rub the camp number tattooed on his forearm. He always wore long sleeves. Minsk, Pinsk, someone would say, and invariably someone would recite “The Ballad of Max and Anna Come to America.” Max and Anna, my father’s parents, were age fourteen and twelve respectively. They were lovers who together supported the radical Red Russian forces seeking to overthrow the czar. Young Max was captured by the White Russians--forces of the czar, not unlike the Stormtroopers in Star Wars. Max was banished to a POW camp in Siberia. Thousands of miles west of Siberia, in Minsk or Pinsk, Anna--twelve years old, remember--set off to rescue her radical lefty lover boy. She was dirt-poor, so she had to walk--but like a heroine in some Disney cartoon, Anna could sing, so that’s what she did.
Prologue: The Kiss of Death

Part 1
Chapter 1. Go
Chapter 2. The He-Man Woman-Haterís Club
Chapter 3. What Sex Had to Do with It
Chapter 4. Size Matters
Chapter 5. A SciFi Writer, an Actor, and God Walk into a Bar

Part 2
Chapter 6. Thereís Nothing Funny about Any of This
Chapter 7. Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
Chapter 8. Love Was Never Free
Chapter 9. Beached
Chapter 10. Family Man
Chapter 11. All Good Things

Part 3
Chapter 12. The Lost Boys
Chapter 13. Over the Borderline
Chapter 14. Stages of Life
Chapter 15. OK, Kid, This Is Where It Gets Complicated
Chapter 16. Girl

Epilogue: Hello, Sweetie

Some Notes on My Scientology Sources

  • Read These 3 Books on Trans Rights and Gender Identity,” The New York Times, included in trans rights/gender identity roundup in “Newsbook” column
  • Click here to read a review of A Queer and Pleasant Danger in Publishers Weekly

  • Click here to read an excerpt from A Queer and Pleasant Danger on Salon

  • Click here to see A Queer and Pleasant Danger featured as a Publishers Weekly's "PW Pick for the Week"

  • Click here to read a review of A Queer and Pleasant Danger on

  • Click here to read a review of A Queer and Pleasant Danger in Tablet magazine

  • Click here to read a review of A Queer and Pleasant Danger on

  • Click here to read a Q&A with Kate Bornstein on

  • Click here to read a review of A Queer and Pleasant Danger in the Washington Blade

  • Click here to read a feature on A Queer and Pleasant Danger in the Village Voice

  • Click here to read's commentary on the recent Village Voice feature

  • Click here to read a review of A Queer and Pleasant Danger in GO Magazine

  • Click here to read a Q&A with Kate Bornstein on

  • Click here to listen to an interview with Kate Bornstein on WORT's Queery

  • Click here to see A Queer and Pleasant Danger listed as one of 8 books that should be bestsellers on Entertainment's "Shelf Life" column

  • Click here to listen to an interview with Kate Bornstein on Citizen Radio, an internet political radio show
  • Click here to listen to live chat session with Kate Bornstein on

  • Click here to read an interview by the Santa Cruz Sentinel
  • Click here to read The Village Voice which featured Bornstein in the piece, "The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology –2012 Edtion!"

  • Click here to read an author Q&A in the Windy City Times

  • Click here to read a Q& A in Chicago Tribune's free commuter daily newspaper, Red Eye Chicago

  • Click here for a Q&A with The L Stop

  • Click here to listen to a podcast interview on iTunes #1 LGBT show, Feast of Fun '

  • Click here to read a review and promotion for a reading at Diesel Books on August 15 from East Bay Express

  • Click here read about Bornstein in Meta Magazine

  • Click here to read a blog review on Amy Reads

  • Click here to read a blog review on A Girl & Happenstance

  • Click here to read a round-up of The Washington Blade's best LGBT books of 2012 featuring Bornstein
  • Click here to see Kate Bornstein on the Melissa Harris-Perry Show (MSNBC).
  • Click here to watch a video interview with Bornstein on Xtra!

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A Queer and Pleasant Danger

ISBN: 978-080700165-3
Publication Date: 5/1/2012
Pages: 280
Size:6 x 9 Inches (US)
Price:  $24.95
Format: Cloth
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