Immerse yourself in the craft of conjuring, creating, crafting, capturing, performing and preserving your own stories, drawn from real life.
By Ivan E. Coyote, Invested excerpt from Gender Failure
Twenty-four days ago, I had top surgery. Technically speaking, this means I had a full bilateral mastectomy with areolar or nipple grafts.
I am a storyteller. Have been for over twenty years now, and this story, the story of me and my chest, is for me the scariest story I have ever written down, by far. But I have been taking deep breaths and writing it. I have and continue to write about this whole crazy journey, all of that jumping through all of those hoops held up by the mostly cisgendered people who make most of the decisions and diagnoses that someone decided needed to be made before I could go ahead and do what I needed to do to live in the body I wanted to live in.
A couple of months before my surgery, I decided that it, and my recovery, were going to be private matters. I decided that I simply did not have it in me to heal and deal at the same time. I did not tell most of my family about it, and I made no mention of my surgery date, the operation itself, or any news of my recovery and adjustment to my new body on Facebook or any other form of social media. As a writer and performer, I live a very public life, but I had no interest at all in my body or my choices becoming a site for public debate. It was important for me to focus on healing. I couldn’t even fathom responding to sympathy from strangers, or the inevitable and inexplicably infuriating, though surely well-meant, hugz from people who purposely misspell “hugs,” not to mention some kinds of second-wave feminist backlash or criticism from readers who have more of an investment in my being female than I currently do. I told only my friends, intimates, collaborators, and my band and choir mates. I planned to write my family a long and carefully crafted letter after the fact, when I was well enough to juggle their and my emotions, and gracefully navigate any questions or fallout.
Exactly one week before I was scheduled for surgery, CBC radio aired a national primetime segment called “The Disappearing Butch?” which debated whether or not butches were being swallowed up by greater access to funded medical transitioning and hormone treatment. One of the interviewees included a shout-out to me as an old-school butch who was not transitioning, and the CBC linked to one of my columns on their web page. My elementary school boyfriend from the Yukon, who I shared a first kiss with halfway up a pine tree in grade four, immediately emailed me to congratulate me on my strength and perseverance. I bit my tongue and counted down the remaining days I had left before I disappeared part of myself.
Three days post-op, I was flat on my back in bed, surfing Percocet and Facebook simultaneously, when I saw a picture that made my heart jump into my throat like a smooth, hot stone. It was a picture of a young trans guy I had met in passing a couple of times. He was sitting up in a hospital bed, wearing the same post-operative compression vest I currently had on. He had obviously just come out of the OR, having just had his very own bilateral radical mastectomy and areolar grafts. But that is not what moved me. What choked me up was that his father was there with him, pictured bending over his son and kissing the soft top of his recently shorn head.
I hadn’t even breathed a word of what I was going through to my own father.
For more excerpts, stories, bio, events please visit: http://www.ivanecoyote.com/
Ivan Coyote is the award-winning author of ten books, the creator of four short films and has released three CDs that combine storytelling with music. Over the last 18 years, Ivan, a seasoned stage performer and long-time road dog, has become an audience favourite at storytelling, writer’s, film, poetry, and folk music festivals from Anchorage to Amsterdam.
Ivan E. Coyote is the award-winning author of ten books, the creator of four short films and has released three CDs that combine storytelling with music. Over the last 18 years, Ivan, a seasoned stage performer and long-time road dog, has become an audience favourite at storytelling, writer’s, film, poetry, and folk music festivals from Anchorage to Amsterdam.
Feature Image from Ivan Coyote Facebook.