This past Monday, Kate Bornstein came to give a workshop based on her latest book, “Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternative to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws”. She began by offering a mini-lecture that quickly outlined systems of oppression and feminist/post-structuralist theory for dummies. Once we slogged past that, though, she started to get into the basics of her book, which recognizes all those who don’t fit the mold (whatever mold that is) and how lonely it can be. She fervently reminds those “outlaws”, those freaks and deviants and queers (straight or not), that living is always better than ending life out of desperation. Bornstein doesn’t care about being happy, just in doing what it takes to make life worth living. Using her own life as a frank example, she told us that she’s wanted to kill herself at six points in her life, and that it is important to take those moments to examine which of your identities is alienating you in an enveloping loneliness. With only one rule, “Don’t be Mean”, she advocates that each person do whatever it takes to keep on truckin’, gods or social norms or binaries be damned!
Besides the simple fact that Kate is a total badass, I really appreciated her lecture because, amidst the swirling maelstrom of mind-numbing jargon and discourse deconstruction that come with academia, it is rare that someone just tells you what to do about it. It can be discouraging when all you feel like you come to theoretically is a dead-end of overlapping and intersecting problems, so having someone tell you how to go on living your life, despite how much of a freak you are (or are perceived to be) is really refreshing and empowering. If Kate Bornstein can do it, can make a way for herself, accepting the reality of a seemingly dismal trudge through a world that is not always welcoming, and still feel optimism enough do something good with herself, then so can I.
She distributed a pamphlet, a “lite” version of her book, to the audience and encouraged us to copy it for our friends. As a faithful blogger, I’m linking you to the pdf of that pamphlet here. Give it a look through, it has some really interesting elements, including a scale of emotions, up or down which one can climb, suggestions for how to do that, and a “Get Out of Hell Free” card. It was a great lecture, and I want to sincerely thank CV for putting it on, and insist that you all check her and her book(s) out.