Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
“You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. I’d like to add something to that: You also can’t choose who you sit next to on the airplane.” These are the words that led into Ivan Coyote’s first short story of the night in Bond Memorial Hall on Thursday, April 22, 2010.
A traveling storyteller, Ivan Coyote was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. She is an award-winning author and performer who has become progressively more popular through the Internet. So far, she has produced four collections of short stories, one novel, two CDs, and four short films.
She tells stories as though she’s simply having a conversation, holding strong eye contact and cracking jokes. She gives off a unique air of comfort and friendliness that completely commanded the audience. Ivan’s stories are all true, written from her personal experience. Each one reflects a change or realization she made through her interactions with others. Her stories range from the politically charged, the loving, the familial, and the eye-opening experience of speaking and connecting with a complete stranger.
Along with her personal experience, Ivan draws on her own standing between genders to gain insight as a writer as well as an individual. Pieces like Objects in the Mirror, Queerer Than They Appear, and A Butch Road Map not only describe Ivan’s sexual identity and challenges, they also encourage queers to be comrades in a world that may question or even attack their way of life. She sends the message to other “butches” that they should all be like a family, a “rare species, not a stereotype.”
Ivan also wrote a story dedicated to and extending thanks to the “femmes,” lesbians who outwardly look like any other straight girl, who she describes as “having to come out of the closet again and again, every day of your lives…fighting homophobia” when they are seen with their partners.
By the end of the reading, the audience was given a glimpse into Ivan Coyote’s world, a glimpse that painted a picture of Ivan’s family, lover, and the beauty that can be uncovered through fleeting encounters with strangers wherever life may take you.