Born and raised near Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada, to working class parents, Ivan Coyote is a lesbian poet, prose writer, and storyteller who has travelled throughout North America and Europe. Beginning in 1992, Coyote’s writing has raised awareness and promoted acceptance of the diverse queer community. She is an award-winning author of seven short story collections, and her most recent book One in Every Crowd was published in March 2012 by Arsenal Pulp Press. Coyote is also known for her novel Bow Grip (2006), as well as several CDs of storytelling set to music.
As a self-identified butch, Coyote’s work addresses experiences that resonate especially with butch women. She shows that simple acts like getting a haircut, using the washroom, or buying a wedding tux are complicated when butches must face imposed gender norms. Yet Coyote’s gentle tone and subtle humour show she is optimistic about acceptance. In her performance at DNTO’s (Definitely Not the Opera) live Vancouver show in 2011, her story of a macho barber who assumed she was male, then eventually called her beautiful, was hilarious and tear-jerking.
Coyote also visits high schools to teach teens about the effects of bullying. She not only targets homophobic bullying, but many causes of social harassment. In an article for Vancouver’s Xtra!, Coyote explains her presentation “is about each and every [high school student] being safe enough to access their education, and about respecting difference.” By sharing memories of being bullied, and encouraging queer students to improve their schools, Coyote hopes the “It Gets Better” movement will do more than promise kids that will life get better after graduation.
Ivan’s writing also advocates respect for those who identify with gender neutral pronouns. In early 2012, Elisha Lim and Rae Spoon – both friends and collaborators of Coyote’s – requested that Xtra! refer to them as ‘they’ in publication. When Xtra! refused, Coyote used her platform to bring attention to this issue, and remind readers to respect the wishes of trans-identified individuals.
Ivan Coyote is an inspiring example of a Canadian woman whose writing and performances strengthen queer communities and enact social change. In July 2011, she and gender researcher Zena Sharman were married after the couple co-edited Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme – an anthology that explores the terms “butch” and “femme.” Coyote currently works as a writer-in-residence at the University of Western Ontario.
Further Reading and Resources
“Bio.” Ivan Coyote. N.p., 18 July 2010. Web. 3 Nov. 2012.
Coyote, Ivan. “Bully this.” Xtra! N.p., 20 Oct. 2011. Web. 3 Nov. 2012.
– – –. “Make it better.” Xtra! N.p., 18 Nov. 2010. Web. 3 Nov. 2012.
– – –. “Name calling.” Xtra! N.p., 4 May 2011. Web. 3 Nov. 2012.
– – –. “‘They’ is me.” Xtra! N.p., 12 Jan. 2012. Web. 3 Nov. 2012.
Ivan Coyote shares a lovely tale of an unexpected gift on DNTO. YouTube. N.p., 28 Oct.
2011. Web. 3 Nov. 2012.
“Ivan Coyote.” The Coast. N.p., 3 Nov. 2011. Web. 10 Nov. 2012.
Lam, Brian. “Billeh and Shyla: workin’ it at Ivan and Zena’s wedding.” Arsenalia. N.p.,
10 July 2011. Web. 3 Nov. 2012.
“One in Every Crowd.” Arsenal Pulp Press. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2012.
“Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme.” Amazon. N.p., 3 May 2011. Web. 3 Nov. 2012.
“Writer-in-Residence, 2012-13.” University of Western Ontario. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2012.