Review #197 // Gender Failure – Ivan E. Coyote & Rae Spoon

Gender Failure

Having lived their lives with the struggle of being gender non-conforming in a binarist world, Rae Spoon and Ivan Coyote recount moments of their lives as they began to realize they didn’t fit within the gender binary.

Why this book?: We had to read an excerpt of this book for a class, and that excerpt was so good that I asked my professor if I could borrow the book from them.

I have read few books that have gotten my feelings about my gender correctly on the page. Gender has always been a stingy topic for me, just because I have so many confusing thoughts on it and some things people said weren’t even close to how I felt. But Gender Failure really hit my feelings on the nose. I couldn’t read this book in public because I had so many warring emotions about this book and the subject that I knew I would just break.

Spoon and Coyote alternate the stories that they tell, largely focusing on a specific topic throughout the book. Spoon spoke a lot on their career and how their shifting gender would often affect their career as well as how people treated them. Coyote spoke a lot on their top surgery, the process they went through to get it, and the aftermath. While my life didn’t perfectly match their’s, I still found myself relating to the emotions they had about their gender. I had the same reactions they had when they recounted the time when they first heard the singular they pronoun. As a non-binary person who has to hear themself constantly misgendered because people don’t understand a singular they, I felt vindicated. I felt seen.

I loved experiencing their lives with them. To see their experiences growing up, seeing how different they were, and knowing that it wasn’t just [ event + event = non-binary person ]. And yes, I had those worries. Seeing how different they were, and how they slowly realized their gender identities (especially with them being so much older than me! I was upset because I felt like I had to have my ID’s solidified before I came out, but they told me that I didn’t).

My only complaint about this book was that there was no real structure to this book at all. The stories had no connection, nor did they really go anywhere besides where Coyote and Spoon are currently. I felt like it just kind of ended, with no real message or point to the book besides affirming their genders, and possibly other’s gender. And that’s not a bad thing–I just thought they would have more to say.

Final Rating: ★★★★½☆


I really, really, needed this book in my life earlier. Maybe then I would have understood who I was earlier, and I wouldn’t have felt so lost for so long. Either way, I really loved this book for the gender-feels it gave me.

Would I Recommend?

100% yes. Not only to possibly understand your gender better, but to understand that there are people outside the binary, and that they aren’t any different than you.

Gender Failure

Additional Information:

Published: April 8th, 2014

Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press

Page Count: 256

Genre: Non-fiction/memoir

Synopsis: via Goodreads

“Being a girl was something that never really happened for me.”—Rae Spoon

Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon are accomplished, award-winning writers, musicians, and performers; they are also both admitted “gender failures.” In their first collaborative book, Ivan and Rae explore and expose their failed attempts at fitting into the gender binary, and how ultimately our expectations and assumptions around traditional gender roles fail us all.

Based on their acclaimed 2012 live show that toured across the United States and in Europe, Gender Failure is a poignant collection of autobiographical essays, lyrics, and images documenting Ivan and Rae’s personal journeys from gender failure to gender enlightenment. Equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, it’s a book that will touch LGBTQ readers and others, revealing, with candor and insight, that gender comes in more than two sizes.

- Avery (2)

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2 thoughts on “Review #197 // Gender Failure – Ivan E. Coyote & Rae Spoon

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