Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts
The birth of Pose created a space that helped to branch away from traditional queer stories that entered the mainstream. It dealt with pain, death and put Queer identities back in traumatic spaces such as survival sex work and the AIDS crisis, where we lost a generation of queer art. Nevertheless, that wasn’t the goal of the show. The goal of the show was to focus on these stories of transwomen and give them a space to be portrayed in more authentic ways. Steven Canales, the creator of Pose opted out of the same trauma filled story for something much lighter on behalf of co-creator and executive producer, Ryan Murphy. On the note that Canales has a “real joy about being a queer person of color. I want to feel that joy.” (Reddish). The story of transwomen in the New York Ballroom scene creating second homes, families, and communities for other loss queer souls to be found is transformational. Unlike the movies like Rent where we see our trans characters die of AIDS or from movies like Stonewall that seem to whitewash the heart of the Gay Liberation movement which was built from the pain and anger of transwomen.
It is through the lens of Pose that I felt the need to create art that focused on the positive side of queerness. It is where I felt I had to create a reality that was true to the queer upbringing here in my hometown of San Antonio, Texas. Pose is situated as my north star in how I create art that is not to showcase our trauma for Cisheteronormative audiences but rather stories that will help the queers of today and tomorrow understand their place in the world and, to understand they are not alone. Maria-Jose Masanet defines the cisheteronormative model in her work Beyond the ‘Trans Fact’? as “men, white, Western, middle, or upper class, in monogamous relationships, and with a normative gender identity and expression (Masanet 2). Ro does not conform to any of these titles, and it is because of that I wanted to create a truly queer story. The goal of my thesis Utopia in this context is to defy traditional depictions of queerness and birth a new view into the trans experience that is not about assimilation. In Utopia there are characters who still interact with a public sphere to try to mask their queerness or make it more palatable to the masses. Ro in this novel is not trying to do that. Her story is not wrapped in trauma but rather her expression of her gender and sexuality in an authentic way. The novel dives into this by focusing on the platonic connections of Ro as well as sifting through Ro’s past to understand who she fully is.
Utopia focuses on Ro by exploring her trauma with her close friends through their time at a communal weekend getaway at a cabin in the Texas Hills Country, through the magical realism throughout the novel. This focus on trauma is important because it is through this trauma, through the past that Ro finds herself. It was important to me that I did not let the trauma consume the novel and give Ro an unhappy ending. In Disclosure, the Netflix documentary on transgender cinema talks about how trans individuals are at higher affected by a myriad of challenges. In the documentary there is a video showing Sylvia Rivera, one of the Trans Pioneers of the Queer Liberation Movement, talking about how she has endured violence, lost her job and housing fighting for queer rights, and still gets shunned by the gay community. Throughout the documentary as well the mention of transgender victim narrative that portrays the story of the dead transwoman. It is through this representation on screen that I knew my story could not end in violence or to further traumatize Ro. I used the knowledge I learned from watching Pose and consuming other queer stories to help me to craft a story that felt authentic and real. Throughout my time writing I noticed how some of the ideas that I crafted in my story line up with the ideas of Jose Esteban Muñoz. Most importantly the idea of Disidentification. Which Muñoz uses the term disidentification to be “descriptive of survival strategies” that are used by the “minority to negotiate” space in a world overseen by a “phobic majoritarian public sphere.” (Muñoz 4). This idea of disidentification is very crucial to understanding Ro and her actions and the actions of those around her.
The first aspect of the novel that I want to focus in on is the use of magical realism.
Magical realism is a foundation that this story was built on. To help process the trauma of Ro.
The novel focuses on Ro’s relationship with her grandma and parents and this is supported by the magical encounters. I wanted this aspect because I feel that queerness and the world that queer people, especially Ro as a transwoman, has to create a world that is separate to reality. That by allowing what others think of as reality as truth will only hurt one’s journey.
