This is the second book by Ivan Coyote and first by Rae Spoon that I’ve read, and I found myself just as entranced by Gender Failure as I did by Tomboy Survival Guide.
Gender Failure is a collection of short biographical essays and stories, following the authors’ explorations and and discoveries of their genders. Coyote and Spoon have a lot in common. Among other things, both were born in rural Canada to working class families and both identify outside of the gender binary, including using they/them pronouns.
The stories Coyote and Spoon share in this book are vivid and emotional. In particular I found myself struck by Rae Spoon’s pieces about their time spent identifying as a trans man and Ivan Coyote’s pieces addressing their journey to getting top surgery without first taking hormones. Both of these stories will be comforting to readers who are still figuring out where they fall within or without of the gender spectrum. It is easy to feel, especially in the LGBT community, that once you know/decide who you are that that will never change. Both authors challenge this idea, Spoon especially; Instead opting for allowance for changing identity over time. Their experience using labels that feel right at the time, but being willing to change if a better word comes along is a fantastic example of both the fluidity of identity over time and the limitations of language to accurately describe the human experience.
In addition to allowing for change over time, Spoon and Coyote challenge what it means to identify with a label. When Coyote describes their experience leading up to and having top surgery, they mention several times the expectation that exists in the community and the medical industry that people who have these surgeries also be on hormone treatments. Gender related surgeries, readers are reminded, are expected to be utilized by Trans folks. And the definition of Trans can be very restrictive at times. Coyote opts not to take hormones, as it’s not right for them, and in doing so breaks open the rigid box of what people think it means to be trans.
As I said above, I’ve found Ivan Coyote’s writing to be enlightening and uplifting through several of their works that I’ve read. In Gender Failure, I found Rae Spoon’s writing to be the same. I definitely recommend both this book and Coyote’s Tomboy Survival Guide to anyone looking to read about gender experiences that are outside what is primarily shown in the media today.
Find this book on: Goodreads