The first person Kate Bornstein told that she was a girl trapped in a boy's body was the prostitute her father hired to take the virginity of the Jewish boy Bornstein used to be.
It would take several decades before Bornstein had the balls to follow through on her desires and undergo gender reassignment surgery. Her personal transformation did not end there. With the publication of Gender Outlaw in 1995, she became a vocal proponent for transsexuals everywhere. Now with the release of her memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger, Bornstein documents her journey of gender and sexuality from a ladies-man seducing fellow Scientologists aboard L. Ron Hubbard's yacht, to a lesbian who had to redefine herself once again when her partner transitioned to a man.
I caught up with Bornstein and pried into the sex life of one of the most notorious transsexuals in the world.
LA Weekly: In Greek mythology, Zeus and Hera debated which gender enjoys sex more. To settle the matter, they consulted the prophet, Tiresias, because he lived for seven years as a woman. Having lived as both a man and a woman, which gender do you think enjoys sex more?
Kate Bornstein: I enjoy sex more with this body, with these body parts, but I had a lot of fun with my boy body too. I liked my cock. I liked sucking cock. Body wasn't necessarily as important to my gender identity as the cultural insistence that my body be important to my gender identity. I can only say now, in retrospect, that I had a good time with both bodies.
Can you have multiple orgasms like a genetic female?
KB: Oh baby, you don't have multiple orgasms?
KB:Oh honey, you can, too. I'm serious. Yes indeed I have multiple orgasms. The kind of Mount Vesuvius orgasms that boys have, yeah, sure, I can still have those. I don't know if I have multiple orgasms like a “woman,” but I know that I have multiple orgasms. I also know now that, if I can, anyone can. That is one of the many cool messages that trans-people have to offer the world.
Drug companies have struggled to find a Viagra for women. Part of the problem seems to be that for women, arousal is more of a cerebral experience than simply a biological response to stimulus. Some researchers believe this difference is explained in men's preference for pornography and women's preference for erotic stories and romance novels. As someone who grew up as a woman trapped in a male body, do you feel you have more of a male or female pattern of arousal?
KB:I'm a pornographer. I love reading good porn. That's my thing. I also like line art illustrations, like the 1950s, dominant and submissive, cross-dressing porn. My favorite porn today is a subgenre of Manga call, Fuganari, which literally translates as, “dick girls.” Oh my god, I want to be one of them. But, do I also get turned on by beautiful stories of romance, sure.
I don't think it is fair to say that men are turned on by this and women are turned on by that. Culture is partly responsible for telling men and women what they are allowed to be turned on by. In conforming to these cultural conventions, we deny ourselves so much of what we are capable of. Part of my journey from male to female — and I have since journeyed beyond that — but part of my journey from male to female was “learning to think like a woman.”
Part of this was, as you say, learning how to get turned on by what women are supposed to be turned on by. I think you can pretty much learn how to get turned on by anything. That again is the message of trans. If trans women are capable of multiple orgasms and getting aroused by reading romance novels, which we are, then anybody can do it.
Have you ever experimented with Viagra?
KB:I have not. I would define my sexuality as sadomasochist, and more specifically, masochist. That is where I get my erotic thrills. Do I like genital stimulation: abso-fucking-lutely, but there are not many people who can give me a better orgasm than I can give myself. I prefer the kind of ecstasy that comes with the exploration of pleasure and pain to its limits. That is my sexuality. So no, I do not have any interest in experimenting with Viagra.
What are some of the limits you have reached in sadomasochism?
KB:I know I don't like canes, but, if the person who is topping me is a master of canes, then, of course, I will submit to a caning. I've done play piercing, branding, suspension and cutting. Some people are into skin peeling. That doesn't appeal to me — sorry for the pun.
Was it difficult writing honestly about your sexual history when the intended audience of your memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger was your estranged daughter and grandchildren?
KB:It was hard, but I felt it was my obligation to speak frankly and with good humor about sex and gender. This would be the only way I could write to my children and grandchildren with any degree of honesty about how I turned out… I had to write as complete a truth as I could, which, for me, for my life, there has been a lot of cock sucking and body modification. I needed to include all of that. That was the point of the book.
I hope what people take away from the book is that it is okay to talk about their freaky sexual desires. There are people who will agree with you up and down, sideways and backwards, that your freaky sexual desires are just fine. I hope I continue to do freaky shit until the day I die, and that is part of the fun of a sexual journey, which often, but not always, accompanies a journey of gender.