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From Hom(e)ophobia to Hom(e)oerotics: Searching for a "Substitute for Salvation" in the Corpus of John Rechy

  • Author(s): Gonzalez, Omar
  • Advisor(s): Gaspar de Alba, Alicia
  • et al.
Abstract

Several years before the chants of “�Si se puede!” and “Chicano Power!” echoed through the fields of central California and against the pavement of East Los Angeles, a burgeoning Chicano writer named John Rechy from El Paso, Texas, disrupted the established rhetoric of racial binary politics with works such as “El Paso del Norte,” Evergreen Review (1958), and “Jim Crow Wears a Sombrero,” The Nation (1960). These articles represent two of the earliest works describing the racial apartheid experienced by Chicanas/os in Texas written from a Chicano perspective. Rechy then exposed another taboo, the homosexual underground of the pre-Stonewall Rebellion (1969) era, when one’s presence in a gay bar elicited harsh retribution from the state—from sex-offender status registration to involuntary electroshock therapy. Rechy’s debut novel, City of Night (1963), is a semi-autobiographical tale of a nameless protagonist navigating urban America as a hustler defying a society that criminalized queer bodies, desires, and lives. Rechy, a participant in this twilight world of hustlers, drag queens, and scores offers a bleak, unfiltered view into the subaltern sexual underground of post-war America during an era when “gay rights” was a foreign concept. In the face of rising violence against queer brown bodies, most notably the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre, the 2013 murder of eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, and soaring HIV rates, I utilize interdisciplinary methods to propose a theory of “hom(e)oerotics.” Hom(e)oerotics is a decolonial framework drawing from themes from Rechy’s corpus to accomplish the following outcomes: construct a queer Chicano literary genealogy, interrogate the intersection of Chicanx and LGBTQ+ activist history, and examine the historical and contemporary toxicity of gay male masculinity and sexuality. I ground critical queer Chicano theory in Rechy’s works to name, explicate, and heal the multiplicity of violence exacted upon the bodies of gay Xicanx men, as Chicana lesbians have accomplished for their community for decades.

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