Tuesday 2 May
Organised in collaboration with the Violence, Conflict and Gender cluster’s Erasmus+ visiting researcher, El Plaza, this event facilitates conversations across languages, time periods and contexts to explore the cultural representation of trans* lives with a view to questioning depictions lacking in nuance, or the creation of trans-exclusive narratives. Following contributions from the four speakers, all at different stages of their academic career, a broader conversation with the audience will be facilitated to explore the place of culture in representing and including trans* experiences in our world today.
Contributors and their abstracts:
Dr Gina Gwenffrewi is an interdisciplinary researcher, tutor and lecturer in trans studies, queer studies and English literature at the University of Edinburgh. As well as being an academic manager at SUISS, she lectures and publishes on trans issues relating to trans cultural production, media studies, and digital humanities.
Transgender Gaze, Cisgender Haze: trans cultural production and its resistance to the UK legacy media’s symbolic annihilation of transgender people
My talk addresses two locations: the current moral panic waged by the UK legacy media against trans people’s legitimacy, and the online sites that have enabled a blossoming of trans cultural production that both resists and ignores the anti-trans framing. Concerning the hellscape of the former, I draw upon Gaye Tuchman’s feminist conception of a media-driven ‘symbolic annihilation’ as a frame for understanding the UK legacy media’s intensifying range of destructive representations of trans identity. This includes the melding of conservative-based rhetorical strategies from the 1990s around ‘gender ideology’ and more specific 1980s anti-gay discourse involving groomer/predator/contagion narratives, with increasingly open talk of eradication. Departing from this backdrop, I then analyse a range of trans cultural production that replaces the Cisgender Gaze with a Transgender one. While highlighting some of the remarkable achievements in the arts in the last ten years, I will in particular address the liberation of production enabled by new media: the video essays and shows by producers like ContraPoints and Katy Montgomerie, as well as contributions by journalists and writers such as Freddy McConnell and Shon Faye to independent news media like Novara Media and the Owen Jones YouTube channel. In recognition of the growing resistance to the failures of hegemonic institutions and their destructive framing of a vulnerable trans community, I invoke Nancy Fraser’s idea of ‘subaltern counterpublics’ and the cultural liberation they have enabled on the internet today, and the grounds for optimism they suggest.
Clare Geraghty is a PhD candidate in the department of Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American Studies at University College Cork, funded by the National University of Ireland Travelling Doctoral Studentship award. Her research interests lie at the intersection of queer and feminist theory with Latin American cultural studies. Her current research focuses on how queer feminist hip-hop in the Cuban context contributes to issues of inclusion within and among feminisms. She is the author of ‘Topless in La Habana: Space, Pleasure, and Visibility in Ethically Representing Gender-Based Violence’ in Representing Gender-Based Violence: Global Perspectives, eds Sinalo and Mandolini (2023). She is also a queer educator, activist, and enthusiastic home cook.
‘La gorda soy yo’: Queer feminist hip hop from Cuba
This paper focuses on a performance by queer feminist hip hop duo from Cuba, Krudxs Cubensi. Lxs Krudxs are non-binary independent artists living in the US, who use their music to challenge hegemonic representations of gender, race, sexuality. I study the music video for ‘La Gorda’ (the fat/phat woman), arguing that an analysis of desire is central to understanding the disruptive potential of this work.
Following fat studies scholars, I use the word fat in my analysis as both ‘the preferred neutral adjective’ and a ‘political identity’. I expand existing scholarship by engaging with blackness and transness as crucial factors in this representation in the Cuban context. To this end, I study this performance in all dimensions: lyrics, music, movement, symbolism. I engage with qualitative interview data gathered in Cuba in 2022 to ask to what extent ‘La Gorda’ continues to be representative of the experiences of marginalised people. I engage with current artistic responses to anti-fatness in Cuba, considering the specificity of this context in terms of its equation of fat bodies with overconsumption and thus capitalism.
