Ivan Coyote’s book Care of Letters, Connections, and Cure

Book Summary

This book, which is non-fiction, is entirely comprised of letters to Ivan and his replies. There have been lengthy back-and-forths between Ivan and their recipients in some cases, even years after the original letter, email, or Facebook message was delivered. They used the chance to answer the hundreds of emails they received when the epidemic initially started, and we were all instructed to stay at home (something they rarely encounter). Ivan was stranded in one area for a long time. Most emails express gratitude to Ivan for his commitment to communicating a trans perspective to a broader audience and for feeling at ease enough to discuss it with both receptive and unreceptive people. There are also letters between Ivan and a friend in which they disagree. One note, in particular, is sent to a woman who has experienced male assault trauma and, as a result, is adamantly opposed to trans women accessing women’s restrooms. Ivan sympathizes with her while pleading with her, telling them they have been subjected to violence in both gendered bathrooms because of their appearance. Ivan excels at telling stories; therefore, even if these letters are in response to other people, Ivan uses the chance to include many of their tales relevant to the issues presented by the original writer. It may sound self-serving, but it’s not; it’s evident that Ivan draws people in with their stories; this is their most incredible talent as a performer.

My Opinion

Many of us take the convenience of using a public restroom for granted. Still, after hearing Ivan’s accounts of doing so and the genuine worries his subjects have about them, I’ve had to reconsider my conception of what constitutes a public and private area in our culture. One of the letters talks about trans people’s high levels of ongoing stress and how this affects their cortisol levels. They claim that having their top surgery—having their breasts removed—was one of the healthiest things they had ever done for themselves, and Ivan can attest to this. Their mental health also considerably improved as a result of no longer having to bind their chest, something they had been doing for so long that it had caused them to lose sensation in their fingers. I enjoy a certain level of privilege by not understanding, as being at ease in my skin comes effortlessly, but I am aware that is not the case for everyone. Ivan and their other correspondents describe their perplexity and, sometimes, hate about their bodies.