Growing up, nursery rhymes taught the majority of us about what little girls and boys are made of, but what about people who identify as non-binary gendered individuals? Rae Spoon and Ivan E. Coyote hope to give us some answers in their new book, Gender Failure. Based on their acclaimed live show of the same name, Spoon and Coyote have combined essays, music, photos and animations to tell their stories and give readers a chance to see inside the world of two people who opt not to identify as male or female.

Drawing from their collective experience growing up in Alberta and the Yukon, Spoon and Coyote tell the stories of their younger years and the struggle to find comfort within their own bodies. From their humble beginnings to searching out life and truth in other cities, the reader is whisked along to see the reality of searching for a sense of self along the gender spectrum. Alternating between hilarity and heartache, readers can gain deeper insight into the gender politics that affect us all on a daily basis through the lens of two wonderfully perceptive artists who felt less than satisfied with what binary gender had to offer them.

AB-CITY-Gender-Failure-1-m2From the perils and pitfalls of navigating public restrooms, through the frustrations and triumphs of gender reassignment surgery, to the virtually uncharted world of retirement from binary gender identity, this book takes the reader along for the journey for a sense of authentic self. Alongside essays and song lyrics, photos and images from animator Clyde Peterson combine forces to give the reader a sense of empathy as the authors express some of their closest thoughts and feelings about their identities and roles in this world. As both writers and musicians, Spoon and Coyote both possess viewpoints that are both unique and poignant as they share the very things that they have both lived and researched in their years as pundits and pontificators of the gender identity.

Rae Spoon has enjoyed notoriety as both a musician and a writer – touring internationally and releasing six solo albums – and has been nominated for a Polaris Prize and the Lambda Literary Award. In addition to being a well-respected artist, they were also the subject of a National Film Board documentary, My Prairie Home, which debuted in the US at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014.

Likewise, Ivan E. Coyote is not only a performer but has authored six books and was a well-known columnist for the alternative publication, Xtra! Joining forces, these two form a powerhouse team representing some serious clout in the world of words and in the matters of all things queer.

If you’ve ever felt at odds with your gender identity, have someone in your life who has struggled with their sex, or you are just curious about the politics and ideas behind gender, Gender Failure is a can’t miss read. Packed with touching pathos and thought-provoking food for thought, this book could very well give you a whole new perspective on traditional gender roles. Available since mid-April, watch out at your local bookstore or online retailer for a copy of your very own and see what “they” are all about.

By Max Maxwell

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