Through my research into magical realism I gravitated to the work of Eva Aldea. It is through this work that I realized what type of magical realism Utopia falls under. Utopia would be considered an Anthropological Magical Realism, which was coined by William Spindler. In the use of the text I was reading Aldea mentions how the magic and the real mirrors the meeting of old and new cultures (Aldea 5). The old culture is the traditional Mexican and Mexican American culture, which can feature a prominent machismo or hyper masculinity. There is a certain tradition within which a man has to be a man and has to walk, talk, dress a certain way in order to fit within a dominant mold of cisheteronormative masculinity. The new culture is Ro’s transness, it is the space that she and her friends create to thrive in. Even though her being trans and transness is not a product of the new millennium and it is not new to her family or to the world, it does go against everything that they were taught. It is seen as this unnatural occurrence. The monte and its creation is also seen as an unnatural occurrence used to punish those who dare to step out of line. The monte is this space in the world that reflects the dominant culture. It is this supernatural reaction to someone’s freedom. The monte and in the larger part the earth feeds off of its inhabitants. In Utopia the idea of a bad kid falls victim to the monte every day. It is this place where if you do not fit in then you will be consumed. It will consume you in a physical and magical way. Ro is haunted by the monte throughout the novel. It is calling her to do what she has been wanting to do for so long. The monte is calling her to her death. The monte wants to devour. This idea has stuck with me since I read And The Earth Did Not Devour Him by Tomás Rivera. The unnamed male protagonist “cursed god” due to how tuberculosis ravaged his family and killed his younger sibling. It is this act of defiance that he briefly sees the earth “opening up to devour him” (Rivera 105). This defiance is of faith and in how I imagine the monte, from my own childhood, and with Ro it is also a defiance of faith. Faith between a God but also faith with her own family. That work under the conditions of the dominant culture. Ro defies the dominant culture by being trans. By being okay with being isolated and alienated for being her truth. Ro also does not fit in with the religion that guides her grandmother’s life. It is this religion that also helps to allow Ro’s grandmother to be nonchalant about bad kids dying.
Bad kids die every day. She said that when she saw Ellen on TV, when we walked past the monte’s in our neighborhood and when she laid her gay son to rest (Vasquez 32). The main conflict in Utopia is between Ro and the world around her. A world that does not want to see a transwoman flourish. Her own grandmother, her cousin (who is also queer) and even the ground that she walks on. This is only further supported by the magical. I felt that having this novel have a magical aspect but still tethered to reality which made the most sense to explore the idea of healing. Because even though this magic is meant to hurt. Ro after the encounters learn something else about herself. The aspect of magical realism is seen between the fantastical in this novel (the blue door, the monte’s and the earth.) and it is centered in our reality. If we understand magical realism as the “nostalgia of the pre-modern,” we can see that the earth as magic and as ever-present threat is tied to the magical realist aspect of a novel (Aldea 16). In Utopia the nostalgia of the premodern in this case is the earth or the person behind the blue door (Ro’s grandmother, who does not accept Ro as the woman she is). There are myriad forces trying to push her to the edge and to watch her break. It is the nostalgia for Ro’s grandmother for returning her grandson to her. As Ro says in the novel, “ For her I was her gay grandson and that was as much as she could have stomached but I couldn’t be her granddaughter. She had too many as it was. I couldn’t be my true self” (Vasquez 32).
The magic in the novel is also able to be seen outside of the monte. The monte is used in the novel as a hotbed of the earth’s frustration and the place that bad kids go to die. As a way to further push the agenda of the dominant culture and keep people in line. But in the novel Ro also sees the magic the night of the drag show in chapter 8. The magic could be from Ro’s own understanding of the earth. As the sequence of everyone becoming translucent when she was at the bar. Which in understanding the definition and using it to this story. Ro finds herself in middle of her past. Her cousin emulated their grandmother by wearing the perfume. The fight with Mara is also a similar to one that have shared their past and the final note on this incident is the old radio Disney music. All of this sends Ro into a fit that was only exacerbated by the magic in the novel which makes her resort to the violence that she learned as a child from her father.
The earth as well described in the text as a devourer also wants to return the world back to what it was. Rivera influences the entity or villain of the story with the idea of the earth being able to devour individuals. That the land we are supposed to create a home on is actively working against us. To make us empty and alone. That is why the earth does so much to Ro with these interactions to drive her to her suicidal ideations. The magical realism aspect of the text also manifested in how each encounter with the monte and the blue door became worse as time went on. This is seen in the final confrontation with the magic: “I ran underneath the yellow lights and passed by everyone’s home. In the windows I see images of my father. His rancid deadly black teeth smiling at me till they twist into the horizon and birth a black hole. The gravity pulling everything into it. He has gotten his wish. Which is to see me spiraling like him. To see his faggot of his son get what was always coming for him. Death” (Vasquez 168).
