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My New Gender Workbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving World Peace Through Gender Anarchy and Sex Positivity

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Cultural theorists have written loads of smart but difficult-to-fathom texts on gender theory, but most fail to provide a hands-on, accessible guide for those trying to sort out their own sexual identities. In My Gender Workbook, transgender activist Kate Bornstein brings theory down to Earth and provides a practical approach to living with or without a gender.

Bornstein starts from the premise that there are not just two genders performed in today's world, but countless genders lumped under the two-gender framework. Using a unique, deceptively simple and always entertaining workbook format, complete with quizzes, exercises, and puzzles, Bornstein gently but firmly guides readers toward discovering their own unique gender identity.

Since its first publication in 1997, My Gender Workbook has been challenging, encouraging, questioning, and helping those trying to figure out how to become a "real man," a "real woman," or "something else entirely." In this exciting new edition of her classic text, Bornstein re-examines gender in light of issues like race, class, sexuality, and language. With new quizzes, new puzzles, new exercises, and plenty of Kate's playful and provocative style, My New Gender Workbook promises to help a new generation create their own unique place on the gender spectrum.

312 pages, Paperback

First published December 1, 2012

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About the author

Kate Bornstein

30 books497 followers
Kate Bornstein is a Jewish-American author, playwright, performance artist, and gender theorist.

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5 stars
132 (32%)
4 stars
139 (34%)
3 stars
85 (21%)
2 stars
34 (8%)
1 star
14 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 42 reviews
Profile Image for Cal.
297 reviews9 followers
August 11, 2016
I'm liberal, ace, and genderqueer, and there is a lot of stuff I did not agree with in this book. First of all, the way it's written is really only going to convince people who already are in this area of thought. Anyone who is approaching these ideas for the first time, especially if they come from a conservative mindset, are not going to be moved by anything she has to say and on the contrary be repelled by most of it due to the way she presents it, just like how a Pride Parade Recap on tv repels conservative viewers by focusing on fringe/shock value. Wrapping gender up with sex positivity is a mistake and it's better to separate the movements. One can be a "gender anarchist" without being a sex positivity activist or even believing in the free sex culture, but she doesn't give you that option as she writes the book just assuming you agree with all of it. She also spends a surprising amount of time promoting BDSM which seemed very unnecessary for a workbook about gender. I get that sex and gender are linked, but the focus was too much on sex in this book. I'm not trying to be anti-sex here or even anti-bdsm, people can do what they want if its consensual, I'm just saying that the author makes a mistake by assuming the reader is going to be on the same page as her with this, and will turn readers who don't agree with that aspect against the idea of looking past the gender binary by association.

She also tries to push this idea that if you are going to mess with gender, you better be fierce and fabulous about it, but why? It feels like it was written for drag queens/kings by a drag queen. For those of us who are introverted or just want to be ourselves and not call attention to our nonconformity as much as possible, that is annoying advice to be given and feels a bit clueless about the lowkey noncombative personalities of a great percentage of people who are gender nonconforming. It also alienates those with this kind of interoverted, quiet, unpolitical personality who are coming into this topic for the first time with thoughts of being genderqueer in mind, but read these sorts of books and watch the parades on tv and are convinced that they won't fit in with the people in the movement, and that is absolutely not true, as most of us are NOT like "fierce and fabulous", at least looking at the large number of lgbt people I personally know. Rather most of us are pretty much otherwise typical.

It's also a bit too cutesy with 'auntie' and 'honey' and etc. And there's a chunk of pointless judeo-christian god stuff near the end (that certainly is not there for the benefit of conservative readers, as they would be offended by her take on it, so I don't know who it's there for the benefit of).

