Provocative writer and former Xtra contributor Ivan Coyote is in Ottawa this week reading from their (Coyote prefers the non-gender-specific pronouns "they/their") latest book, a collection of stories aimed at young adults (and their parents) titled One in Every Crowd. Hailing from Whitehorse, Coyote will read as part of the Northern Scene series Saturday, April 27. Xtra chatted with Coyote in advance of the event.
You visited Ottawa’s Spectrum Youth Group this week. Tell me about that experience. What do you make of the queer youth of today?
It was fantastic. We had a great time. I did a school show in the morning, at Sir Wilfred Laurier. They flew a rainbow flag for me. It was organized by the Ottawa Public Library. I’m in town for the Northern Scene. It’s a festival of northern performers, so performers from all over the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Northern Labrador, all over northern Canada. I’m here as part of that festival, which is a coproduction with the Ottawa Writers' Festival. The Ottawa Public Library got in touch with me and asked if I wanted to do some stuff with the youth, and I said yes. I did Sir Wilfred Laurier school yesterday, and I’m going to Ridgemont High today. I did a reading and question-and-answer and hung out with the youth at Spectrum last night.
Were there any surprises?
I’m not surprised anymore because I do a lot of work in public high schools, but I’m always taken aback by how savvy the queer youth are, how smart they seem. And how together and self-aware. I don’t remember feeling like I had that kind of political analysis or that kind of big-picture, world view of politics that I see. I’m talking about kids from rural places, too. I go to some really small towns to do some high school gigs, as well, right to inner-city Toronto, right across the spectrum.
What are your thoughts on gender expression not being included in the federal trans rights bill, C-279?
Obviously I think that passing legislation isn’t going to force anyone to be compassionate, but it’s part of the whole multitiered approach that we have to use, that we have to enact and keep fighting for until trans people are treated the same way as everybody else in the country. I think it should be part of it.
Our prime minister didn’t vote in favour of C-279. Along with that move and the funding of the religious, private institution Crandall University, some activists say that our prime minister is transphobic and homophobic. What do you make of this statement?
I hate Stephen Harper. On so many levels, I don’t think he’s a friend to any of us. I don’t just mean queer people; I mean Canadians.
"A Butch Roadmap"
Northern Scene: Ivan Coyote and Taqralik Partridge
Sat, April 27, 8:30pm
Knox Presbyterian Church
120 Lisgar St