We wanted to take this time to remind you about a person we admire greatly. Her name is Kate Bornstein, and we wrote a cover story at the Village Voice about her in 2012 when she published her masterful memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger.
If you aren’t familiar with Kate, you owe it to yourself to read her book, and to see the new movie about her by filmmaker Sam Feder. It’s playing the festival circuit right now, and we found it to be a compelling and accurate portrait.
Kate is a well-known transsexual performance artist who challenged conventional ideas about gender with her important book Gender Outlaw, a staple in college courses around the country. But it was in her memoir that Kate told the full story of growing up as Al Bornstein, a Brown University drama major who then fell into Scientology and became L. Ron Hubbard’s first mate on the ship Apollo in the early 1970s.
As we said two years ago, A Queer and Pleasant Danger may be the best book written about what it’s like to get caught up in Scientology’s “Sea Org” and then later grow disillusioned with it. And Kate paid a dear price for leaving the organization.
As she explains in the book, the things she became known for later — her stage work, her frank descriptions of her sexual explorations — are not the reason why she hasn’t seen her daughter in decades and has never seen her two grandchildren.
The reason Kate Bornstein is cut off from her daughter and grandkids is solely because she turned away from Scientology.
She told us that to this day, she still looks for her daughter Jessica in the crowds she speaks to at universities around the country, hoping, some day, that she’ll be reunited with her. But she wasn’t even sure where Jessica was or what she was doing. She only knew that Jessica had been working in Clearwater, Florida, where many of Scientology’s dedicated employees work.
Kate told us that she hoped some day our extensive network of tipsters inside the church and among recent defectors could help her learn something about Jessica and her children.
Then, not long ago, Mike Rinder, Scientology’s former spokesman, reported on a new management team that had taken over a Scientology facility in Los Angeles. If you remember, Mike helped us understand why this was such a significant change, with many “Sea Org” members being shipped from Florida to LA to take over an ailing “org.”
Mike then posted a photograph showing the new crew of hard-asses who had been flown out to set things right in Los Angeles. And after that photo was posted, ESMB researcher Garry Scarff noticed that one of the Sea Org execs was identified as Jessica Baxter — and that was the name of Kate’s daughter.
We then sent the photo to her, asking if her daughter was in the photo. Kate said there was no mistaking it. She circled Jessica in red and then posted the photo to her Instagram account…
She gave it this caption:
“Oh gosh. Today found a week-old photo of my 40 yr old daughter Jessica, an officer in #Scientology’s Sea Organization. Haven’t seen her for 31 years now. I think she looks like me.”
We were stunned. (And imagine how Kate felt.)
Then, this week, we received a message from an anonymous tipster.
The tipster emailed us a link to a web page from one of Scientology’s front groups which claims to educate the public about drug abuse. The page was several years old and included a photograph. The photo shows some children, wearing anti-drug T-shirts and handing out the front group’s literature. The young boy in the photo, our tipster told us, was named Chris, and was one of Jessica Baxter’s two children.
We forwarded the information to Kate, asking her if she thought it was really her grandson, who she had never met.
She posted this image to her Instagram account…
And she included this caption…
“Just now got my first look at my grandson, Chris, here in a 2007 photo. Inset is me, around the same age. #happyandsad”
We were floored when we saw the side-by-side photos.
Again, imagine what Kate must be feeling.
We’ve been so relieved that Kate recently kicked cancer’s ass, but these photographs only remind us that she’s still suffering the consequences of dedicating several years of her life to an organization that splits families apart rather than let former members influence its current inmates.
We continue to hope that Kate can be reunited with her daughter and get to meet her grandkids. It’s a shame that something that calls itself a church is preventing that from happening.
South Africa heats up
We gave you a glimpse of how bad things are in South Africa since many former longtime members of Scientology there were unceremoniously excommunicated (“declared” in Scientology lingo) over the last year. Now, a terrific report by the Mail & Guardian landed this morning, and it’s embeddable! So give it a read.
We can only hope they’ll follow up this nice backgrounder with the good stuff about a particular billionaire American couple.
Mike Rinder does another Surviving Scientology podcast
A great conversation between former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder and Jeffrey Augustine, ranging over several recent events in Scientology news. Really insightful stuff.
Posted by Tony Ortega on October 31, 2014 at 07:00
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UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49