Trauma doesn’t have to be locked away and never talked about to have a great queer representation. What I didn’t want to happen was that Ro finds the love of her life and in the next page dies from an undiagnosed case of AIDS. The journey that Ro finds herself on through the entering of the monte is used by the earth to try to tear her down but in her own use it is to heal her pain. It is to give her a new perspective. It can also be seen that the grandmother over the course of the text seemingly does learn to accept Ro or at least allows her to leave unharmed. Magical realism allowed the character to experience more of the inner turmoil that she had been facing by making it manifest out in the world. By coming face to face with one’s problems and not being able to shy away from them or run away. Ro had to learn how to deal with them and move forward. Ro learns at the end of the story the truth which is that she must live for herself.
Magical realism can also be supported by the very masculine culture that is presented in this novel. Like the magical it is shown firsthand and always in the background. To understand how Ro’s father, grandmother and cousin interact with her what needs to be understood is the idea of hegemonic masculinity and hyper masculinity. Hegemonic masculinity, “refers to a particular set of practices and societal norms that are seen as “masculine” and that are dominant in society,” and it ties into Utopia because the dominant culture is one that doesn’t allow a true viable option for trans individuals to live without some sort of pain (Lynch 1). The characters in this thesis work under these conditions. They all have the picture of what it means to be a man. This idea of manliness is then added upon with the hyper masculine ideology that is passed down through generations. Hyper masculinity is the “exaggeration of behavior and identity elements stereotypically associated with men, is both celebrated and denigrated throughout Western culture (Bridges 1).” Hegemonic masculinity needs hyper masculine individuals to continue to spread its gospel in the world. The monte’s then act as an arm of this ideology. As well with the idea of magical realism, the systems of masculinity that oppress Ro is the past while Ro’s transness and transformation is the future. It is the ability to live outside of these structures even if it aims to hurt and even threaten to kill. The use of hyper masculinity or its prevalence isn’t created by itself. The Mexican American culture that puts a focus on manliness, what it means to be a man and even what it means to be a woman to a certain extent. It also talks about how those who are femme present or feminine as a “male” will not be able to thrive in this culture unless they assimilate. That is why it is important for Ro to be unapologetically queer. Her existence goes against everything that is defined by these hyper masculine individuals.
This ever-presenting theme that isn’t only used by the male figures in Ro’s life but also by her grandmother and cousin. This distaste or suppression of anything feminine. It is this ideology that creates a hegemonic masculinity that Ro is desperately trying to escape. It is this idea of masculinity that blankets the south side of San Antonio. The violence that once permeated her family and the world around her. Hegemonic masculinity is sustained through the norms created by the dominant culture. By the mainstream that is reinforced through religion, media and then through that to the interpersonal relationships of families and friends. It is through these norms that also can exclude anything that is deemed not masculine. In the case of this story we see the norm being explained to the audience by Ro: “How I use to shave my hair to the bare skull. In contrast to the twenty-two-inch weaves I buy now. In light brown dickie’s, white socks, and black shoes. A white or black muscle shirt and a flannel over it. I would wear my brother’s old Loc’s and spray his cologne. Once on the neck, twice on my chest, and one down there, if I got lucky, I would be prepared. It was how my brother did it and my father before him” (Vasquez 10).
