Kate Bornstein in Chicago

By , November 1, 2011 4:49 pm

Had a chance to see Kate Bornstein speak today at Chicago Kent College of Law, which was lovely. My dad teaches at the law school, and I found out about the event through him. My notes are kind of disjointed, since I was only jotting down things that struck with me and don’t have the whole arching narrative of her presentation. That said, here are some things that stuck with me.

Kate talked a lot about things which were familiar to me, even if much of the audience hadn’t been previously exposed. Things like identity politics, the importance of allowing existence outside the binary, and how hierarchical systems of identity (where this age/gender/race/religion/class/etc is better than that age/gender/race/religion/class/etc) inherently create problems.

I liked her Venn diagram about “why live?” a question she examined in Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide. Kate argued that our whole person-hood consists of overlapping components of Identity (sex/gender/race/all that other stuff), Desire (what we want) and Power (our ability to get what we want). More specifically, they’re all interconnected: Our ability to get what we desire depends in part on our power which depends in part on our identity which depends in part on our desires, and so on and on.

Part of the reason binary systems create problems, she said, is that they limit all three of those components of our personhood. As she put it (which I love), “To see in binary is to lose your imagination.” (That may not be word-for-word, but that’s the idea.)

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