Jul 02

“Gender Failure”: A Collaborative Book By Binary “Misfits”

Being a girl was something that never really happened for me. Rae Spoon of Gender Failure

I am a rare species, not a stereotype. Ivan E. Coyote of Gender Failure

The above quotes are by the authors of Gender Failure, Rae Spoon and Ivan E. Coyote. “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,” states the book’s description.


Before the book was a live show they created and performed in this country and Europe. Below, courtesy of the British Film Institute, is a trailer for their London performance in 2013. The art projected on a screen behind the duo is by Clyde Petersen.

Carla Gillis, Quill and Quire, about the authors expanding their material into a book: “Gender Failure gave Coyote and Spoon more space to delve into their individual journeys from confused female-assigned youth to productive, creative adults who refer to themselves using the gender-neutral ‘they’ pronoun.”

Spoon and Coyote alternate chapters to tell their stories, which are presented in chronological order. Spoon’s tidy, humorous prose focuses on the difficulties of dating when one’s identity is in flux: having a boyfriend as a woman; coming out as gay; dating women; coming out as a man; dating women as a man; dating men as a man; and coming out as trans. (Spoon is now gender-retired.) One anecdote recounts Spoon’s somewhat hostile first encounter with the idea of someone wanting to be called ‘they.’

Sassafras Lowrey, Lambda Literary, further describes the book’s content: “The essays, stories, and lyrics included in this collection explore the often-winding road to self-realization, the process of finding oneself again and again through shifting identities, and decisions around physical transition. Ivan and Rae are both exquisite storytellers and bring the page not only the struggle and danger that come with living authentically while simultaneously having to exist within a binary gender world, but also the humor,and joy that those outsider experiences create.”


Vivek Shraya, creator of the What I LOVE about being QUEER project: “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.”

Kate Bornstein, author of A Queer and Pleasant Danger: “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.”

Michelle Tea, author: “Brutally honest, tenderly funny and totally real…”