I’ve set up a google alert for ‘transgender’ so I can keep abreast of transgender news and activity on the internet, since my favourite part of my new job is about transgender stuff.
So, on my first day with the new Google alert, I was google-alerted that Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon were playing a FREE concert at Carleton U that very night. I’ve gone to a few Ivan Coyote events, and I’ve read most of her books, and she’s on my top five favourite Canadian celebrities list. She’s a storyteller, a writer, a teacher, a glockenspiel player, and she’s one of the Top Ten Hottest Butches in North America.
I was never really sure if she was transgender or not, since she seems a little elusive when it comes to labels. You can’t quite pin her down that way. She dresses like a guy and gets her hair cut by a barber and I think she drives a pickup truck and has her own tool belt and she’s got a hot wife and she does a couple of things anatomically to make herself look and feel more masculine. On the other hand, she refers to herself with female pronouns, doesn’t take hormones (although, as she points out, we’re ALL on hormones), and hasn’t had any sex realignment surgery…yet.
She and Rae Spoon, a singer-songwriter from Calgary (Rae uses the “their” pronoun as opposed to he or she), teamed up to create a show called Gender Failure, which is about their failure to fit into the binary gender system. (Or maybe it’s about the binary gender system’s failure to accommodate them.)
There’s a whole spectrum of gender possibilities out there, and this show is about that. About what it means to be neither male nor female, or to be both, or to be the one that you’re not ‘supposed’ to be. It’s about the struggles of these two people, and of trans people in general, to live authentically and be themselves. It’s about growing up different, and the accompanying stigma, bullying, shame, pain, sadness, courage, friendship, humour, self-discovery and self-acceptance.
This is a powerful piece of performance art, with music, deeply personal stories and liberal amounts of humour. I love the way Ivan and Rae challenge each other to step beyond their own comfort zones and try new things. Ivan was singing and playing the guitar and Rae was telling stories…it was great. The whole show was entertaining and enlightening…I laughed really hard about Ivan’s breasts, and I cried about Rosie, who is probably dead.
If you get a chance to see Gender Failure, I can’t recommend it highly enough. They’ve played everywhere from New York City to Maynooth, Ontario, of all places. They’re in Toronto tonight. (Special note to Mudmama: they’re doing a house concert in Wolfville on December 5. Get tickets!)