Some Insight into Poco Queer Theory

LGBT-academic-expertise-University-of-Nottingham

Gema Perez-Sanchez, in her essay “Transnational Conversations in Migration, Queer, and Transgender Studies: Multimedia Storyspaces”, delves into the conversation about the underrepresentation and misconception of homosexual or LGBTQ artists and individuals.  She opens her essay by discussing the passing of the Ley 13/2005 and the Ley 3/2007, two laws that allowed citizens to rectify their gender in the National Registry without proof of gender re-assignment surgery. Perez-Sanchez notes how the passing of these laws in a predominantly Catholic country seems pretty progressive to many; yet she notes that “the processes of democratic transition in Spain cannot be understood without taking into consideration the contribution that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender cultures have made to these processes” (Perez-Sanchez 164). Perez-Sanchez seeks to argue for a better representation of these individuals, as they play a key role in the contemporary Spanish democracy and have for quite some time, specifically dating back to the last years of the Francoist dictatorship.

However, although the passing of these laws aided many LGBTQ individuals, Perez-Sanchez points out some of the underlying issues. For example, she notes that these laws were passed to appease “Spain’s desires to be recognized by the rest of Europe and the United States” and show that they share the values of modern citizenship (Perez-Sanchez 164). So, while the laws do benefit individual in the LGBTQ community, there are ulterior motives. Similarly, Perez-Sanchez sees fault with these laws for other reasons, noticing and stating,

“These laws overlook matters of racial equality–especially the integration of immigrants into the Nation-State as citizens with equal rights under the law–and the legal protection of non-homonormative queer and trans groups, such as transgender and transsexual prostitutes, gay bears, gender-queers, and other gender and sexual outlaws. One might ask if this new public focus on the legalization of same-sex marriage and certain transgender rights a smokescreen for the unfinished business of confronting racism and other kinds of trans- and homophobia in Spain?” (Perez-Sanchez 165).

Thus, Perez-Sanchez hopes to show and understand the way in which new media affects storytelling about individuals, particularly LGBTQ individuals, by looking at hybrid story spaces. She notes that although some LGBTQ stories are told in novels, they are not far-reaching and read by many, causing even more of a silencing of the stories of LGBTQ individuals. Instead, Perez-Sanchez focuses on the new multimedia approach which can be spread widely and quickly. This is the way that the stories of LGBTQ individuals who have been marginalized should be told. Perez-Sanchez writes, “I am concerned with exploring how to narrate lives beyond literary or traditional filmic autobiographies, especially when those lives urgently need to be recognized as deserving, but are not yet receiving, basic human rights. The lives of which I speak inhabit bodies often treated as less than human–namely, immigrant bodies and/or transgender bodies” (Perez-Sanchez 165). This statement reminded me specifically of colonized bodies and their status as ‘objects’ that are not typically worthy of basic human rights. Particularly, many transgender individuals are looked at as others, placing them in the same status as colonized bodies, as Perez-Sanchez points out. And this is deeply problematic still, that individuals are referred to as bodies, as objects, simply because of their gender or sexuality.

As the essay continues, Perez-Sanchez brings to light discusses two pieces of LGBTQ artwork. The first is an installation piece that reflects and alters the National Identity Card. In Spain, the National Identity Card is required of all citizens. What is interesting is that it started out as only a necessity for prison inmates, but slowly became required of every individual—which is really messed up if you ask me. Something that was once necessary for criminals is now the norm for every individual. Furthermore it reflects the obsession of the globalized regimes to regulate bodies and borders (national, gendered, sexual, and racial). These cards reduce individuals to “prosthetic extensions” (Perez-Sanchez 168). This still colonizes the bodies of these individuals.

The art installation challenges the very purpose of the National Identity Card by recreating it by making subversive modifications tot he normative categories, ending with a flash of the individual giving the finger to the camera.

Perez-Sanchez also looks at another hybrid story space called Her Name was Steve. Despite the film’s attempt to tell the story of a marginalized transgender individual, it continues to subvert and other the individual by depicting the main character, Steve, in total isolation from the transgender and “normal” community. This is the case with many transgender or transsexual films, Perez-Sanchez notes. She shares that most of these films, although starting with good intentions, tend to “depict their protagonists as isolated, alienated from their families, lonely, and devoid of any transgender or transsexual support community, thus constructing them as tragic figures deserving of pity and not as agents of their lives and future” (Perez-Sanchez 173). Perez-Sanchez acknowledges that these laws are a start to a step in the right direction for LGBTQ individuals in Spain, although they do need some work.

Similarly, in his essay “Rupture of Continuity? The Internationalization of Gay Identities”,  Dennis Altman explores issues relating to LGBTQ individuals and rights. He focuses on the westernization of what it means to be gay in other countries as well as colonized nations. Altman begins his essay by discussing ‘modern’ and ‘postmodern’, noting that both terms “represent the rapid reshaping of extensive areas of life and economy in previously underdeveloped parts of the world to fit the needs of Western capitalism” (Altman 77).

