Ivan Coyote has been hauled out of a bathroom at an airport by a security guard without discussion or a second look. It’s a shame on many levels—one of them being that to miss the renowned storyteller’s words is to forego a dose of humour and humanity.
But when you don’t clearly correspond with the symbol on a bathroom door, it can be hard to fit in.
That’s why Ivan, who prefers being referenced with the pronouns they, their and them, has dubbed their upcoming appearance at Capilano University in celebration of International Women’s Day, “Neither, Nor: How to Circumnavigate the Gender Binary in Seven Thousand Easy Steps.”
Potential conflicts about which bathroom they use pose daily struggles for this award-winning author, musician, performer and educator who travels for work much of the time.
Gender didn’t affect Ivan’s experience much when they taught creative writing through Continuing Studies at Capilano University in the early 2000s.
“I taught a memoir class for senior citizens and, I think, lots of them thought I was a cisgender* man until they realized I was in the [women’s] bathroom during the break, peeing next to them,” Ivan says. “Just yet another case for the importance of gender neutral bathrooms, I suppose.”
Ivan hopes their performance at the Bosa Theatre, March 3, will generate broad interest from across the University community.
Ivan will read from their 2014 collection of intimate essays that were written alongside Polaris Prize-nominated singer-songwriter and writer Rae Spoon, as well as Ivan’s 11th book, Tomboy Survival Guide. Their personal stories elicit empathy and, Ivan hopes, will inspire everyone to help transgender and gender-non-conforming students feel more comfortable around campus—whether it be in bathrooms, change rooms or in regard to their name and preferred pronouns.
“As we all know, university is already a stressful time,” Ivan says.
Born and raised in Whitehorse, Ivan doesn’t focus solely on gender in their storytelling.
“It Doesn’t Hurt” from their 2002 book of short stories, One Man’s Trash, describes the painful “comb ball” game they and their cousins played as kids in the long corridor of a mobile home, and the lessons from that game that are still with Ivan today. “Off-Leash,” from their 2005 book Loose End reveals their kinship with “dog people.”
“I talk about growing up working class in a small northern town. I talk about coming from a gigantic, huge Irish Catholic family,” Ivan says. “I talk about all different matters of the heart and I talk about love—all of those things get lost when I’m consistently boiled down to an ‘ism,’ which happens all the time.”
But Ivan is pleased to headline a host of activities to celebrate International Women’s Day.
“The patriarchy exists because of rigid rules and stereotypes and expectations and limitations. Without the gender binary, the patriarchy doesn’t know who to privilege and who to oppress,” Ivan says. “So it makes perfect sense to have someone come and talk about trans issues and being a person who doesn’t conform to a gender box.”
Ivan will perform at Capilano University’s Bosa Theatre at 5 p.m. on March 3. Admission is free of charge with no advance ticketing. Other International Women’s Day events include a movie night and panel discussion on March 8, a reading by fierce theatre artist and writer Carmen Aguirre on March 9, a ChatLive about women’s rights and religion, and a panel discussion on Neoliberalism, Economic Restructuring, and the Changing Nature of Work in a Globalizing World. For more information, see Capilano University’s events calendar.
*Cisgender denotes a person whose self-identity aligns with their biological sex.
Submitted by Communications & Marketing
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