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A Portable Frontier: Two Gender-Divergent Navigations of Western Canada

Julian L Gunn


Rae Spoon and Ivan Coyote, Canadian gender-retired and gender-divergent queer artists and performers, collaborators on the stage show and book Gender Failure, are profoundly engaged with the landscapes, human communities, and perspectives of Western Canada – for Coyote the Yukon as a psychic home and for Spoon the prairies as a problematic origin. Both also experience Vancouver as a location of queer identity and community (also often problematic). As touring artists, both have spent a great deal of time traversing the landscape of Western Canada. As of this writing, both artists have adopted the singular pronoun “they”.  Trans* and gender-divergent people are often prohibited by social and even grammatical rules from “coming to rest” in collective space and in language. These artists have responded by repurposing and reinterpreting Western Canadian spaces, and especially the process of traversing these spaces, to express gender-divergent embodiments and narratives. In particular, they delineate the separation of bodily and social being enforced by the gendered prohibitions built into collective spaces, and the struggle to reconcile, or even to express, this division.

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