Storyteller Ivan Coyote to perform 'Eye, Heart, You' for Alberta LGBTQ students

·3 min read
Ivan Coyote is a writer and storyteller born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon. They will be performing for Alberta students and teachers on Sunday for a Valentine's Day event called Eye, Heart, You.
Ivan Coyote is a writer and storyteller born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon. They will be performing for Alberta students and teachers on Sunday for a Valentine's Day event called Eye, Heart, You.

(Ivan Coyote)

The only love stories and love poems Ivan Coyote had ever written were for their partner.

But when the Canadian writer, spoken-word performer and LGBTQ advocate was asked by the Alberta Teachers' Association to perform on the subject for junior high and high school students and teachers, they decided to turn to their 5,000 "friends" on Facebook.

"I think the last time I checked, it was like 96 stories were there," Coyote told CBC's Edmonton AM on Thursday.

"Some tragic, some hilarious. Some who met at a gig of mine in 2010 and have been together ever since. And you know, some monogamists, some unexpected, some non-monogamous, you know, some really romantic."

The event — Eye, Heart, You: Possibly True Love Stories by Ivan Coyote — is an online performance by Coyote taking place at 1 p.m. Sunday. It's especially for LGBTQ students, Grade 6 and up, and teachers.

Dan Grassick, an ATA executive staff officer in professional development, said the teachers' association decided to host the event to address what love means for young adults.

Grassick is also part of the ATA's diversity, equity and human rights committee.

"Part of our mandate is looking for ways to help teachers and school leaders make schools more inclusive for students who are from sexual and gender minorities," he said.

He said Valentine's Day is often ignored by schools — except elementary schools — even though most students, around their teenage years, start to think about romantic partners and romantic love.

"There's this kind of gap that needed to be addressed," Grassick said.

"It's like, wouldn't it be great if there was something we could do on Valentine's Day or around Valentine's Day to let all students, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, know that they're loved, that things are going to be OK and in fact, things are going to be very positive in the future?"

That's when Grassick reached out to Coyote to ask them to perform for the students.

Coyote said they will be sharing more age-appropriate stories from the close to 100 they have received on their Facebook post.

"I'm going to kind of do a mix of, you know, some stuff and also like look at love from outside of just a romantic," they said.

"A couple of them are about finding, like, your authentic self and sort of the, I guess more platonic love to just kind of expand the, you know, what love actually means."

Help for LGBTQ students

Grassick said the pandemic has been hard on students. "We know that rates of depression increased for students, especially those who are LGBTQ+," he said.

He said he hopes the event brings students together, "no matter where they are in their life, in their home situations, how they're seeing whether they're comfortable with expressing their gender identity or if they're still closeted.

"For at least an hour and 15 minutes they're going to be listening to someone who gets them and is telling them that love is possible."

He said events like this are important for students who may not be comfortable being who they are at home.

"It's important that sometimes teachers remember that their roles in students is not just limited to being the instructor of curriculum, but sometimes it takes on a little bit more work," he said.

He added that young people who don't have a teacher or other adult to talk to can call the Kids Help Phone, which provides free confidential professional online and telephone counselling to youth across Canada.

Sunday's event is free and open for all. Anyone interested in going can register on the ATA website.