Well anyway, there are other things I did not agree with but I won't get into them here. It wasn't the worst book, but I probably wouldn't bother recommending it to people who want to learn about gender variance. An internet or youtube vlog search would give them a more realistic look at the movement.
Profile Image for Mathew Walls.
398 reviews12 followers
November 23, 2014
Someone recommended this book to me a while ago and I just got around to giving it a look today, but I couldn't read it. The author's style and tone is just utterly insufferable. "Look at me being all subversive and in-your-face and quoting Doctor Who." It kind of feels like it was written by Tumblr.
Profile Image for Erin Sterling.
1,146 reviews18 followers
March 18, 2015
Most of us think of gender as a (mostly) binary thing and we use it all the time: divide into girls and boys, the gender gap in college admissions, why girls aren't going into computer science, etc. This book will challenge your thinking of what gender is and look at all sorts of different aspects of gender. Written by a transgender woman, the book is a mix of quizzes (a la your favorite teen magazines) and information about gender identity, sexual orientation, sex, and a whole lot more. It's a bit on the edge for a middle school collection--certainly not because of its discussion of gender, but more for the sexual content. (Read it before you buy it, in other words). Also, I found some of the quizzes and writing a little cheesy and sometimes confusing--it's definitely aimed more at people who are questioning their gender, but for people who are comfortable with/haven't thought about their gender, the options on the quiz don't always fit. Definitely worth getting.
Profile Image for Jordan Lombard.
Author 2 books51 followers
March 23, 2016
As a gender neutral asexual (ace) who is also quiet and introverted, this book wasn't for me. I found a lot of the quizzes (and there are a lot) difficult to answer mostly because they don't take aces into consideration and are mostly about sex or PDAs. I'm not into PDAs, not because I'm afraid of what others will think, do, or say, but just because I'm not into that kind of action, even at home in private.

Don't get me wrong, aside from that aspect, I do like what she has to say, and I thoroughly enjoyed her other book, Gender Outlaw. This one just didn't work for me, and so I didn't get too far before giving up.
Profile Image for Kelsey.
1 review
August 19, 2013
The new gender workbook is excellent. It really helped me to answer the question "what is gender?"- surprisingly hard to answer, right? The book has helped me to understand my own identity and expression. A must read for anyone in the trans* spectrum, interested in gender theory, or just curious! Easy to follow whether you're a novice or well versed in queer studies. A+ Kate!
Profile Image for Zo.
37 reviews25 followers
April 20, 2014
Fun layout, cute graphics, but too many problematic aspects (appropriation of native terms ie. "twibe", mock portrayals of religion, etc) that prevents it from being anymore than 3 stars.
Profile Image for Marianne.
1,251 reviews28 followers
January 3, 2023
Much of value and a fair amount of frustrating grist to chew on, which is exactly how it should be.

CN: I strongly prefer when books don't use hypothetical sexual abuse of a child to make a not very related and probably unnecessary rhetorical point, even once. You'd think this would come up a lot less often than it does. Sigh.
Profile Image for Kit.
714 reviews58 followers
May 14, 2021
More like 3.5. It's good, but a little out of date now.
Profile Image for Alexia.
48 reviews1 follower
October 24, 2015
I really enjoyed reading through the book. Kate Bornstein writes in a very sweet and kind manner, which is really comforting when you are confused and worried about gender. I learned new ways to look at the world, and not just in regards to gender.

Of course there were points where we disagreed, but Bornstein repeats through the book that everything is just theory and could easily be wrong. Thus, the content of the book never seemed off-putting.

I feel grateful to have read the book at a time I truly needed it, since it was really helpful and put me at ease.
Profile Image for LibraryDanielle.
726 reviews29 followers
August 30, 2015
I thought this was done decently and had some good info, but for me it was too "cutesy" too "we're best buds, omg!" I do wish some of that had been dropped.

I also agree with a previous reviewer who did that this isn't going to change anyone's mind or make them THINK. It's written for people who already have an interest or reason to investigate.

so for me, it didn't fulfill what I was quite v hoping for. well thought out and well written, but not executed as week add it could have been. I thought the best part were the anecdotes and tweets in the side margins.
Profile Image for aj.
60 reviews14 followers
September 29, 2015
I enjoyed the beginning, especially how other voices were incorporated by way of contributed tweets, etc. I largely skipped the quizzes (it's a library book, so I'm not going to mark it up), and eventually the redundancy and cutesy writing was too much for me. I tried skipping through sections, but that was confusing.