Juan Martínez Gil (He/his/him) holds a degree in Hispanic Studies from the Universitat de València, a Master’s degree in Teacher Training from the Universitat Miguel Hernández and a Master’s degree in Construction and Representation of Cultural Identities with Distinction from the Universitat de Barcelona. He is currently a PhD candidate at the Universitat Jaume I. His work is focused on pathologisation and sexual dissidence in 20th century Hispanic literatures and cultures. He is interested in Spanish, Spanish-American and Catalan literature from the perspective of Gender, Decolonial and Queer Studies, as well as in issues of Literary Theory and Discourse Analysis. He has carried out international stays in Mexico City (UNAM), Sofia and Michigan (UofM). He is currently a member of the research group “European Languages and Cultures and New Literary and Audiovisual Languages” at the UJI and chairman of the ALEPH Association for Young Researchers in Hispanic Literatures.
Gender, Violence and Trans Identity in Lorena mi amor, by Norma Mejía
Beyond the literary value that can be attributed to Lorena, mi amor (2004) [Lorena, my dear] written by Norma Mejía, its authorial background is significant in itself. Lorena, mi amor was the very first novel written in Spanish by a trans woman and published in Spain. Being inspired by the “bildungsroman” literature, Mejia proposes an adventure of identity discovery by short-circuiting “gender” —and also “genre”. In her life journey Carmen, the protagonist, delves into the violence that trans women face, from the incomprehension coming from her rural family environment to the experiences of prostitution in Barcelona after sexile. On the other hand, the analysis of the work is enriched by the possibilities of enunciation of Norma Mejía herself, as if we read the novel in dialogue with the autobiographical traces of her essay Transgenerismos. Una experiencia transexual desde la perspectiva antropológica (2006), [Transgenderisms. An Experience from the Anthropological Perspective] we discover multiple interferences between the violence exposed by both materials, the fictional and the autobiographical one (Mérida Jiménez, 2015). This talk aims to analyse the text by relating the fictional elements it presents with the author’s life episodes, paying special attention to the representation of transphobic violence in the light of Literary Studies and Trans Studies
El Plaza (they/them) is a Teaching Assistant at the University of Limerick (Ireland) and a visiting graduate student at the Centre for Advanced Studies in Languages and Cultures at University College Cork (Ireland). They are currently pursuing their P.H.D. in Trans* Theory and English Literature at the University of Huelva (Spain), after earning their M.A. in Gender, Intersectionality and Change at the University of Linkoping (Sweden). They have presented papers at various international conferences on the representation of trans* characters in British contemporary fiction written by cisfemale authors, and their P.H.D. dissertation focuses on the period 1990-2020. They are interested in LGBTIAQ+ authors Jackie Kay, Ali Smith, Bernardine Evaristo and Jeanette Winterson; trans*masculinites and demedicalization of trans* bodies. They tweet as @queerlologist.
Trans* Beyond Medicine?: Love and Fetishization in Winterson’s Frankissstein (2019)
This paper examines the representation of transmasculine character Ry Shelley in Jeanette Winterson’s science-fiction novel Frankissstein: A Love Story (2019) in relation to the Western medical discourse and to his romantic relationship with cis male AI-expert and transhumanist enthusiast Professor Victor Stein. In a text presented as a “love story”, one wonders how body politics intervene in feelings based on a cis person adoring a trans person for their embodying transgression in the form of gender affirming hormone therapy and gender affirmation surgery. For this reason, special attention is given to the exoticization and fetishization of medically intervened transgender bodies, which should be noted, both worryingly reduce transness to a surgical-pharmacological intervention while reproducing damaging patterns of objectification. In terms of methodology, I combine both Literary and Queer Theories, being the feminist postmodern approach of authors such as Michel Foucault (1978, 2003), Judith Butler (2002, 2004) and Paul B. Preciado (2013) of outmost relevance to the analysis. Other authors whose theorisation of the demedicalized trans* body that influence my work are Halberstam (2018) and Vaccaro (2014). On one hand, the former encourages the examination and questioning of gender and sexuality in literary texts, while the latter intersects with it, therefore allowing a further dissecting of aspects of power, identity, and language – all these resulting crucial to the study of the representation of transgender subjectivities in the selected work. Thus, given that the most pressuring discourse for the trans community is the medical one, so much so that it shaped (while delimiting) and recognized their existence at the beginning of the twentieth century, it is interesting to observe to what extent is it still connected to the trans body – more than a century later. Analysing Frankissstein allows for a revision of the relationship between medicine and transness in contemporary science fiction, raising old questions that simply involve new scenarios: transgender characters are presented as objectified as they historically have been, only this time the objectification comes from links to AI and transhumanism.