Ages ago, I posted this list of things, small acts of remembrance that we can do in Alice’s name. Last night, as I talked with someone who had just finished reading the book, I thought it might be a good time to post these again:
kiss a soldier boy
eat a chicken sandwich
register as an organ donor
paint your toenails screaming pink
watch a great war film or kick-ass zombie flick
tell a child that you’re proud of them and mean it
make a donation to a non-profit organization in her name
do something unexpectedly nice for a teenager without an explanation
forgive someone who isn’t expecting it and maybe doesn’t even deserve it
donate a book on gender identity to a library or youth organization in your town
cook something new using at least ten spices from your cupboard but no written recipe
play some rave song in your car far louder than you ought to with the windows rolled down
plant a lipstick kiss on the easiest accessibly mirror and leave it for the remainder of the day
sing, dance, laugh, cry, spit, swear, stomp, shout, write a letter or a poem or a story or a song
most of all though, and if nothing else, you can simply say her name, say her name, say her name.
Any book that is framed as a love letter to an estranged child is going to be bursting with love, but Kate Bornstein’s “Queer and Pleasant Danger” is also raw, funny and wrenching, a memoir befitting the grand cultural icon she has become.
The book’s subtitle “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” gives you the lay of the land but the journey is nonetheless revolutionary. In the guise of the clown, Kate dances into dark territory, making the pain manageable, almost celebratory. She is unapologetic, in your face, and at the same time utterly disarming.
I wish, of course, that I could run down the hall and press this book into Ashlie-Alice’s hands. I wish that I had known enough to cloak her in that kind of armor the moment she burst into the world as my daughter. I imagine she might have reached out to connect with the grande dame of the gender revolution. And I suspect that she’d have received the same generosity of spirit with which Kate addressed Chelsea Manning in an open letter she published last year …“In closing, baby girl, remember that you have brothers and sisters and aunties and uncles all around the world who are so proud of you. Thousands of us, in fact. Think of us, and breathe.”
Big love to the cute and quirky Gender Outlaw.
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As it turns out, I’m not so good at keeping things alive. Birds, hamsters, kittens and that garter snake I left in the sun; every one of my childhood pets met a tragic end. My backyard is filled with the bones of long-dead dogs and one beloved cat. The pots on the back porch boast the skeletal remains of various herbs and vegetables I planted with great expectation. I’m still surprised that my children survived early childhood – not an accidental electrocution or drowning in the bunch. Still, I felt a sense of apprehension when the 167 year-old sourdough starter arrived with carefully printed instructions for its revival and maintenance.
The enclosed pamphlet details the starter’s impressive heritage and celebrates its champion Carl Griffith, whose sourdough culture has been passed on nearly 40,000 times. In his honor, I print CARL with a permanent marker on the side of the tub I’m intending to revive the starter in.
I’m skeptical as hell. It’s just a few flakes, off-white in color and crumbling to the touch. I mix it with flour, water and sugar, then leave it out on the counter overnight. Every day for the next two weeks, I feed it. First, just white flour and water. Then some rye flour, a little apple cider vinegar and a pinch or two of potato flakes. And the thing is, the crazy thing is, it is alive.
I make J and Mouse look it. I call my mother and tell her to come over. I’m so fucking proud of this smelly little science experiment that everyone who graces our doorstep for the first month has to peek into the Carl’s little plastic tub and get a whiff of what he’s got going on. I, who am lousy at keeping things alive has an ancient sourdough culture bubbling and growing on the counter in my kitchen and there is somehow something hopeful in that.
[For the price of a self-addressed stamped-envelope. you can get your own bit of Carl Griffith's 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Starter through the "Friends of Carl".]