Through movement and transportation socially constructed terms such as gender, race and sexuality enter spaces where there is no one cultural definition, allowing for fluidity and reassignment of these terms. By redefining what is socially and culturally constructed in one’s home country in these spaces of mobility, terms like masculine, feminine and transgender take on various different meanings for different people. There is no one definition for these socially constructed terms, because there is no one culture to define them in these spaces. “The ‘trans’ in transgender and transportation evokes movement between and across culturally constructed” definitions as well as movement between spaces (Fajardo 530). In the context of the two course readings I will be discussing, “Transportation: Translating Filipino and Filipino Masculinities through Global Migration and Seafaring” and the graphic novel Sexile, I’m arguing it’s within spaces of transportation that cultural definitions of gender, sexuality and race become less rigid and more fluid. The transitioning from one’s culture to another creates indistinct definitions of gender and what it means to be male and female. What may be deemed “culturally unacceptable” becomes blurred as cultures intertwine and connect. There is no one definite culture in these transitional spaces just as there is no one definition that defines gender as a whole. “The migrant is not simply transformed by his act; he also transforms his new world” (Cortez 1). These in between spaces allow for transgendered individuals to redefine themselves as individuals without rigid cultural limitations.
In Kale Fajardo’s article “Transportation: Translating Filipino and Filipino Masculinities through Global Migration and Seafaring”, the author looks at the relationships formed between overseas Filipino workers. Fajardo is specifically looking at the relationship between tom-boys and other men on crew, and discovers throughout her research that these two masculinities “must be understood in relation to, not apart from, each other” (Fajardo 529). The seamen workers are constantly in motion and in this mobile state confronted with a series of cultures and encounters. “Mobility reinforces, informs and disrupts cultural meanings” (Fajardo 529). Farjardo uses the term “pakiisa” to define the emotional intimacy and oneness felt between group members. These spaces redefine what it means to be “masculine” and challenge the dominant notion that masculinity means “masculinist individualism, intragroup hierarchies, social competition, and violence that patriarchal European-based notions of dominant masculinities and ‘male social bonding’ have historically reinforced” (Fajardo 535). What defines the group’s relationship is that there is no segregation between members, that all are equal and accepted. “Transportation calls up gender fluidity and inclusiveness” (Fajardo 530). Through the process of transportation, gender limitations are opened up as cultural lines become indistinct and allow for reconfiguration of gender formations. Rigidly defined, culturally constructed terms like masculine and feminine, male and female, are disrupted and redefined through movement. Through social bonds one’s experience is shared, and this aspect is one of the reasons the prospect of migration and transportation appeals to many transgendered individuals. Finding that space is essential to one’s wellbeing, and to be one’s self and accepted by others. In a world that often discriminates against all that is not normalized, finding this space can be difficult for transgendered individuals.
In the graphic novel Sexile, the author Jaime Cortez tells Adela Vazquez’s story. Migrating from one’s country to another involves leaving behind one’s family, friends, culture, community, memories and so on. It can often be a painful venture, and make the past difficult to recall. “My childhood was so beautiful, but I can’t say too much about it… because it hurts to remember” (Cortez 5). For many transgendered individuals migrating isn’t an option to opt out of. In the case of Adela’s story, migrating from Cuba to America was a decision fueled by hope. On the boat ride to America, Adela envisions her new self, “You gonna be beautiful, girl. Like revolution in the flesh. Like hope” (Cortez 35). What at times is a horrifying and lonely process is also a liberating one for Adela, as it is through transportation she comes into her true self. “Migrants may well become mutants, but it is out of such hybridization that newness can emerge” (Cortez 1). In Adela’s case, these transition spaces become her home. “All the in-between places are my home. This beautiful freak body is home. And every day I love it” (Cortez 64). Not all ties are cut lose when Adela moves from her home country nor does discrimination disappear, but migrating allows Adela a space to redefine herself without cultural and familial pressures to hold her back.