Abstract

This section includes eighty-six short original essays commissioned for the inaugural issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly. Written by emerging academics, community-based writers, and senior scholars, each essay in this special issue, “Postposttranssexual: Key Concepts for a Twenty-First-Century Transgender Studies,” revolves around a particular keyword or concept. Some contributions focus on a concept central to transgender studies; others describe a term of art from another discipline or interdisciplinary area and show how it might relate to transgender studies. While far from providing a complete picture of the field, these keywords begin to elucidate a conceptual vocabulary for transgender studies. Some of the submissions offer a deep and resilient resistance to the entire project of mapping the field terminologically; some reveal yet-unrealized critical potentials for the field; some take existing terms from canonical thinkers and develop the significance for transgender studies; some offer overviews of well-known methodologies and demonstrate their applicability within transgender studies; some suggest how transgender issues play out in various fields; and some map the productive tensions between trans studies and other interdisciplines.

Loca, possibly derived from the classical Arabic word for “stupid,” means “crazy” when used as an adjective in Spanish. The feminine noun la loca can describe not only a crazy woman but also a gender-nonconforming homosexual man. While the noun loca is roughly analogous to terms like sissy or (flaming) queen, and Spanish speakers use it transnationally to describe particularly “effeminate” homosexual men, different regions also employ other meanings. Specifically, Argentines and Uruguayans sometimes use the term to describe trans- or ciswomen sex workers, while Cubans sometimes use it to describe promiscuous ciswomen.1 Regardless of its specific application, the term consistently signals some form of feminine gender nonnormativity and can be used in a derogatory sense. Scholars of gender and sexuality in the West and its colonies will note how the term loca reflects parallels in the biopolitical management of both craziness and homosexuality, two subjectivities that have been historically relegated to a position of otherness. On the other hand, joining the long list of terms that began as insults but have been re-signified by minorities, the noun loca is used not only for but also by gender-nonconforming homosexual people born as men. The various meanings of loca are of particular importance for transgender studies, especially when considering newer iterations of the term in Latin America that expand its usual usage, bringing it closer in meaning to something like the term genderqueer.

Translating la loca poses noteworthy challenges. On one hand, it is crucial when dealing with transnational phenomena to respect the untranslatability of some dimensions of local difference and to avoid Anglocentricity. On the other hand, translations can not only aid cross-cultural understanding but also help us perceive some commonalities in gender and sexuality enabled by globalized capitalism. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, for example, global capitalism has enabled the inclusion of white (and criollo [of European descent] in Latin America), masculine, bourgeois gay men in the imagined communities of many nations as rights-bearing citizen-consumers. Meanwhile, although nonnormatively gendered and transgender subjects have still been predominantly treated as spectacles of otherness, abject subjects, and/or victims of violence, there have also been increasing opportunities for transgender normativity via state and legal recognition — as with Argentina's Gender Identity Law. Nonnormatively gendered subjects who resist or fail at homo- and gender-normative assimilation, however, are still excluded from the imagined community of the nation and are both less visible and more vulnerable to erasure.

Pedro Lemebel, a Chilean author and performance artist who identifies as a loca, has become famous for making perspicacious and scathing critiques of the contemporary, homonormative forms of gayness that cast nonnormative femininity as shameful. Lemebel's usage of the term loca describes homosexual people whose femininity crosses the boundaries of their assigned male gender because they wear makeup and/or accessories traditionally reserved for women — such as shawls and heels — and interchangeably use both masculine and feminine pronouns. While some people in Latin America self-identify as or equate terms like trans and loca, a few others, like Lemebel, identify primarily as loca, and not as trans, transexual, travesti, trava, or transgénero (the latter being a direct translation of the English term transgender, a term that is increasingly used in Latin America, mostly in academic and legal conversations).

In a 2000 interview, Lemebel describes the vulnerability of a marginalized loca identity in a capitalist context: “I think that in the future homosexuality will be a practice between men; as for that technicolor, that iridescence that holds in its symbolic wings the thinking of oneself as loca, it will disappear, only to fall into that neo-fascist concept of macho with macho. In that sense there will be a triumph of capitalist homosexuality” (Lemebel 2000; my translation). The ability to conceive of oneself as loca, Lemebel asserts, will inevitably fall prey to an all-consuming capitalist homosexuality that suppresses gender nonnormativity. Although Lemebel has championed the specificity of a loca identity, his interviews and other writings make very clear his nonessentialist and strategic view of identity as well as his melancholic embrace of its temporality.

1. Diccionario de la lengua española, s.v. “loco,” lema.rae.es/drae/?val=loca (accessed October 26, 2013).

Reference

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