Re: Mangos with Chili
I first heard about Mangos with Chili only a couple weeks ago from my friend Askari, who is actually one of the featured performers in their most recent tour. Askari told me all the wonderful things that this organization is all about: highlight queer trans people of color who are artists and was immediately intrigued. I think it’s so powerful for fellow QTPOC to see themselves represented not only in local communities, but also in positive ways–while these performers are being highlighted the performers as artists who are authentic. In these terms, I agree that Bailey’s concept of intravention is visible in the Mangos with Chili organization and I would also like to add that their promotion of community support is revolutionary: “We have always said that capitalism doesn’t love us, but our communities do.” I think this promotion of community support is so important in QTPOC circles, especially when thinking about Spade’s critique of abolition and working directly to help the community thrive. When people make personal connections on an individual level, then they are more likely to help each other because they truly care about the person and their happiness. This is similar to the example of helping your drunk friend instead of calling the cops–since they are a friend, you want to help them verses calling the authorities and possibly leading them towards a tricky legal situation. Therefore, Mangos with Chili not only exemplifies Bailey’s concept of intravention by recruiting and self-empowering QTPOC artists, but this organization also portrays Spade’s critique of abolition by using community-building and local representation for the heart of an abolitionist movement.
In casual encounters, “curious” questions, “trying to educate myself” inquiries, and especially in mainstream media, both transgender people’s bodies and narratives are objectified. This essentialist narrative of the transgender person feeling like they were “born in the wrong body,” “fully transition” with surgery in order to live in a binary heteronormative lifestyle is constantly being promoted as a form of learning what makes a person transgender. (Katie Couric’s interview with Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera is a perfect example of this). Much of the focus is on reaching a destination of some sort, achieving a desired “final stage” in order to be seen as transgender and/or accepted into society’s gender binary; however, thinking of transgender as a migration, journey, constant process, is much more accurate to the varying, individual narratives of transgender people. Furthermore, this perspective allows the conversation to refocus on real issues like transphobia, transmisogyny, cissexism, violence/hate-crimes, oppression, and discrimination amongst the trans community.
A great definition of and inspiration to thinking about transgender identities as a migration is Kale Bantigue Fajardo’s article “Transportation: Translating Filipino and Filipino American Tomboy Masculinities through Global Migration and Seafaring,” where he argues that “The ‘trans’ in transgender and transportation evokes movement between and across culturally constructed racialized and classed masculinities and femininities, as well as movement in/through/between spaces. In other words, transportation as a term and framework highlights the intersections of embodied movement and migration and the fluidity of gender formations” (Fajardo, 530). The juxtaposition of the terms transgender and transportation create a platform for thinking about transgender identities as a journey rather than a destination and how these spaces of movement–the in-between spaces–are where fluidity forms to challenge heteronormative ways of thinking about gender (how gender moves across spaces and cultures). Therefore, a more inclusive narrative with this migration-lens could be: a transgender person started at a certain place (assigned a certain gender at birth) but then decides to start moving elsewhere (migrate towards a different gender), though there is no destination since the journey and the in-between spaces are more important to the trans identity.
Similarly, in his graphic novel Sexile, Jaime Cortez illustrates this concept of thinking about transgender as a migration through Adela’s story. She is conflicted with being in exile and feeling like she is in between Cuba and the U.S. and also feeling like her body is in a constant state of in between. Adela’s struggle of feeling lost, like she was searching and searching to find a place where she could call home–both physically and emotionally, in terms of gender–haunts her until the end of the graphic novel when she comes to accept herself as a constant movement. “I was swimming, swimming, swimming / I had the fear like before / Can’t find the shore / And then I knew / All the in between places are my home / This beautiful freak body is home / And every day I love it” (Cortez, 64).
Thinking of transgender as a “migration” is overwhelmingly significant to trans studies because supports the redefining of trans identities. Moreover, this concept refocuses the objectification of trans bodies and narratives towards challenging and eventually overturning the essentialist transgender narrative that corners and limits many trans people’s realities.
Najmabadi’s Transing and Transpassing Across Sex-Gender Walls in Iran provides a foundation for thinking about how dominant narratives play a role in determining what is shamed, tolerated, and accepted in Iran for the trans community. Furthermore, Najmabadi emphasizes the importance of looking at these definitions of sex and gender–as well as the cultural absence of distinction between the two–through a transnational lens. In doing so, transnational cross-cultural analysis is important to understand how borders and definitions of identities are different and fluid depending on intersectional relationships of nationality, race, religion, sex, gender, and sexuality.