It is also here where I connect this idea of hegemonic masculinity to the idea of survival in the form of disidentification. Disidentification is again survival strategies created by the minority. In the above paragraph the act of shaving one’s hair off to one’s scalp is a very common haircut of the early 2000s in south Texas. The dickies, white tennis socks and locs glasses are reminiscent of gangster culture. This was the iconography of the South Side of San Antonio. Gang culture as well is a way for young brown teens to feel protected in a racist society. Even though they are going up against one structure, racism, these men would gather in groups and expresses their manliness in violent ways. The goal again was to present to the world that they were men. A man fights. A man is though. A man doesn’t listen to the Jonas Brothers. It is also in this idea that Ro’s mimicking of the very act of dressing as a man was a form of disidentification. Ro knew she had to also labor under the system of masculinity around her to get to a point where she can break free. For Ro in her youth it is the mimicking of what it means to be a man. Even though Ro has always felt like a woman and was a woman for her to be able to survive she had to play the part that was assigned to her. That is why in the first interluded of the story, “Bad Kids” Ro created a mix on an mp3 player for Mara. An idea she had seen replicated many times from her older brother as he did to find himself a woman. As Ro got away from trying to be masculine and allowing herself to truly be real. Ro’s disidentification changes again. Because survival is not a onetime deal. Ro had to survive her whole life. I believe once she moves away from this idea of masculinity and frees herself form it. Her disidentification becomes more so intertwined with the many popular culture references she brings up, “ It’s a problem when they’re eight and staring at the Jonas Brothers for too long” (Vasquez 31).
It is the use of popular culture that allows her to feel closer to her goal of being feminine. The act of listening to the Jonas Brothers as a queer kid in a household of violent men would not be a tool of survival but once Ro moves away from that and allows herself to be openly queer than it is. It is a direct attack at the systems that oppress her. Even though it can seem like a throwaway line it is so much more than that. It is Ro being unapologetically queer and unafraid of the consequences anymore. The act of transitioning and being the woman she was meant to be further adds onto this idea. She no longer acts afraid of the system that oppresses her and that is why throughout the story it is seen through the magical threat that keeps trying to consume her. To strip away her uniqueness and strength.
There are pieces of queer literature and art that gave me the green light to allow my story to be unapologetically queer. To provide Ro tools of survival and felt like I did not have to cater to a mainstream audience in doing so. These books allowed me the creative freedom of adding something abstract and hybrid into a traditional linear novel. It is through these works, Slum Virgin, Paul Take the Form of A Mortal Girl, Pose and Here the Whole Time that all allowed me to create a space for Ro. Not only Ro but for queer individuals who are on the fringe of an already established fringe group. It is through these texts that I felt free enough to author a story that focused on a fat transwoman but not have her transness be the focal point. Or her fatness to hold her back from finding love, being in love and just existing. These novels allowed me to take the challenge to create another space of representation. It also allowed me to be free to get as outlandish as I wanted to be. I was able to have my characters be queer and not have the story center around coming out. This is a story about a regular person navigating her life. Her queerness is central to her but there is so much more to Ro. The first piece is Slum Virgin by Gabriela Cabezon Camara and translated by Frances Riddle. It is through this novel that I found a model for how a transwoman could and should be written. In the story this transwoman story is not about her coming to terms with her transness but rather it makes her a prophet. The piece has two queer main characters, Cleo, and Quity.
Quity becomes a figure for a religion that does not inherently give space to trans individuals but this novel moves past that notion and creates the space for her. I hold this piece in my heart as I was writing because it is not a traditional queer story. The goal wasn’t to find love, it wasn’t a coming out story and it wasn’t a story about acceptance or assimilation. Cleo is a transwoman and a prophet. This subversion of a religious figure by a transwoman is iconic. Cleo was guide that I could use to create Ro because Cleo feels like a real person. It is through her chapters that I really looked forward to. Quity was a great narrator, but those Cleo chapters I really took my time to enjoy. In the novel, the characters grapple with lived queer reality in a violent cisheteronormative society: “Why’d they always shoot at us, my love: because we were dark-skinned, we were poor, we were fags or tough guys, because they’d fucked us or because they wanted to fuck us but couldn’t (Camara 81).”
This piece of narration of Cleo sealed the deal for me. That queer lives, especially queers of color lives are not always safe. Whether it be from an outside force or within one’s own family. The danger is there. Een being touched by God and by religion did not save the character from being a target. Slum Virgin allowed me to have Ro be as trans as she was, and I didn’t have to explain it. Cleo was a transwoman from the beginning. We understood her as Cleo and as Cleo the prophet. In Utopia, I chose not to go deep into her medical transition because I felt as though it would take away from the story at hand. It was important for me to only talk about the transition in bits and pieces. I felt as though further description would take away from who Ro is. She is not her surgery and whether she had her surgery or not she would still be a woman. I didn’t want to have the medical transition be depicted in great detail; it felt as once she was metaphorically put under the knife then she would have to assimilate to what the world’s understanding of a transwoman is. But that is not who Ro is.