I think there are people who I'd recommend it to with the expectation that they'll only reach 20%, and it'd still help them. There's plenty of good stuff in here, but maybe it could be delivered in a 20 page zine.
6 reviews
July 21, 2017
I wanted to love this book, but I had a really hard time understanding how to apply some of the author's metaphors to my own life experiences. The exercises are useful if your gender expression is already part of your radical praxis, but less so if you're just confused and trying to figure out the basics.
326 reviews
February 10, 2014
Honestly Kate Bornstein is perfect and my role model in life and the sweetest soul and I feel so much better for having read this book. That's the highest praise I can give a book, right there.
Profile Image for Sassafras Lowrey.
Author 19 books179 followers
July 4, 2014
a really fun update to Kate Bornstein's classic text which includes great sidebars from the genderqueer world of twitter! I'm honored to have some of my tweets included in this book!
Profile Image for Lindsay.
53 reviews4 followers
July 8, 2018
An important book that helped me break down the walls of the gender binary within my own mind. However, I didn't love the way it was written. The first couple of chapters were difficult to read, but the latter ones made up for it. It introduced quite a few new concepts all at once, and I think I'll need to read it again in a few years.
Profile Image for Mitchell.
235 reviews11 followers
May 10, 2019
DNF. I gave up. Sigh.

I tried. I really, really, really tried. And I wanted to like it! Going in, I was excited by the prospect of an activity book that would have some practical activities to think about gender and how it works in our lives.

A lot of it boils down to the voice. For me personally as a reader, voice accounts for a heck of a lot of my opinion. If I find the voice inaccessible or distracting then I simply won't have the mental space to appreciate any of the content being presented. Towards the beginning, I felt like the voice was inviting and friendly, which seemed appropriate for such a personal topic. As the book went on, though, the voice became so exhausting to read that I just could not press on. I couldn't! And yeah.

I'd point folks to Cal's review and Jordan's review for some perspectives by genderqueer readers. I also appreciated what Sophia and Lara had to say.

To piggyback off of some of their ideas, I also found the book's discussions of asexuality lackluster. Asexuality was definitely included as more of an afterthought or a secondary option, but what really added to the struggle was an apparent unawareness of aromantic people, or people who are both ace and aro. A quote from early in the book reads:
"Who is it you'd like to fall in love with you? [...]
Who do you want to [have sex with]?
Where do you want to [have sex]?
How do you want to [have sex]?
Do you want to [have sex] at all?
Name three romantic things you'd like to do for someone who would appreciate them" (38).

"Do you want to have sex?" comes fourth on the list, which seems a somewhat illogical order given that if you don't, then the preceding three questions are somewhat irrelevant. In addition, the first and last discussion points I've quoted remain firm on a very particular point: while someone might not experience sexual attraction, the idea of not experiencing romantic attraction is an impossibility.

I don't think this book handles race *amazingly* but I also am not sure I am the person to describe why. Would definitely appreciate POC perspectives, if any reviews arise. At the bare minimum, I feel comfortable saying that because this book is primarily about gender, race spends a lot of the time on the back burner and is not as thoroughly explored.

I feel mostly the same about disability, so would also be curious to come back and look for reviews from disabled readers in the future, should any arise.

Also, just because this *is* supposed to be a textbook, I thought the discussion questions weren't great. On page 44 there's a quiz where the first question reads, "Is your gender or lack thereof part of your self-image?" As someone who's taken classes on teaching and loves being a student, this style of question is frustrating because it's a yes-or-no question—it doesn't demand any explanation. Especially if I were leading a discussion group, I think it would be more productive to ask a question with "How" or "What" or "Why."

