Episode 24: Author, Activist and Icon Kate Bornstein

January 19 Episode 24: Author, Activist and Icon Kate Bornstein

Leah and Mike talk with author, actor, activist and icon Kate Bornstein about homophobia and transphobia in scientology, how she lost her family to disconnection, Fair Game and how scientology seeks to “pray the gay away.”

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View Documents (10)
Kate's website
Kate's books

They are all available at her website

Lt. Al Bornstein

In the 1970’s in the Sea Organization of scientology

Scientology Homophobia

An earlier article on Mike Rinder’s blog with all the details on Hubbard and scientology beliefs and practices

Quote from DMSMH

Hubbard’s statement in Dianetics the Modern Science of Mental Health

Quote from Science of Survival

Hubbard about disposing of people quietly and without sorrow

Quote from Science of Survival

Hubbard lauding a Venezuelan dictator for “collecting and destroying all the beggars…”

The Tone Scale

Hubbard’s Tone Scale — 1.1 is the smiling man with the knife behind his back

South Park Trapped in the Closet

The famous episode revealing scientology’s true beliefs

Kate on Twitter (@KateBornstein)


  • Andrew Torrance says:

    Hi Mike/Leah, been listening to your podcast from UK and you have mentioned South Park a couple of times.

    I checked my current tv package for old South Park box sets/catch up shows and I notice the Scientology episode (series 9 episode 12) is missing. Do you know if there’s some sort of injunction so it can’t be aired or if tv providers are just spooked and don’t air it out of a fear of being sued?

    Many thanks
    Edinburgh, Scotland

  • Kelly says:

    I hate it when someone on your podcast disparages people who voted for Trump as cult members. Please don’t piss off half of your audience.

    • Mike Rinder says:

      Sorry you feel that we should censor what people say and that not doing so “pisses off” “half our audience”… That is a very sad state of affairs. You don’t have to accept everything someone says in order to agree with points they make about the larger topic at hand.

      • Goldie says:

        I didn’t see that Kelly stated that anyone should “censor” anyone. She expressed her dissatisfaction and offered some advice: “Please don’t…”
        I really couldn’t agree with her more. It’s old and played out already, this whole “Trump bad” thing and further, for a guest to suggest that Trump voters are cult members is INSANELY insulting and does, in fact, (statistically speaking) potentially insult AT LEAST half of your audience. Further, there’s no need to bring anyone’s TDS into this particular discussion. Ironically, it shows THEIR ignorance and while I agree with your point that “you don’t have to accept everything someone says in order to agree with points they make…”, at the same time, their credibility suffers from where this listener sits.

        • Mike Rinder says:

          Thanks for chiming in.

          I ask you how you think this “please don’t” should be accomplished? SHould we tell guests “Please don’t say anything that might offend Trump voters?” or just “Don’t say the cult word and Trump in the same sentence?” And if this IS what we should do, should the list end with Trump? Should we also tell them don’t say anything that might offend Boris Johnson voters? Or Joe Biden voters? Or Hillary Clinton voters? How about gays? American Indians? People of color? How long should the list be?

          And if this is NOT what you are suggesting, are you suggesting that after someone says something that may offend some people we offer a caveat to soothe those who might have been offended?

          Or are you saying we should simply delete things that someone might find offensive? Or only things for a special class of people? Or just a short list of special people?

          You see, it’s easy to say “just don’t” but not so easy to implement.

          I would not call Capt Williams “ignorant” — she is a survivor of one of the worst cults ever and has risen to the rank of Captain in a huge metropolitan police department. If there is anyone who we should be listening to on the subject of cults, I think she is eminenyl qualified.

          People talk abut “cancel culture” — I wish they would talk more about the “echo chamber culture” where it has become normal for people to ONLY hear and see what they already agree with. That in my view is what is killing society. If you have not already seen it, I highly recommend The Social Dilemma on Netflix. It lays out exactly what I am talking about.

          • Goldie McKernan says:

            * I’m asking you to discourage the Trump Bad talk. Your analogy isn’t really reasonable; no other political figure comes up as often in a negative light as Trump does, as you well know. The half of the US that supports him don’t find it necessary to denounce political opponents in a forum that has nothing whatsoever to do with politics. And has anyone ever brought up Boris Johnson, Biden, Clinton, gays, native Americans or people of color in a negative way on your podcast? Doubtful.
            *My comment implies ignorance only on the topic we were discussing, not about her in general.
            * I don’t live in an echo chamber. Please don’t make assumptions about me, if that’s what you were doing.
            * The above notwithstanding, I am HUGE fans of you and of Leah and greatly admire the work that you’ve been doing for a number of years now. Keep up the good work.

          • Mike Rinder says:

            We ALL live in an echo chamber Goldie. If you don’t know this, you should watch that documentary. Every single person who is online.

          • Goldie McKernan says:

            Actually, I should have said, discourage any talk of politics really, not just about Trump.

          • Karen G. says:

            We ALL live in an echo chamber? I’m thinking you two are defining “echo chamber” differently. I thought that meant that you only listen to/hear people who confirm the opinions that you already have. I, also, don’t live in one.