He brings up the notion of “the global gay” or “the apparent internalization of a certain form of social and cultural identity based upon homosexuality” (Altman 77). The ‘global gay’ is reflected upon with western values and traditions, specifically stereotyped as having American fashion and being upwardly mobile. However, the idea of the global gay is problematic to Altman (and to me too) because homosexuality is not monolithic and in fact looks very different in many parts of the world. There cannot be a “global gay” that represents all homosexual or LGBTQ individuals in the world. For example, some countries do not approve of homosexuality and anyone that is homosexual is subject to violence or even death.

However, despite this, Altman notes that western attitudes towards homosexuality have reached and influenced other areas of the world. Yet, there is a different truth, one that may not completely match what is believed to be true. Altman states, “Western romanticism about the apparent tolerance of homoeroticism in many non-Western cultures disguises the reality of persecution, discrimination, and violence, which sometimes occurs in unfamiliar forms” (Altman 80).

Altman explores the challenge of discovering and forming identity and sexuality because there is often a mix between the traditional and the modern. Globalization and specifically the ‘global gay’ has helped to create this issue, specifically in the hybrid non-western, colonized world. There is an identity issue here, because the native in the non-western world is placed in the middle of western beliefs, gender and sexuality norms, but also the beliefs and norms of their own country. This is just a way of further marginalizing these individuals.

He continues his essay with the discussion of a modern gay, noting, “To identify as homosexual without rejected conventional assumptions about masculinity or felinity (as with today’s macho gay or lipstick lesbian styles0 is one of the distinguishing features of modern homosexuality” (Altman 82). He continues to explain how modern homosexuals are characterized.

One of the most important driving points of is essay is his closing remarks on the ambivalence of the extent to which homosexual individuals constitute themselves within the global identity. He notes, “Gay identities may emerge in different ways and without the overtly political rhetoric of the West…This becomes the test of globalization thesis: new identities may well develop but their development is not predictable through the Western experience” (Altman 91). Gender and sexuality are constantly changing and being challenged, in both the western and non-western world. He closes, “Sexuality, like other areas of life, is constantly being remade by the collision of existing practices and mythologies with new technologies and ideologies” (Altman 91).


Final Project Idea:

While I am still considering the exact direction I am planning to go for my final project, I have decided I would like to create a unit plan that I can hopefully use when I become a teacher. Although I love writing papers, I think it would be interesting to consider how I could teach some of the material we learned to a group of students. I believe that postcolonialism should be explored in the classroom. As a future English educator, I love the idea of including marginalized voices that are rarely or never heard in the classroom. There is so much richness in the material that could really benefit students. While I throughly enjoy the novel Woman at Point-Zero and would love to share that wonderful work with my students, I wonder if it would be appropriate for the younger classroom–I feel like it would get a ton of backlash. Instead, I am leaning towards doing a unit plan on Nervous Conditions. I really enjoyed the way that this novel explained hybridity and colonization. Plus, it is beautifully written. I think this novel would provide some necessary insight on colonization to students, who are typically only given Heart of Darkness. My unit plan would involve the reading and discussion of the novel, playing particular attention to themes of colonization and hybridity. I am aware that this idea still needs more development; I have begun to research and brainstorm ideas of projects to incorporate into the unit plan that would expand student understanding of colonization.

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3 thoughts on “Some Insight into Poco Queer Theory

  1. Perez-Sanchez’s desire to highlight more stories of LGBTQ populations reminds me of Glave’s introduction in Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles. He relates the difficulty he had in getting the collection published. One editor described the collection as a “slice” of a “slice” and questioned if people would be interested in reading the work. Glave wasn’t deterred and explains that he felt a need to collect stories of the lesbian and gay population that was living in silence within its own home. As Perez-Sanchez notes, novels aren’t always the most popular way to tell these stories, so alternative forms must be utilized. Glave was lucky to find an editor and publisher for his collection.

    I also wanted to quick comment on your final project idea. I agree that Woman at Point Zero would receive backlash in some grade levels. I’m on my ninth year teaching eighth grade English and, even with my most mature and gifted students, I wouldn’t recommend the reading—even as optional. I have a few gifted students that I normally recommend some of my grad reading to and I happily loaned them Nervous Conditions. Woman at Point Zero would probably best fit in an AP course or as additional recommended reading for select students if you know what they (and their parents) can handle. I know other people may not see an issue with it—and I am admittedly paranoid about getting backlash in my district—but I agree with your intuition on its place. This is unfortunate because I know they are reading and watching content that is more mature in many respects…but as educators we seem to have to teach them in a bubble.

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  2. Really like that you highlight the ambivalence people in the gay community experience because of the globalization of Western culture. It was jarring for me to think about all the turmoil felt by those experiencing such uncertainty and strife. I chose the same articles and touched on some of the ambivalence and shear arbitrariness of labeling in general. I thought Perez-Sanchez stressed this throughout her piece. Great post!

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