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Biography Critique Essay Nonfiction Social Sciences

Gender and Sexuality in Latina/o Miami: Documenting Latina Transsexual Activists

By Susana Peña, 2010

This article examines the borderlands between transgender MTF (male-to-female) and gay male communities in Latina/o Miami through an analysis of the participation of Latinas in the Transsexual Action Organization (TAO). Previous research suggests that Cuban and Cuban American gay male culture have historically been associated with gender transgressive behaviour and identity. Because of this, it is often unclear how to distinguish between what is gay male/homosexual expression and transgender expression. If outward gender manifestations that we now call ‘transgender’ were understood in other historical and cultural contexts as ‘homosexual’, how do we label those manifestations today? By labelling them as homosexual are we simply reinscribing the marginalisation of transgender individuals? On the other hand, by labelling them as transgender are we imposing a contemporary category and therefore performing another kind of intellectual violence? In order to address these questions, I analyse a Latino/a organisation that explicitly labelled itself ‘transsexual’. TAO was an early transsexual rights organisation founded in 1970 by Angela Douglas in Los Angeles which moved to Miami Beach, Florida in 1972. Drawing on the organisation’s publications, Moonshadow and Mirage Magazine (1972–75), and Douglas’s self-published autobiographical texts, Triple Jeopardy: The Autobiography of Angela Lynn Douglas (1983) and Hollywood’s Obsession (1992), I analyse the rarely discussed participation of Latinas in the organisation.

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