So, yeah. I entered this book excited by the possibilities but I kind of reached a dead-end.
Profile Image for Zoe.
Author 4 books16 followers
November 12, 2015
An important book for our time, one I would recommend to anyone who has reached the age of consent. I don't pretend to understand every concept in here, or agree with them all, but I welcome the opportunity to stretch my thinking about gender. For example, I like the idea of there being five components of gender: gender assignment; gender role; gender identity; gender expression; and gender attribution. I also like thinking of gender as the intersection of identity, power, and desire. I like how the book takes a fresh look at the words we use to describe ourselves and one another, and I also liked the discussion near the end about binaries and binary thinking.
6 reviews3 followers
April 24, 2014
Because I'm too UGH to articulate my thoughts right now I'm just going to link this pretty accurate review.

Also, cultural appropriation and mock portrayals of religion is not something I am okay with.
Profile Image for Leah.
335 reviews
Want to read
December 5, 2013
I'm thinking about using this book for a Psych of Women class I'm teaching next semester....because of the affordable price. Other suggestions are most welcome.
Profile Image for C.E. G.
917 reviews35 followers
April 17, 2016
Glad I read this, especially for her differentiation between sex/gender and a few of the exercises, but by the end I had lost my interest.
Profile Image for alyssa.
530 reviews34 followers
August 23, 2020
This is very thought provoking although I could do with fewer tweets inside it.
Profile Image for Andreana.
143 reviews
November 23, 2020
3.5 stars? 3 stars? one of those. This is a hard book to rate. It helped me a bit, but there were a lot of things I didn't know how to react to or actually disagreed with.

I went through this book at my therapist's suggestion, in a series of workbooks/homework assignments to help me reflect on some things in my life. My therapist is a general fan of Bornstein and the be-your-own-fabulous-gender take on life.

I found the book helpful, not so much because it gave me profound insights on gender or the world, but because the quizzes and such served as a good springboard for examining myself. I found the perky, cheeky tone a bit tiresome, but I also recognize that's a personality thing. As an introverted and understated person, I'd interpret all the bits about being "fabulous" as being "authentic". I liked how the tone got more reflective and thoughtful as the book went on, and I think it was a good writing choice to lead with the fun quizzes. It's more approachable that way.

The target audience is probably somewhere between someone getting started with gender questioning and an open-minded cis and/or hetero friend in a disarming setting. It could be a good, light-hearted way to break the ice with straight friends. I think a book like this would be repulsive for people who very much subscribe to society's gender roles.

I thought the Adam and Eve bit towards the end was unnecessary and probably offensive for more religious folks; a less controversial story to illustrate the deep seededness of binaries in culture, society, and even morality could've been chosen. I get that it was chosen because of how much of a touchstone it is for a Western audience, though.

Something that could've helped may have been more substantial personal accounts of people with different genders, gender expressions, or sexualities than Bornstein. Their voice was pretty overwhelming at times. I've done other self-work workbooks before, and those have had more comprehensive anecdotes included as part of the text. In some we follow a few anonymized individuals throughout the book, with vignettes of each person in each chapter. In others there are bubbles of anonymized people's reactions to the concepts introduced. Here it would've been nice to have anecdotes pieced throughout to show the changes in several peoples' perceptions of gender (of their own gender or gender as a construct). That way, we learn "with" them, so to speak.

This is supposed to be a "fun" book, but it would've been good if there were at least some resources given for folks suffering from trauma, mental illness, abuse, or suicide ideation/attempts.

I'm white, so I can't speak to this well. But, this book felt pretty white queer for the most part, even if there were some acknowledgements of how race could impact one's gender. So I think there is room in the canon for a workbook for queer people of color BY queer people of color, at the very least.

I'm not on the asexuality spectrum (as far as I know??), so I can't speak to the ace representation, but it was provided as a smorgasbord of individual takes on it. Again, I think if Bornstein had included *personal anecdotes*, with one of which being someone on the ace spectrum, that could've ameliorated the situation a bit.

