- LGBT Transnational Identity and the Media ed. by Christopher Pullen
From Vito Russo’s groundbreaking 1981 The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality at the Movies to Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics (1999) by José Esteban Muñoz, and more recently Mary Gray’s 2009 book Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America, scholarly studies on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and queer representations provide critical sites of intervention for identity, praxis, and theory.1 As a consequence of and despite the mainstream media’s fraught and frayed portrayals of same-sex sexuality and nonnormative gender expressions, these works and others illuminate the rich, fertile, and growing scholarly contributions to understanding the stakes of queer visibility. However, much of the research has been US-focused, and the anthology LGBT Transnational Identity and the Media offers a critical intervention. Edited by UK-based scholar Christopher Pullen, LGBT Transnational Identity provides unique contributions from a refreshing list of twenty academic scholars largely based outside of the United States. More specifically, the anthology offers a compelling framework that decenters the West in our understandings of “LGBT identity” and media. As Pullen argues in his introduction, “This book considers the potential of LGBT transnational identity, exhibited through varying media forms, challenging the notion [End Page 169] of a Western-centric LGBT identity.”2 In doing so, LGBT Transnational Identity largely focuses on locations—geographically and theoretically—outside the United Kingdom or the United States and signals a turn in the construction of LGBT identity and media beyond the “national.”
LGBT Transnational Identity offers interdisciplinary and transnational critique through an axis of media, including television, film, novels, radio shows, and parades. The stand-alone articles include geographic locales rarely covered within the fields of LGBT media studies, such as Malaysia, Uganda, Turkey, Argentina, and Iran. Thanks to this scope, the anthology illuminates vibrant and provocative media work produced outside the United States and Western Europe. For example, Stephanie Selvick argues that the Egyptian novel and film adaptation of The Yacoubian Building (Marwan Hamed, 2006) connect to “non-Western” narratives that restrict the film’s representations within the framework of “social stereotypes.”3 Under such a rubric, Selvick argues, desire in The Yacoubian Building then may be only understood as “sexual abuse.”4 Yet by decolonizing literary and filmic expectations, she suggests that these restrictions offer transgressive “queer intimate possibilities.”5 Gustavo Subero highlights subversive Latin American gay porn such as Argentinos con orgullo 2 (Darío Marxxx, 2007) that, he demonstrates, traces and historicizes Latino gay history as autoethnography and queer historiography while troubling Western pornographic tropes.6 Andrew Hock Soon Ng shows that Bukak Api (Osman Ali, 2000), a documentary film on Malaysian female myk nyah (transsexuals), sympathizes with their community yet ultimately reifies the aberration of myk nyah as well.7 Theoretical topicality, geography, and medium specificity help shape the anthology’s organization, with the volume divided into three parts: “Politics and Citizenship,” “Adaptation and Postcolonial Transitions,” and “Performance and Subjectivity.” The first part largely includes articles on questions of marginality, citizenship, and legality in Uganda, Iran, and Malaysia. The second convenes articles from India, Egypt, and the United Kingdom and for the most part refocuses on the Western and non-Western divides within literature, radio programming, and documentary, with two articles on Pratibha Parmar’s documentary films. “Performance and Subjectivity,” the concluding section, builds on the first two parts with articles on camp, porn, and space and demonstrates the diversity of LGBT transnational themes, issues, and media.
LGBT Transnational Identity’s central argument relies on an identity construction that challenges “Western LGBT identity.” Pullen writes, “I argue that LGBT transnational [End Page 170] identity should not be framed as Anglocentric, or Anglo-responsive; it should represent a coalescent flux of diverse, yet connected, voices.”8 Pullen cautions against “a Western-oriented ‘universal’ gay rights identity, in which dominant discourses of queer identity potentially disenfranchise the non-Western.”9 The collection troubles “Western-centric LGBT identity” by providing “a multifaceted scope...