Lawrence La Fountain-StokesAug 16, 2021
The Politics of Puerto Rican Drag and Trans Performance
University of Michigan Press 2021
Translocas: The Politics of Puerto Rican Drag and Trans Performance (U Michigan Press, 2021) focuses on drag and transgender performance and activism in Puerto Rico and its diaspora. Arguing for its political potential, Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes explores the social and cultural disruptions caused by Latin American and Latinx “locas” (effeminate men, drag queens, transgender performers, and unruly women) and the various forms of violence to which queer individuals in Puerto Rico and the U.S. are subjected. This interdisciplinary, auto-ethnographic, queer-of-color performance studies book explores the lives and work of contemporary performers and activists including Sylvia Rivera, Nina Flowers, Freddie Mercado, Javier Cardona, Jorge Merced, Erika Lopez, Holly Woodlawn, Monica Beverly Hillz, Lady Catiria, and Barbra Herr; television programs such as RuPaul’s Drag Race; films such as Paris Is Burning, The Salt Mines, and Mala Mala; and literary works by authors such as Mayra Santos-Febres and Manuel Ramos Otero. Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, a drag performer himself, demonstrates how each destabilizes (and sometimes reifies) dominant notions of gender and sexuality through drag and their embodied transgender expression. These performances provide a means to explore and critique issues of race, class, poverty, national identity, and migratory displacement while they posit a relationship between audiences and performers that has a ritual-like, communal dimension. The book also analyzes the murders of Jorge Steven López Mercado and Kevin Fret in Puerto Rico, and invites readers to challenge, question, and expand their knowledge about queer life, drag, trans performance, and Puerto Rican identity in the Caribbean and the diaspora. The author also pays careful attention to transgender experience, highlighting how trans activists and performers mold their bodies, promote social change, and create community in a context that oscillates between glamour and objection.
Dr. Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes is Professor of American Culture, Romance Languages and Literatures, and Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Michigan.