“I am 46 years old and it breaks my heart that it took me so long,” said Ivan Coyote, spoken word performer and novelist. “I almost feel close to right. I made me. Words made me. I feel handsome, I feel strong.”
Much like most of us, it took a lifetime for the wordsmith to learn to love themselves even if what they saw on the outside was not matching what was felt on the inside. The published author of nine books began performing in 1992 and later began a performance group called “Taste This.”
On Thursday night, a large collection of students, teachers, and members of the Hood community gathered to experience the riveting performance that Coyote had prepared. Coyote quickly jumped to story after story saying, “Some people collect postcards of places they have been, I collect people.”
We all sat intensely, listening to a story about an unhappy man in an airport and a religious man on a plane. Coyote made these people sound like every day people; people we could ordinarily picture existing. The difference is, however, the unexpected crossing of paths that lead them to Coyote; a storybook then to us. Those people live on through us, as ordinary as they were; they had stories to tell.
However, Coyote’s collection of people does not discriminate between the good and bad. Every person is different, and every person receives Coyote differently. Explaining encounters between the supportive and the not so understanding, came with an array of emotions: sadness, anger, humor, confusion and many more.
“I like to think that most people don’t care at all. But some people… some people care a whole lot don’t they?” said Coyote. “They might choose to change their body language, they might choose to change their voice, they might choose to change their mind.”
Coyote understands not everyone knows how to accept, but makes it clear that changing someone’s mind about something is very unlikely to happen.
“Mostly, I just try to be personable. I try to be polite. I try not to assume anything about anyone. Kind of like Peter Pan, I have wrinkles, I have grey hair but magically I cannot grow a mustache.”
Of all the transgender struggles in the world Coyote says that men and young boys transitioning have the hardest time. Society measures them by “manliness.” It’s something that reminds Coyote of their childhood and the battle against their Mom to wear pants, or go shirtless while swimming.
However, the struggle between a mother and her child, even then Coyote says is not specific to gender identity. “I used to be mad at her for squeezing me into everything, but I grew out of it. I mistook that look for shame, and that mistake has cost us both so much. I like to think that I struggled the same as every other teenage girl.” Coyote said.
Coyote wanted us to hear an excerpt from the new performance and book they had coming out called Shouldn’t I feel pretty?
“I get these letters now. I get these letters from people who are hurting. I think people want to know they are not alone. Should I tell them the truth? Are two lost people any better off when they find each other? I can count the times on one hand when I did [feel pretty] and even then they were fleeting. My all of me always lacking a certain grace.”
As Coyote altered their body through lifting weights then top surgery, they began to feel better and more at home. Coyote concluded the performance with the response letter from the woman who didn’t know who she was anymore.
“So thank you for writing me and I hope it helps you somehow. I hope you someday wear yourself on your sleeve, on your cuff, like a medal.”
It is quickly made apparent to all that came to witness the performance, that pants or dresses all we’re really looking for is some great stories and a little self-love.