Revisiting Queer Latinidad: A Clags Seminar Course Review

anel: The construction of a latinàqueer
“we” is very problematic. The construction
of a “queer we” and a “latinà we”
separately—and any attempt to add them
up in a “queer-latinà we”—privileges and
universalizes particular imagined identities at
the expense and exclusion of specifi c cultural
and personal practices and ways of being. I
believe, however, that latin@ queerness (or
queer latinidad) is, as José Quiroga suggests
in Tropics of Desire, best approached in the
encounter of the differences through which
we imagine and interpret ourselves through
experiences, resistance, and defi ance against
dominant narratives of (homo)sexuality,
gender, culture, ethnicity, and nation. In this
sense, The Forbidden Stories of Marta Veneranda,
by Sonia Rivera Valdés, stood out as a meaningful
text. The stories in this book do not
treat desire as a linear narrative of categories
related to object choice, nor do they present
the confl ict of national belonging as just a
problem of displacement from, and encounter
with, one land or another. Valdés’ collection
explores desire, gender, and different modes
of relationship to land and cultural capital as
processes engaged and invested in each other,
inseparable in a person’s life, simultaneously
common and individual. Thus, the seminar
was most productive for me in bringing
texts and people to discuss negotiations and
interpretations of self and desire within the
context of diverse latinidades.

ileana: It’s true that queerness, or at least
constructions of queerness, are never seen as
having a Latin@ context, as these representations
are almost always white and almost
always male. This is why texts such as Quiroga’s
Tropics of Desire are so important. If Latinà
LGBT people are invisible in our popular culture
and in our political landscape, then we are
just as invisible in the academy both as actual
bodies in classrooms as well as actual subjects
of serious scholarship. When Quiroga says
that queer sexualities are a part of history and
that this history is one of bodies that reclaim
agency for their desires and for social justice
against a normative status quo, we also need
to connect that struggle to the academy. I
know that I am a part of that history-making,
desire-making, and justice-making whenever
I read and interpret a queer Latinà text, teach
a queer Latinà text, and indeed, create a queer
Latinà text. As a Latinà lesbian, I must always
construct new meanings, resistances, and challenges
to what queerness means to those who
are both straight and gay. Texts such as Achy
Obejas’ Memory Mambo also allow us to see Latina
lesbians as subjects whose agency emerges
from not only their gender and sexuality but
also their culture and politics. These representations
expand and even dismantle in exciting
ways what is considered “lesbian” and what is
considered “Latinà.” Ultimately, the course
gave us a platform from which to interrogate
Latinà queerness within a sustained conversation
and not as a sideshow to what is usually
an analysis of white-anglo LGBT narratives.

Ileana Jiménez teaches
English at Elisabeth Irwin,
a small, progressive high
school in downtown Manhattan.
Anel Méndez Velázquez
will be starting her PhD in
Gender Studies at Rutgers
this fall.

Bodies, desire, justice,
and queer latinidades.
These were a few of the
themes explored by the
participants in the spring
2006 CLAGS Seminars in
the City titled “Queer@s:
Revisiting Latin(o) American
Sexualities.” Led by
Professor Yolanda Martínez-
San Miguel from
the University of Pennsylvania,
and Professor Ben
Sifuentes-Jáuregui from
Rutgers University, course
participants met four times
between February and May
at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,
and Transgender Center.
Students read a range
of texts that analyzed
the ways in which Latinà
American sexualities are
constructed, expressed,
and interpreted outside or
beyond the script of the
“coming out” narrative.
Here, seminar participants
Anel Méndez Velázquez
and Ileana Jiménez share
their experiences participating
in the course.