That was a bit long, but I hope that gives people context for how to read the book. I think it's useful to look over or work through. It's a book that's worth a gander for the work you can do in it, but take the author with a grain of salt.
Profile Image for Lara.
213 reviews3 followers
March 18, 2018
I kept having folks recommend I give this book a read.

I just don't see why.

I am saddened by this. This book could have been an amazing opportunity to explore a spectrum of gender instead of the binary, traditional ideas we have. However, I think this book did a disservice to the topic.

It does raise a few interesting, if unintentional, notions. Even though the author has worked to distance their-self from gender mindsets, it is prevalent. How the author was raised is clear throughout every page. There is also a clear agenda that does not allow for much variation. Things are praised that I find quite limiting and self serving. The book fails to really address asexuality at all. I found it to be a bit surface level and superficial.

Instead of present a plethora of quality readings on gender from different cultures and event species, instead of highlighting new approaches to takes on gender, instead of bringing awareness to medical and scientific insights, instead of asking hard, deep questions, this book is instead a collection of cosmo quizzes that only stagnate conversations with limited responses available (which should be the anti-goal of this book right????) and long, poorly worded blog-like musings.

I found this book to be a severe let down and in some places a hinderance on understanding subtle gender complexities.
64 reviews
May 30, 2021
This came to me highly recommended, but, alas, I didn't enjoy it greatly. Why was this? Well, for starters, the writing style is highly whimsical, to the extent that the whimsy often obscured the points being made. The quizzes were awkward - reams of questions testing concepts pointing in different directions all summed up in a big numerical mess. Pointing out that gender varies according to many attributes beyond those sex-derived - interesting; asserting at length that variations in each of those inputs defines a new gender - facile, and actually after a while mildly destructive of understanding in a concept of gender that can be used in a real world full of people much less interested in the topic. Mixing in a whole barrel of sort-of-but-not-really-related topics - just confusing.

Despite these huge flaws, it's a book with good things to teach, and some sections are very solid. But the "Ah yes!" moments were much fewer and further between than I had imagined they would be prior to reading; it took me quite a while to finish. I warmed to the author, but I didn't warm to their book. Perhaps my root objection is that they seem to have allowed themselves to be carried away on tangential currents that all too often leave the actual material some way behind.
Profile Image for Evan.
52 reviews1 follower
September 5, 2022
This one feels like a real accomplishment to have completed in full. I think it's taken me about 2 years, occasionally putting it down for weeks or months to mull over an idea, best answer a question, or be upfront and honest with myself about a topic Bornstein addresses. I enjoyed all aspects of the work. The only thing that could have made this better was (another) update. Even from 2012, so much in terms of language and perspective (not to mention the trauma of a pandemic) has shifted. Not sure if Bornstein would be interested in creating yet another edition, but she sure is good at it.
Profile Image for saar.
4 reviews
January 2, 2023
kort: borderline problematic maar it made me think en heb het op 2 dagen uitgelezen dus we love it <3
minder kort: heel grote fan van de sekse = erotiek/seksualiteit discours, over het algemeen niet fantastisch onderbouwd en veel cringe verwoord, maar ook een gezonde reminder dat gender en hoe wij sekse indelen volledig cultureel bepaald is en i love me some good reminders over hoe kleine en onbenullige wezens we zijn dus ik zou het niet aanraden maar het was oke als je een beetje kan filteren xxx
Profile Image for Mekon.
39 reviews
September 23, 2020
I wish I didn't have to choose a single rating for this book. On the whole, Bornstein's ideas and analysis of gender and society are insightful and intelligent. Sadly, I found the presentation of these ideas increasingly frustrating as I worked my way through the book. There's something both patronising and badgering about the tone.

This would have been a five-star book - had it been condensed into fewer, more neutrally worded chapters. It's definitely worth skimming through.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 42 reviews

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