Saturday, January 18, 2014

PuSh 2014: Gender Failure at Club PuSh

Last night at Club PuSh writer and spoken word artist Ivan Coyote and musician Rae Spoon brought their inimitable mix of stories and song to bear on our binary gender system, reminding us in ways both heartbreaking and hilarious that their failure to fit within such a system is symptomatic of how limiting cis-gender categories are for all of us.

At the same time, as trans persons who both made a choice not to go on hormones (Rae, as a singer, in part for professional reasons; Ivan for more personal ones), the duo also emphasizes--sometimes separately, sometimes together--just how exhausting their negotiations of this system have been over the years. Slight, high-voiced, and incredibly youthful looking, Rae (who goes by the pronoun "they") could at best hope to be mistaken for an adolescent boy--which, as they wittily commented last night, is not such a put-down now that they are in their thirties. Meanwhile, in a powerful and moving and also extremely funny monologue, Ivan talked about her relationship with her breasts, and how after years of binding them--and following a rather disconcerting middle-aged "blooming" in their shape and size--she decided to have top surgery. Far from a simple procedure for someone who hasn't been on hormones, but who must still convince the medical establishment she is sufficiently "gender dysphoric" in order to get the $9,000 surgery covered.

Accompanied by the projected visual animation of Clyde Petersen (including a concluding sequence especially commissioned for the PuSh Festival), the show also sees Spoon and Coyote stretching themselves across each other's discipline: Spoon contributes more text than usual in Gender Failure, and Coyote, in addition to harmonizing with Spoon on the songs, also plays guitar, percussion, and keyboard harmonica.

A wise and witty show, and a wonderful way to open this year's Club.


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