I believe that Ro being a product of the new millennium would subtweet or make small comments to convey her true feelings to her friends then go out and say it out loud. But it is also the act of not speaking up and hoping someone would find her or help that also added to Ro’s trauma. Ro had to learn to grow up on her own. To be her own person and didn’t allow people to get to really know her. It is this added layer that only added to her troubles. That is why throughout the course of the novel Ro really does learn how to speak up for herself.
It is through this act of speaking up that Ro was able to process her trauma. It was important because if Ro did not process her trauma, then her move from the South Side would not have the same effect. If Ro didn’t learn anything in the story but still planned to move, then she would not have succeeded. In the story as we meet Ro, she is already in a place that is dark and alone. It is mentioned throughout the piece of her intention of committing suicide and having issues with her own body image. That these two go hand in hand. I wanted to show that not all transwomen experience the same thing and that even with transitioning that is not always the solution to one’s problems. From reading Andrea Lawlor’s novel Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl, I decided I did not want a story that focused on transitioning. Lawlor’s novel focuses on a character Paul or Polly and their life as shapeshifter. Their journey into finding love and themselves took them all over the country and into many different situations. It is through this novel that I learned that an audience doesn’t need to know everything. There were moments in the novel that I was confused at first on what was happening. Whether the shapeshifter idea is a great metaphor or not about transness or questioning identity is not what the book is about. It is about a person trying to find themselves at the end of the day in a world that is clearly alien to them. Paul/Polly are one of the few shapeshifters that they know of. That is what makes it world ending when Paul/Polly openly use their abilities to the people they met along their journey. They live in a world that does not want anything to do with them. The fear that Paul/Polly had if they showed someone their true self. Even when they did show someone their true self and stayed in that image it didn’t help because at the end, they were still left broken hearted. That is another reason why I felt that the divulging into Ro’s transitioning did not really fit the scope of the novel. Yes, for Ro transitioning did help more than it harmed, but that is not her happy ending. Her transitioning and being the woman she was always was not the end of her story but in face it was only the beginning of her story. Her transition, talked in bits and pieces throughout the story, was one of loneliness. I, as the writer, also did not want to spend a lot of time in this area of transitioning because while it is relevant to Ro as a character, the true relevance comes from her friends not being a part to it. Ro’s transition and the process of it comes out in the moments that follow it. The loneliness of going through a major change and how that loneliness predates it as well. I believe this thought process is the same way of thinking that plastic surgery or weight loss surgery isn’t the go-to answer for everyone. Ro’s problems did not end because she started to live her truth. As Ro says, “ I don’t know you would think after I learned how to curl my hair like my mother did or fit into my grandmother’s wedding dress that I would begin to feel more real. Or walk like my tia or speak like my prima’s. If I learned how to take care of myself as a woman, if I began to dress up as a woman, I would feel all that real. That if I started to match the outer parts of me to reflect the inner parts of me that I would be happier. But maybe there is nothing that can make one like me happy. Maybe I was just born to be sad and to die” (Vasquez 30). I wanted to write a story that centered a transwoman going through life and at the end of the day surviving. Her own mental identity, friends and family who no longer seem to care and existing in a world that was never built with her in mind. Utopia was birth out of the idea could a body not be built love. I believe as queer characters especially our trans characters are told who they are will never be able to be loved or give love. In the Netflix documentary Disclosure, that talks about trans representation in film and tv. There is a quote that talks about 80% of the population does not know someone who is trans. That also includes trans people that are consuming this media. That trans people do not have this clear representation of what it means to be trans or even happy and trans. Again, a lot of the media that is surrounded around transness include trans people dying or trans people being humiliated. In Utopia this is then seen in the dominant culture and through Ro’s father. The insidious of hyper masculinity makes Ro see her own body as something incapable of love. As Ro says, “ That all of this will end in my death. This body wasn’t built for love” (Vasquez 30).
