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Gender Failure

Gender Failure

By Ivan Coyote & Rae Spoon
Categories: LGBTQ+, Trans Literature, Social Issues, Biography & Memoir
Paperback : 9781551525365, 256 pages, 2014


Being a girl was something that never really happened for me. -Rae Spoon


Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon are accomplished, award-winning writers, musicians, and performers; they are also both admitted "gender failures. " In their first collaborative book, Ivan and Rae explore and expose their failed attempts at fitting into the gender binary, and how ultimately our expectations and assumptions around traditional gender roles fail us all.

Based on their acclaimed 2012 live show that toured across Canada and the US and in Europe, Gender Failure is a poignant collection of autobiographical essays, lyrics, and images documenting Ivan and Rae's personal journeys from gender failure to gender self-acceptance. Equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, it's a book that will touch LGBTQ readers and others, revealing, with candor and insight, that gender comes in more than two sizes.


Coyote and Spoon's perspectives will be refreshing and thought-provoking for both trans and cisgender readers alike, pointing to the fact that the dominant two-gender system is deeply problematic and requires serious overhaul. This book is not to be missed. Broken Pencil

- Broken Pencil

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. -Beatroute

- Beatroute

Gender Failure is an important read for anyone looking for firsthand experiences from those whose lives and bodies have transgressed gender norms, and an important literary step beyond the traditional trans narrative. Rae and Ivan thoughtfully speak to the fact that a culture that adheres to a rigid gender binary is a culture that ultimately fails everyone. -Lambda Literary

- Lambda Literary

Thoughtful, revelatory, brave, intermittently angry, and often quite touching, Gender Failure acts as a terrific primer about transgender politics - past, present, and future. -Vancouver Sun

- Vancouver Sun

Many writers and scholars have used the word 'family' when speaking of queer community. Yet I have rarely felt family as honestly as I have while reading Gender Failure. As if from my brother and his best friend's diaries, these are the words of people I know--or thought I knew--in turns aggravating, heartbreaking, and loving as I would never have imagined. Coyote and Spoon are both painfully gifted writers, serving slices of jagged intimacy with lyric and detail. What a precious, valuable book.
-Ryka Aoki, author of Seasonal Velocities and Professor of English, Santa Monica College

- Ryka Aoki

The book is a joint manifesto of sorts, separating sexual preference firmly from gender identity. It draws us into the roots of binary discomfort with a camera lens that, at times, feels like the Blair Witch Project: immediate, disorienting, raw, unflattering, messy, and circumscribed by fear. -Sad Magazine

- Sad

Ivan and Rae have written a magical, down-to-earth, painfully honest step beyond any predetermined transgender narrative that I know of. At times hilarious, at times heartbreaking, their storytelling is top-notch. This book is unputdownable.
-Kate Bornstein, author of A Queer and Pleasant Danger

- Kate Bornstein

Here's what I hope: that Gender Failure marks the beginning of a new wave of declarations from gender dropouts and gender retirees, gender inventors and gender artists. May we all fail at everything that is wounding and constricting us. May we fail together into something better. -Coastal Spectator

- Coastal Spectator

In a pastiche of anecdotes, some poignant and some darkly funny, the authors show that gender is instead a spectrum or kaleidoscope; it is society that fails to account for human diversity. -Gay & Lesbian Review

- Gay & Lesbian Review

Gender Failure is a must-read; it is a non-academic companion for anyone who affirms the gender binary, anyone questioning the gender binary and those smashing it too. Sending the reader through a range of emotions this book is an uncomplicated journey through the challenges and joys of choosing to live with courage and purpose, forcing one to ask questions, re-think norms and self-reflect through the gender spectrum. -Plenitude

- Plenitude

Brutally honest, tenderly funny and totally real, this multimedia collaboration makes for a dynamic, beautiful and important piece of literature.
-Michelle Tea, author of Valencia

- Michelle Tea

The dangerous and uncharted journey from within the gender binary to self-definition outside it proves challenging but rewarding for both writers, and their willingness to be so open and vulnerable is, for readers, an incredible gift. -Alberta Views

- Alberta Views

In these autobiographical works, Rae Spoon and Ivan E. Coyote, both superb storytellers and self-described 'gender failures,' reveal their unsuccessful attempts to fit into society's binary gender norms. Sometimes heartbreaking, sometime hilarious, these outlaws' tales make a convincing argument that gender expectations fail us all. -NOW Magazine


Spoon's and Coyote's vulnerability on the stage and on the page offer an opportunity for non-trans readers to open their hearts and minds a little wider. The two performers are made stronger -- sometihing necessary to negotating standing up for themselves -- in a transphobic world. And, while every trans story is unique, this book reminds trans people that they're not alone. -Herizons

- Herizons

A funny, sad, touching, enraging collection of autobiographical essays by two seasoned performers . .. The writing is pointed: To anyone who does not believe transphobia is real, please read the chapter on safety in public washrooms. But this book also speaks more broadly: Where gender is a strict definition based on a highly unrealistic ideal, very few - almost none? - of us are not gender failures in some way. This book demands we consider that it is the binary that has failed us instead. -The Globe and Mail

- The Globe and Mail

To most readers outside the queer and trans communities, the novelty of Gender Failure is no doubt its nuanced yet accessible glimpse into the complexities -- occasionally hilarious and often harrowing -- of life in the margin of gender norms. To those of us inside these communities, Spoon and Coyote stand tall as part of, as elders of, a growing legacy of queer and trans artists and writers. -Montreal Review of Books

- Montreal Review of Books

This book profoundly changed my life; I will step into the word and lexicon of 'gender' differently, I will never be in my body in the same way, I am a different reader forever, and I am grateful. Gender Failure will take you apart and put you back together--I laughed my ass off, I cried my heart out, I yelled my head off, and I ended up in the only place that matters: love, compassion, with our whole bodies.
-Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Chronology of Water and Dora: A Head Case

- Lidia Yuknavitch

Together, Coyote and Spoon step beyond a traditional trans narrative to deliver these vignettes in an organic, frank and artistic way. In relating these collected moments in which they had felt as though they were failures at gender, one realizes instead that it was gender -- and all its presumptuous rules -- that had instead failed them. Yet in spite of all that, the book remains hopeful, with the two managing to carve a space for themselves, regardless. -Rabble. ca


Gender Failure accomplishes the impressive feat of adapting a live multimedia performance into a book. Rae and Ivan create intimacy through their charming, insightful, and sometimes painful storytelling, and I even found myself wanting to sing the haunting handwritten lyrics. Most compelling are the surprising moments of hope that help illustrate how defying gender is not a failure at all--but rather something to celebrate.
-Vivek Shraya, author of God Loves Hair and creator of the What I LOVE about being QUEER project

- Vivek Shraya