Individual dressed in all black with no sleeves posing kneeling on the ground in front of a brown couch and underneath a religious painting.

Preface: Rethinking Queer and Trans Latinx (or Queer and Trans Latinidad/es)

What can queer, trans, and LGBTQIA+ Latinidades tell us about 2022? What does it mean to approach Latinx experience through the framework of queerness and transness at this historical moment? How do scholars engage these matters? These stories –our stories– and all the love and labor put into them tell us about navigating a global pandemic, teaching online, and co-conspiring with movements of decolonization and racial reckoning, gender justice, queer/trans liberation, healing the earth and overthrowing capitalism, all while attending to the pain and joy of our Latina and Latino and broader multiethnic and multiracial families, communities, students, and friends. These stories ask us to consider: What are the most pressing concerns at the intersection of queer, trans, and Latinx? How have these been addressed in activism, cultural production, and scholarship? How have they been transformed by recent  electoral politics, the COVID-19 pandemic, and other local, national, or global situations? What happens if we think of queer and trans Latinx issues in a hemispheric framework? Or in relation to the queer of color and trans of color critique? Or in relation to queer and trans diaspora studies, or to specific ethnic studies fields? How are queer, trans, and Latinx being addressed in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and professional disciplines? What happens when we center queer, trans, and Latinx in academia, or outside of it?

Answers to these questions are complex, highly provocative, extremely engaging, and inevitably  incomplete. The articles in our special Latinx Talk forum on “Rethinking Queer and Trans Latinx (or Queer and Trans Latinidad/es)” touch on these questions in different ways and take us to far flung places, ranging  from  an engagement with canonical authors such as Junot Díaz to the discussion of popular music by transgender artists in Brazil, and from ethnographic descriptions of how Black Latinidad in Chicago is policed to LGBTQ pride celebrations in Guatemala City and East Los Angeles. Other pieces consider the nuances of language and how specific words – maricón, for example – cross geographies and change over time. Many of the contributions center intersectionality, and in expected and unexpected ways, crossings between queerness, environmentalism, and Latinidad, or the intersections between English and Spanish, and Latin American and U.S. based communities. In some cases, it has to do with the specificities of national identity and diaspora ties. What does it mean to be queer and Guatemalan American in the United States, and to have ties with Guatemala? Or to be a Puerto Rican “transloca,” to invoke the word Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes proposes in his recent book Translocas: The Politics of Puerto Rican Drag and Trans Performance (University of Michigan Press, 2021), which he discussed with Latinx Talk editor Felipe Hinojosa in a video interview on this site last year? What does it mean to negotiate between brownness, trans and transsexual identities and experiences, and political and cultural figurations, as Francisco J. Galarte explores in his recent book Brown Trans Figurations: Rethinking Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Chicanx/Latinx Studies (University of Texas Press, 2021), which he discussed with ​​John Marszalek in an interview on New Books Network last year? Or to approach the work of the visual artist Ester Hernández, as Maylei Blackwell did in her chapter in Chicana Movidas: New Narratives of Activism and Feminism in the Movement Era (University of Texas Press, 2018)?  Or to engage the writing, and the feeling of being a unicorn, in the work of the Chapina/Central American-American poet Maya Chinchilla?

The special Latinx Talk forum on “Rethinking Queer and Trans Latinx (or Queer and Trans Latinidad/es)” that we have coedited and that we will be publishing over the coming weeks features a wide range of extraordinary contributions. It includes short essays and reflections by well-established senior scholars as well as by assistant professors and graduate students. The approaches range from the more scholarly and citation-based to more personal reflections, but all demonstrate an engagement with multiple academic fields. The contributors write about Latinxs in the United States, but also about Latin America and complex hemispheric movements, which at times also include Spain. 

The Call for Papers (CFP) for this forum first began to circulate in the summer of 2021 and featured the photographic image entitled, “Soy la más, Virgen” (2018) which is part of a series entitled, Amores Postmodernos by queer Guatemalan artist, Martin Wannam. In the photo, the queer subject is masterfully striking a pose while engaging our gaze directly from a living room in Guatemala City. The subject’s pose is not a reverent genuflection to la virgen on the wall, but rather a queer/trans invitation or perhaps even provocation to whomever has the pleasure of meeting their gaze. Together the CFP and Wannam’s image functioned as an invitation for submissions that we, as editors, hoped would enliven and provoke prescient conversations at the intersections of Latinx, Queer and Trans. The resulting forum is the fruit of labor under the duress of COVID-19, and has experienced some delays along the way. We initially envisioned sharing these contributions in the fall of 2021 and are very happy to be able to share them with you now, as we move between winter and spring of 2022. It is our sincere hope that you will find these pieces to be informative and engaging, and that you will enjoy reading them as they come out. Our enormous thanks to all of the contributors, including those we are not able to publish, and to all the evaluators of these pieces. Our gratitude as well to Felipe Hinojosa (editor) and Kevin Escudero (managing editor) and to the editorial and advisory boards of Latinx Talk, for providing this opportunity. May these reflections on queerness, transness, and hemispheric Latinidad/es engage you and lead you to want to learn more.

Forum Co-Editor Biographies

Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes is Professor and Chair of the Department of American Culture and Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.  He is author of Queer Ricans: Cultures and Sexualities in the Diaspora (University of Minnesota Press, 2009), Escenas transcaribeñas: Ensayos sobre teatro, performance y cultura (Isla Negra Editores, 2018), and Translocas: The Politics of Puerto Rican Drag and Trans Performance (University of Michigan Press, 2021), which received the 2021-2022 Sylvia Rivera Award in Transgender Studies from CLAGS: Center for LGBTQ Studies at the City University of New York.

Maylei Blackwell is an Associate Professor in the César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies and Women’s Studies Department, and affiliated faculty in the American Indian Studies and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies. Her research has two distinct, but interrelated trajectories that broadly analyze how women’s social movements in the U.S. and Mexico are shaped by questions of difference ­ factors such as race, indigeneity, class, sexuality or citizenship status ­and how these differences impact the possibilities and challenges of transnational organizing. She is the author of ¡Chicana Power! Contested Histories of Feminism in the Chicano Movement, published with University of Texas Press. Her most recent research with farm worker women and indigenous migrants seeks to better understand new forms of grassroots transnationalism.

Francisco J Galarte is an assistant professor of American Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and director of the Feminist Research Institute (FRI) at the University of New Mexico. He is a co-general editor of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly (Duke University Press) and is the author of Brown Trans Figurations: Rethinking Race, Gender and Sexuality in Chicanx/Latinx Studies (University of Texas Press, 2021).

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