In addition to these two novels, I’d like to return to the discussion of the series Pose and some of the specific elements which aided me in my journey to write this novel. Pose really helped to understand how to create trans stories without it being used as trauma porn to get the “normal” society to understand that trans people are people. That Ro is a transwoman which also means that she is a woman. Throughout Utopia I made sure to keep most of the story in a positive direction but not in a way that takes away from Ro. If I made Ro a two-dimensional character that is only used to please non queer readers than I am doing a disservice to queer and especially trans readers. That is why it is important to show Ro with her own faults with her own issues.
I also did not shy away from real topics that happen to transwomen. Which is something that I felt comfortable doing because by not showing the pain or the trauma in a way that informs the reader on why a character or person reacts to certain situation then they wouldn’t feel real. I wanted to create a character that could live in the real. That could be a South Sider trying to navigate the world around her. That is why there are moments of trauma that is rooted in hypermasculinity. Which in understanding what hypermasculinity is through queer studies it should be noted that hypermasculinity can also be present in certain populations of gay men. “It is logical that some gay men will rely on hypermasculinity to acquire a status symbolically denied to gay men as a result of sexual inequality (Bridges 3).” Sebastian is a very good representation of this. His use of the word freak. The seemingly jealously he had of Ro. As well as taunting her with the memory of her grandmother. Sebastian is trying to fit into the cisheteronormative society that he finds himself in. He does drag but that is only for the money. The act of actually wearing that identity is not central to him as it is to Ro. For Ro being able to present herself as she has always seen herself is life or death. To Sebastian Ro makes his life harder because she choses to be the person that she is. In the documentary Disclosure it is stated by filmmaker Yance Ford that the “Assimilation is the American narrative and trans people make it more difficult for some people in the queer community to assimilate.” Sebastian sees Ro as an obstacle and that why it is easy for him to cut her off from his life. To allow the abuse in their family to continue against his own cousin.
That is a reality of a lot of old queer stories and also the true history of our queer elders. I think back to Pose, and they were unafraid to have moments of true pain and trauma. One the moments where there is this true trauma is from the death of Candy Ferocity. In Season two of Pose on Episode 4 “Never Knew Love Like This” was one of the most heartbreaking episodes of the series. It connected to our reality by showing that transwomen, especially those of color, are killed at higher rates. Black transwomen have a life expectancy of thirty-five. The death of Candy really shifted the idea of hope without trauma from this show to being more real. It became a window into the lives of transwomen across the world. I cannot count how many times I have gotten on to twitter, Instagram and now even Tik Tok and seeing the name of another trans person dying to violence. Violence that is often at the hands of someone close to them. Whether that be a date or a lifelong partner. Violence tends to find the lives of transwomen. That either result in death or scars that are hidden. It is through this episode through Pose that I felt that I could talk about something serious in the novel.
The “Interlude: I Think I’ll Miss You Forever” was a part of the story that I was not going to add to the thesis. I did not feel as though it belong. I felt that it was to dark for this type of story. But I knew I had to include it. Because Hope is only one side of the coin. This is a reality that a lot of trans individuals face and it needs to be understood. I did my best to not get graphic as they does not but sensationalize it. What I felt was needed was Ro’s state of mind afterwards. “ And in my head. I ate his heart. I split his head open to release the pain he caused me. I would walk out of their whole again. But that was in my head and fiction can never be truth” (Vasquez 94).
Ro’s response is of revenge and violence which are trauma responses that are ingrained into her by her own father. To fight back at those who have made us feel less than. In the moment Ro’s life could have been very different. She could have resorted to violence and ended up in trouble but instead she took the high road. Not because it is the good thing to do but because it ensures her survival. Which may not always be option for some individuals, but Ro had that choice that night. The act of violence would not have healed Ro in that instance. Instead it would have created a monster similar to the one that laid in front of her. Ro was not that person whose innocence was taken away from. That Ro is someone she will miss forever but because of that she had to learn to grow. Had to learn how to heal herself even if it is not fully. That is the importance of presenting trauma in a way that does not do it for shock value.