1. In thinking about how religion and traditional values impact a culture, what role does marriage play in crossing borders of sex and gender for the “certified” transsexual in Iran? Similarly, how does the struggle of “transsexuals still [existing] under the threat of inauthenticity” (36) come into play when thinking about social pressures on trans and gay identities in this context?
2. How can we use this idea of transing narratives to reconceptualize how “religio-legal-psycho-medical” (27) heteronormative binaries impact society on a private-public scale in Iran?
3. In comparison to the other readings we have analyzed about migration, how does Iran’s navigation of gender regulations–“‘transgender symptoms’ and adolescent ‘sexual symptoms’ signals the many ways in which gender and sex are not taken to be distinct categories in all registers in Iran” (30)–provide flexibility for movement between trans identities? Furthermore, how are these loopholes in this sex-gender walls beneficial and/or harmful?
Brown Boi Project
The Brown Boi Project (BBP) is a leadership development and organizing project launched in 2010 that works to “build leadership, economic self sufficiency, and health of young masculine of center womyn, trans men, and queer/straight men of color–pipelining them into the social justice movement.” The term often used in the BBP is “masculine of center,” which is inclusive of the identities listed above who tilt towards the masculine side of the gender scale. The BBP also hosts annual 5-day training retreats in Oakland, CA that explores the intersections of race, class, culture, gender, and sexuality and how participating in these discussions about identities can strengthen self-empowerment, personal leadership development, and community building. It is important to have these conversations about intersecting identities as well as redefining masculinity cross-culturally and transnationally. In the conclusion of “Transportation: Translating Filipino and Filipino American Tomboy Masculinities through Global Migration and Seafaring,” Fajardo stresses the importance of their fieldwork that “what may appear to be a (hetero)normative cultural moment of gender expression reveals other complex cultural dynamics at play, namely, working-class Filipino heterosexual men and tomboys cocreating differently situated masculinities” (Fajardo, 539). In a sense, Fajardo is talking about “trans-ing” masculinity–creating movement within the term in regards to race, class, culture, gender, and sexuality. Similarly, the BBP works to redefine masculinity to promote community building and how new formations of masculinity are being embraced by multiply-identified folks of color.
Kay Ulanday Barret
“A CAMPUS PRIDE 2009 Hot List artist and 2013 Trans 100 Honoree, Kay Ulanday Barrett is a poet, performer, educator, and martial artist navigating life as a pin@y-amerikan disabled transgender person in the U.S. with struggle, resistance, and laughter.” Barret just recently performed (Feb. 4, 2014) at the East Side Cultural Center in Oakland for the event Mangos with Chili hosting Queer and Trans* artists of color. In his spoken word pieces, Barrett touches many intersectional issues, some of which include his family migrating from the Philippines, redefining masculinity, and how being a pin@y-amerikan disabled transgender person in the U.S. affects how he views the world. Barrett is a valuable example of a transgender artist who’s history resembles Fajardo’s highlighting of “the intersections of embodied movement and migration and the fluidity of (racialized and classed) gender formations” (Fajardo, 530).
Brown Boi Project’s Website & Facebook
Kay Ulanday Barrett’s Website
- PinoyFTM featured article in Original Plumbing
- Eskinita: an SF-based organization supporting/promoting the Filipino-American community, local businesses, and artists.
Fajardo, Kale Bantigue. “Transportation: Translating Filipino and Filipino American Tomboy Masculinities through Global Migration and Seafaring.” Excerpt in The Transgender Studies Reader 2. Routledge. New York City, NY. 2013.
My name’s Lysander. This is my first semester here as a transfer from Cal State Los Angeles (technically my 4th year). I grew up in East LA and decided to move to SF because of the Queer community and because SFSU had my major: Women & Gender Studies. I’m also minoring in Music and LGBT Studies. I’m super excited about this course because I’ve never seen a class about Trans identities being offered where I’m from and I’m eager to learn theory and use this class to enrich and enlighten my everyday interactions. Also, this class seemed like a great place to find other folx/future friends who are also passionate about the Trans community.
With All the Colors of the Rainbow,