God is queer

Ocaña, Sacred Heart of Fag, 1982 Oil on canvas, 73 x 60 cm. Courtesy Pere Pedrals, Barcelona

The production of images is one of the decisive areas of struggle for other forms of subjectivity, especially in contexts such as media culture, where the male, white, heterosexual body is in full political and visual command. This is, as queer theorist Beatriz Preciado says, the body with the “political-orgasmic” hegemony, the one who “has access to sexual excitement in public, as opposed to those bodies whose gaze must be protected and whose pleasure must be controlled.” Here, drag practices contribute to denaturalise and disrupt a false social construct, and bring together a new coalition of monsters, offering other geopolitical morphologies from which to resist and act. It is as if all those despised bodies returned through an alliance that no longer responds to the demands of an orthodox identity and its claims of social discipline, in order to celebrate a perverse pleasure and an inspiring solidarity of sexual deviance.How to write the history of subjects who have been repeatedly erased from history? What kinds of knowledges do the bodies of so-called sexual minorities produce – knowledges that are still unintelligible within the dominant modes
of discourse and narrative construction? In the androgynous, drag and transgender (as well as other non-normative positions), we are faced with a set of bodies where the dispossession of their human condition has historically persisted – not through registration and surveillance, but through silence and the effacing of their traces in the official directories. That is when the few existing traces have not been used just to pathologise, to exclude or to normalise difference. As the disappearance of these bodies has been a feature in the formation of classical archives and traditional historiographies, the trans-feminist and queer cartographies that respond to this situation require the rejection of identifications, and wagers on (re)inventing those histories that do not exist.

Sergio Zevallos, from the series Martyrdom / Suburbs, 1983
Gelatin silver print, 60 x 38.5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Livia Benavides 80m2 gallery 

Yeguas del Apocalipsis (Pedro Lemebel, Francisco Casas), The Last Supper of San Camilo, 1989. Fotografías: Leonora Calderón. Courtesy the artists and Pedro Montes.

Religious drag appearances, developed between the late-1970s and early-1990s under regimes of oppression or transition to democracy, undo Catholic imagery’s devout models of femininity (the saint, the virgin, the blessed), and disable the oppressive component of morality that organises and controls behaviour in public. These presentations are a critical response to colonial processes in Latin America and Spain, where religion has played a key role in the training of Eurocentric civilising cultural and moral values. State and religion, alongside military authoritarianism and Catholic devotion have been part of a strong conservative social matrix that drag practices confront and subvert, by parodying heterosexuality and by intervening in the codes that divide the social body into normal and sick subjects, into proper and deviant sexualities, into those who deserve to live and those who don’t.

Such practices renewed the modes of social intervention from the margins of the cultural and art systems, disengaged from any economic rule and traditional ideas of good taste. These transgender appropriations of religious iconography intervene in social power relations and in the institutionalised systems of morality and social respectability, opening pathways that had been blocked, and doing so in order to establish new territories of critical devotion for non-normative desires and bodies. They shift the shape and nature of god, turning it queer. 

Nahum Zenil, Offering, 2002
Mixed media on paper, 35.5 x 28 cm.
Courtesy the artist