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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Mi Existir Es Resistir: Trans Latinx Lives and Strategies of Self-Preservation

  • Author(s): Caraves, Jack
  • Advisor(s): Abrego, Leisy J
  • et al.
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This dissertation contributes to the dearth of empirical research on Trans Latinxs, primarily to understand how their social location shapes their relationship to themselves, families, communities, and the state while centering their resilience. I draw on two years of participant observation, 129 surveys collected in collaboration with the TransLatin@ Coalition, and 28 in-depth interviews with Trans Latinxs in the greater Los Angeles area. I argue that gender works as an axis of power to discipline and police Trans Latinxs and Gender Non-Conforming bodies. In Chapter Two, I address how gender is shaped and policed for Trans Latinxs in terms of both their physical representation and gendered behavior. I focus particularly on the institutions of (a) home, (b) church, (c) immigration detention, and (d) employment as spaces that not only attempt to control transgressive behavior but also attempt to produce and reproduce gender norms within the binary. In Chapter Three, I argue that despite the marginalization and gender policing that Trans Latinxs experience from an early age and in everyday life, they have affirming and validating experiences that allow them to emerge into themselves and their identity as Trans Latinx individuals. I examine how Trans Latinxs in this study have found or created spaces to discover who they are and emerge as themselves through finding affirming community and the importance of a mother’s support in transitioning. In Chapter Four, I look at how spirituality is essential in the lives of Trans Latinxs. My overall argument is that Trans Latinxs do in fact embrace and practice spirituality either by (a) identifying as Christian or Catholic and/or engaging in Latino popular religion; (b) engaging in non-traditionally Latinx spaces such as other community groups, spaces, and religions to embrace their faith and spirituality; and (c) exploring and creating their own type of spirituality. In Chapter Five, I offer implications and significance of this work and future directions. This research shows how individuals have diverse and nuanced experiences within each of these sites and how they make meaning of the inclusion, exclusion, or shades of both as they transgress multiple boundaries on a daily basis.

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This item is under embargo until June 4, 2021.