          • Mike Rinder says:

            Again, I recommend you watch The Social Dilemma. I don’t think you understand what is going on.

          • Karen G. says:

            Also, I wouldn’t darken my doorstep with Netflix. Had it for years, until Cuties. Never again.

          • Mike Rinder says:

            Sorry to hear that.

          • Karen G. says:

            Oh, I don’t “understand” what’s going on lol. Ok. I guess I don’t follow election fraud er I mean irregularities, sham impeachments and censorship. You’re right, I’ve no idea what’s going on.

          • Kim says:

            I did not totally agree with everything Kate said and felt she seemed to be holding a lot of anger towards other people BUT this response is everything as to why I’m okay with the things she said that disagreed with or that I was wishing she would express more hope….she was being real and speaking without trying to meet the expectations of others. You’re right mike, if you tell her what she can and cannot say then you cannot just censor her.

  • Gabe says:

    Given their extreme views on homosexuality, how does Scientologyh go along with “good” Scientologist Laura Prepon playing a lesbian in “Orange is the New Black” especially as there are some graphic lesbian sex scenes in the show?

  • Graham says:

    Just listening to the episode 24 now.

    I’m curious as to why iheart radio puts an ad for an upcoming tom cruise podcast during your show? At first I thought it was a joke or some kind of satirical podcast like the Onion, but it seems legit.

    Do you have control over how ads are put on your podcast or is it done automatically to the geography?

  • Goldie McKernan says:

    Would it be possible to start a public campaign aimed at the IRS to pressure them into re-investigating Scientology’s tax exempt status (probably based on the allegation of failing to provide any significant “public good”). If you would post a unified contact and message that could be copied and pasted, this would make it exceedingly easy for individuals to take action and might have some impact.

    • Steven Britton says:

      It might be beneficial if the demands to investigate Scientology came mainly from never-been-scientologist taxpayers. That might pique their interest.

      Remember that the IRS got bullied by Scientology into declaring the, a religion to begin with, so chances are, they’re quite skittish about the issue.

  • Steven Britton says:

    A couple of thoughts – first, I think the current state of political affairs in the US, in particular the phenomenon known as “cancel culture”, where it seems that people with more conservative opinions see themselves removed from social media, lose their jobs, get dropped by of their banks, lose their patreon, paypal, or Stripe accounts (preventing them from earning income online) etc., strongly parallels the Scientology practice of Fair Game on a larger, more widespread scale. Do you see those parallels as well?

    My second point – A lot of former scientologists we hear from are those who, after leaving scientology, have ended up landing squarely on their feet and quite highly successful – both financially and otherwise. I don’t begrudge anyone that success at all, mind you, but what interests me are the number of cases where someome leaves (blows or otherwise) Scientology and struggles to rebuild that financial foundation.

    Mike, I know you still have nightmares from time to time, but that isn’t the struggle I’m referring to – I am referring to the struggle one has to get a job, experience, get out of debt, re-connect with non-scientology friends and family, etc. How many former Scientologists end up spending the rest of their lives in abject poverty and alone as a result of the abuses of this cult?

  • Rae says:

    Listening to this podcast was such kismet, because last semester I took a gender studies refresher course and Kate’s book “Gender Outlaw,” was one of the main reading material selections . When Kate mentioned joining Scientology off handedly as part of their gender journey, all of us Aftermath fans in the class gave glances and concurred without knowing the details of their tenure in the “Church,” Kate’s seen some shit.

    Thank you for sharing Kate, and just a thanks in general for all your accumulative knowledge about the wiggly worm that is gender.

  • Shay says:

    I’ve been binging Fair Game for the last day or so whenever I can, and I’ve made it to this episode and Kate really spoke to me. I finally understood what it was that really brought people to scientology through some of her analyses.

    When she mentioned that they spoke to her truth when she asked about gendered thetans, and the answer she got about how gender is for the meat bag, not for the mind… I can understand how someone might be drawn into that concept, even if the practices of the cult aren’t necessarily what was answered there, I could really see where she got hooked in.

    I wonder how many other poor trans kids from Kate’s generation were lured into this thing that haven’t been able to get out, and I applaud, like I do all your guests, for her existence really, and her navigation of the social spectrum both in and out of Scientology.

    This has become rambly and I don’t know if anyone’s going to read this, or even understand where I’m coming from, but on the off chance that they do, I just want to say thanks Kate, and thank you to Leah and Mike for continuing to just have conversations with this people, and to give such a spectrum of experience to this topic.

    I love you guys <3

  • joy in az says:

    Hi Mike & Leah & Kate! I’m slowly working my way through every episode and love that you post all these helpful links for every episode! I just downloaded Kate’s ‘A Queer and Pleasant Danger’ audiobook which is thankfully read by the author! Yay! And Yay! for none of us having ‘the answers’ to anything anymore! Ex-fundamentalist Christian right-wing-nut here, admitting that listening to ex-SCI and other ex-cult podcasts is my favorite form of therapy! and whoa, it’s binge-able! Cannot thank you enough for taking the time to dig deep with each guest, and that your guests respond with such HEART and emotion. You’ve created one of the best podcasts out there.

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