Discussion Questions Concerning “Sexile” by Jaime Cortez

1. “Sexile” begins with Vazquez stating that her “birth was revolutionary” (3). How does she continue to draw parallels between the Cuban revolution and her process of identifying as a woman? (In terms of power, transition, and even hope.) What does this say about the category of transgender in relation to Stryker’s definition of the term as “the movement across a socially imposed boundary away from an unchosen starting place” (Stryker 1)?

2. Among other things, Vazquez experiences a brand new economic system upon re-locating to America. How did the new-found freedoms (and constraints) of capitalism affect her life and sense of self? Do you see any ties that the author draws between capitalism, consumerism, freedom, drugs, sex, and the AIDS crisis? (E.g., “freedom was like a drug we didn’t know how to take,” “As a prostitute, I had no sexual freedom. I was a product, a service, an idea”) (42, 62).

3. Page 56 is the first time Vazquez uses the term “transgender.” Before this, she uses various terms such as gay, queer, and even “fag” to describe herself and other individuals she encountered in LA. Why do you think this is the first time she uses the term (more than halfway through the narrative)? How does this affect the rest of the narrative and the way she talks about herself? What light does it shed on the previous pages?

4. Vazquez insists that she is not gay (on page 9), but when the military’s psychiatrist evaluates her elligibility for the armed services, she is deemed a “homosexual” (page 14). What does this say about the relations (or lack thereof) between identity and institutional definitions of identity categories?

And an extra question because I felt it was necessary given the nature of the reading:

5. This narrative is clearly different from the rest of the texts we’ve read for this class in that it is presented as a graphic novel with illustrations throughout. How do these visuals add to the narrative? Particular pages of interest: 13, 27, 31, 60, connection between 50 and 64, etc.

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One thought on “Discussion Questions Concerning “Sexile” by Jaime Cortez

  1. She draws a parallel by showing the transition to going to America and also showing her transition to a woman. She does this by showing a picture of a person with male parts falling into the ocean and then later reappearing as a woman. Although it literally showed him crossing the sea from Cuba to the US it symbolizes the transition from a man to a woman. This fits Stryker’s definition since she didn’t choose to be born in Cuba where his actions were illegal and crosses the boundary to the US.

    To answer the quotes, I saw it as a new experience for her. You don’t know what’s going to happen until you do it which is why she said freedom was like a drug we didn’t know how to take. No one knew what to expect by having the freedom to do (mostly) whatever they wanted to. I also wanted to talk about the second quote that was posted, she says that she had no sexual freedom and I think that’s because she wasn’t doing because she wanted to but because she had to. It was a way to make money since other employers would most likely turn her down as mentioned in Screaming Queens. She doesn’t choose who to have sex with, it’s whoever has the money because she’s just a product to them

    I think she uses the term transgender because she had finally found an identity for herself. She had transitioned from Cuba to the US and found a sense of being which is why the term only came up halfway through the reading, it was part of her transition from a man to a woman. This also showed that Adela wasn’t quite sure how to identity herself before coming to the US.

    I think the “gay” and homosexual” thing has to do with self-identity. She doesn’t identify as gay despite that she fits the definition according the institute. The relations between self-identity and institutional definitions definitely go hand in hand with each other.

    To answer the extra question, I thought the visuals helped understand transition and leaving things behind like when he threw the money out the window and showing his transition under the sea.

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