Gender identity, in its most basic and meager form, is a social feeling of identification that is intensified by a cultural demand for definition—a grouping of “them” and “us,” a personal distinction, and a division of the others. In its most complicated form, the gender question persistently hovers over uninvited and unwelcome people who are beyond it.
Ivan E. Coyote is a Canadian storyteller, poet, and author of three well-regarded collections of short tales. He also writes a monthly column for Xtra West, contributes to the National Post, the Georgia Straight, Nerve, and Curve, and refuses to be identified as “he,” “she,” or “transgendered.” Ironically, Coyote’s career has been characterized by the refusal of characterization, which has led to an external social preoccupation with the gender politics of Ivan’s work.
Coyote remarked, “I’m longing for the day when the first fucking question I’m asked isn’t about gender identity or gender politics. “It ranks about 298 on my list of intriguing facts about myself.
“I’m not interested in it. For someone who has spent most of their life living outside the box, I find it odd that most of my art is a box even though gender politics are [a] subtext in most of it, and it’s not just about me. It seems like we are obsessed with gender. Therefore I wish people would take their blinders off.
Regarding gender, including all personal pronouns, the Yukon native is considering eliminating any references to them from the official Ivan E. Coyote website. However, he is determined to highlight more significant, more approachable concepts.
Coyote said, “I write a lot about family. One of my inspirations is the human condition, which I find incredibly fascinating.
Coyote believes the solution to breaking cultural conventions is straightforward:
“I’ve always believed that humor is the finest tool for social change. It’s one of my arsenal’s most potent weapons.
The heartwarming and humorous short film No Bikini, adapted from one of Ivan’s stories, is precisely what attracted Coyote to Kingston last weekend for the screening. This humor encourages social sensitivity.
Norms relating to gender
When a little girl chooses to trade in her customary bikini for a pair of guys’ shorts at her summer swim school, she violates gender norms. This story is the focus of the movie.
Coyote thinks the movie, which Ivan co-wrote and voiced, appeals to a broad audience.
“As a child, you have little control over fundamental choices like what you wear or how you style your hair, so it may be challenging for a young person to act in a gender-empowering way.
“Gender indoctrination begins the moment a child is born.”
Coyote continues to insist that the stories’ appeal comes from their unadulterated, pedant-free craftsmanship and pure entertainment value.
Coyote declared, “I’m an entertainer, and I don’t believe that’s a negative word.
“If I begin to overthink things, then that human seed—which I know resonates with my audiences—is killed by overthinking, by placing critical analysis ahead of artistic instinct.
I’m the exact opposite of an academic; if I were to provide answers to all of these [critical] issues before I wrote, I would destroy the foundation and the lovely germ of what I was about to create.
Ivan is becoming more well-known within the CanLit and queer theory communities, but this budding artist will not be satisfied by that specialized niche. Coyote believes that the only way to eliminate systemic stigma is to expose it to a diverse and multifaceted audience.