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By Vek Lewis (auth.)

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One could well agree with George Mosse’s words that “nationalism had a special affinity for male society,” and together with the concept of respectability, “legitimized the dominance of men over women” in Latin America (1985, 67). Doris Sommer argues in Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America (1991) that the symbolic construction of nation as an imagined community is seen in Latin American romantic literature’s representation of heterosexual romantic pairings that transcend the boundaries of race, class, and region to signify the unity and unification of nation.

The transformation of locas, travestis, and transsexuals into metaphors locks them into a circuit of meaning that hyperbolizes and undermines 36 Crossing Sex and Gender in Latin America the possibility of imagining their lives and situatedness at the everyday level in ways that do not draw on the most abject and objectifying forms of knowledge. While the theories of Judith Butler have contributed in a valuable fashion to accounting for the ways in which the compulsory sex and gender system is enforced, and for debunking the idea of natural genders, their close association with transgender, when taken up by critics, has restricted ways of understanding gender-variant and trans people to the purely illustrative and symbolic.

Immigration and anti-Semitism, ethnic mixing, crossings of race and class, and consequential changes in national culture. These issues could be said to be the core themes of the film, then, and not the subject of gender crossing per se (79). The transvestite is too ambiguous, too anxiety producing, to be looked at directly, so much so that if he or she is figured, then it is to embody other characteristics. The transvestite is assumed by Garber to constitute a natural metaphor for such characteristics.

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