Writer and performer Ivan Coyote

From Nine To Noon, 10:08 am on 2 August 2016

“I’m a storyteller and an artist. My job is to move people and the best way to do that is to come right out of the guts with it” – Ivan Coyote

Ivan Coyote

Ivan Coyote Photo: Supplied

Canadian writer and performer Ivan Coyote talks with Kathryn Ryan about making pronouns and public bathrooms gender-free and the power of storytelling.

Interview highlights

Ivan Coyote: ‘Public’ means by all the people for all the people. It doesn’t really mean ‘by some of the people for most of the people’. So when you call it a ‘public school then don’t provide very basic facilities or change rooms for gym class, you’re putting up a pretty hard-core barrier to accessing those facilities, for people.

We’re not just talking about trans people that would benefit from more gender-neutral washrooms… Anxiety disorders, anxiety in general, is a huge, huge issue for youth. Starting right in kindergarten now, starting right in preschool, kids are anxious. I think it would help those kids out.

My approach to community is community includes the person you want there the least and trying to have compassion for everyone and their differences and try and understand that we’re all just struggling somehow.

I went to trade school and became an electrician so I could concentrate fully on being an artist.

I still refer to myself as ‘myself’ and I still would refer to you as ‘you’. I wouldn’t call you ‘she’ to you. It would sound like I was talking to someone else, not you. ['They'] is a third-person pronoun and it’s actually not grammatically incorrect. It’s been used since the 15th or 16th century by writers such as Chaucer and Shakespeare. We use it all the time without really thinking about it. “Someone left their laptop in the cafeteria. Could they please so we can give it back to them?” Simple.

I really believe in the power of personal narrative, I always have. I think it’s the greatest tool we have at our personal disposal in terms of not just social justice and social activism and changing the world, but really empowering people and letting people be their full selves and learning to be proud of themselves and learning how to work out their demons. It’s just one of those things… its potential is infinite for good in the world.

I’m not sure why I love old ladies so much, but I really do. They’re just a fountain of stories and wisdom and recipes and knowledge.

I’m a storyteller and an artist. My job is to move people and the best way to do that is to come right out of the guts with it.