Utopia is also used as a vehicle to showcase the power of platonic relationships rather than romantic relationships. This is another piece of the novel that I wanted to really showcase. I believe that I have done an excellent job on showing that this story is about the power of our relationships but more importantly our friendships. Utopia shows that even though we want to be alone and isolated that this is not a realty that we can occupy. Humans are not meant to be alone. We have to have people behind us to support and just hear us out. I believe that is something Ro did not have for a long time, and it was a struggle for her to understand. That is why she went through many trials in the book. I look to the main friendship between Ro and Mara. It is their connection as well as their disagreement that tend to lead to these moments of clarity. Ro understands how to be a friend for Mara but is at the beginning of this story incapable of asking for that same help. Throughout the first four chapters Ro is like a broken record player talking about how much this weekend meant. Or when everything comes to a head she talks about her friends in harsh language. In an overly dramatic fashion of someone who still feels as though they have not grown up. As Ro says, “ In moments like this it is good to have friends on your side. Me, personally, I am sitting in a truck with a person who I want to just combust spontaneously into flames” (Vasquez 126).
But it is through this friendship that Ro finds out a lot about herself. In the end it is Mara’s pain from losing Hector that Ro knew that she couldn’t stake everything on Dante. A romantic relationship shouldn’t be the end goal for her character. This story was built on the isolation of Ro from her friends, especially from Mara, and it is because of that she chooses not to fall back into old habits and reunite with Dante. Dante is the past and Ro needs to look outward to her future.
I was reinforced on the idea of platonic love over romantic love in queer novels because a lot of queer novels have a focus on getting a romantic partner at the end. It is this mirroring of the dominant culture that happiness lies in being with someone romantically and that is what we should strive for on our journeys of self-acceptance. In the Young Adult novel Here the Whole Time, showed the main character, Felipe who is Fat finding his self-worth through the falling in love with his neighbor. I bring up Here the Whole Time because while it centers the story on a fat body which is always good for representation it is then tied to a romantic relationship. Felipe grows as a character by falling in love and becoming boyfriends with Caio. His self-worth is only explored through a romantic lens. The idea of queer love is important because it allows queer individuals to know that they are not alone in the world. I appreciate the sentiment, but I believe there is strength in loving ourselves and understanding our self-worth. As well that our platonic friendships are the ones that truly save us.
In Here the Whole Time also allowed me to center my character as a fat transwoman. Even though I prefer a story that is center on our growth through our platonic friendships, Here the Whole Time, does a lot for inclusivity of bigger bodies. “When I’m here, I feel weightless” (Martins 273).” This is at the end of the book where Felipe gains the courage to swim as he once did as a child with Caio. The uneasiness as a fat person to get into the water without people is too real. It is this moment that solidify the importance of showing moments like this in the story. To show fat people as people and not the horrible images people may have of them. Which is another key point for Utopia in the characterization of Ro. My main character is a fat transwoman. Because people who may fall into related categories need to be able to see themselves reflected in the materials they read. As most of the queer literature or spaces out there does not give a light to Fat Queers. They are usually the joke or the sidekick. The secondary characters that blend into the background. Here The Whole Time instead has a fat protagonist that the readers cant shy away from, which is important in literature. In Utopia, Ro is seen as very active and also unafraid. Her fatness is not a prison because being fat is not a curse. Her fatness, like her transness, is but one part of the bigger picture of who she is.
Through the process of writing this novel I saw how it changed over time. What was supposed to be a more magical story became centered through the character that is Ro. This novel main goal was to create an authentic story about a transwoman. I believe that I achieved that goal. Because I did not shy away from putting Ro in situations where she could have fun and be fun. Or be sad, mad, and otherwise complex. There is no sugar coating in Utopia because a society and or a person cannot achieve peace. A person has to reckon with their truth that has permeated throughout their history. Ro was able to gain a sense of closure from her familial relations, friendships, and romantic relationships. Even her own relationship with the world she grew up in. It is through this that Ro was able to move away and start a healthier chapter in her life. Once trauma is understood then healthy tools to heal and move forward can be used. Utopia is meant to show how a version of peace can exist in a world that is outworld against anything queer. It is meant to show the hope that life is not conditional on a romantic relationship but rather the relationship with oneself.
Received from ProQuest
Dominic Ray Vasquez
Vasquez, Dominic Ray, "Healing Queer Trauma in a Cisheteronormative Society" (2022). Open Access Theses & Dissertations. 3748.
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