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The first gay marriage in Ecuador: An Art-Law Collaboration. Part 1
by Marí­a Amelia Viteri

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Elizabeth: When a legal paradox is brought forth, it manages to subvert the law at the level of logic, and that is particularly powerful. When we compare this AUL with the de facto union of 2004, it goes a step further. The 2004 contract creatively used an institution but strictly respected the structure of the business corporation and the principles of civil law. However, in the “technical marriage” contracted between Joey and Hugo, the very boundaries and principles of civil law are called into question: what is a “man”? Is that civil category really so solid? Will human complexity eventually not surpass the limits of a legality built upon dyadic sex?

But there is another difference between this and the 2004 AUL and it’s the level of dialogue with art. Every alternative use of the law has a degree of creativity and an important element of performance. But the marriage project was explicitly designed as an “Art-Law” collaboration. In 2004, few people witnessed the “performance” that Alex Carrillo and David Bermeo put on before the Notary. My idea was that the AUL of this marriage would be much more public and therefore generate a far greater political, aesthetic and media impact.

A legal-artistic collaboration of this magnitude was only possible thanks to the joint efforts of the institutional “couple” - Project Transgender and TransAction Theatre-; the Hugo-Joey couple and the task force consisting of Ana Almeida, Hugo Vera, Elizabeth Vásquez, Joey Hateley, and Brigitte Greenham (friend/lover of the spouses), as well as the artists who participated at specific productions and times in the process. It was as if we had all got married.

The way in which Joey Hateley practices art is very compatible with the way I practice law. To me, he is an “alternativist” in his field, even if that may not be the word he uses to describe his practice. Alternativism requires a solid command of the logic and technique of the discipline that it tries to subvert. You can only destroy the rules if you know them at heart. Joey does this. For example, Joey is trained in opera and it is precisely that technique which allows him to reach very masculine and very feminine registers when singing. This, in turn, allows him to be a “gender terrorist” with his voice. But the opera wasn’t designed to foster gender terrorism, just as commercial law was not designed to legalize de facto gay unions. That is alternativism. It’s using classical techniques to accomplish unorthodox goals.

Marí­a Amelia: So, can you tell me more about your interest in working on social justice issues?

Joey: When I was at university I created feminist performance that pieced together my subjugated identity with other marginalized people and groups, in that oppression is always interconnected and intersecting… You can’t possibly talk about gender without race, or sexuality, and class and disability without nationality. Rather than reading about politics of alligience in academic theory and creatng experimental political performance about it, I began working as a drama teacher in big working class school, before doing an MA in how to educate young people about gender and diversity using drama. I then went freelance doing drama work with disabled people, refugees, ‘at risk’ youth, hip-hop artists, or actors at the Royal Shakespeare Company and in schools and at conferences. I found myself continually changing and shifting depending on what context and cultural group I was working with, like a socio-political chameleon linking marginalised issues, experiences and oppressions together in tangible practical ways. I began to become frustrated at experimental socio-political performance preaching to the converted, which didn’t seem change anything in the ‘real world’. If we think about about cross-cultural feminist dialogue from progressive art, activism, agency or theories of social change -these all might seem inspiring and beautiful- but in practice the work can be harsh, difficult and incredibly ugly. As art-activists, social, youth, or drama workers we are un-heard, under-valued, unpaid or un-funded to work with the disenfranchised. We have less social status and job security versus those who write and teach academically about the work we do.

Elizabeth: The cross-cultural encounter can also be quite painful.

Joey: I have scars.(6)

Elizabeth: Yes, you have the scars to prove it.

Joey: Cross-cultural politics of allegiance is the opposite of divide and rule. It’s about people from different subcultures applying feminist theories in practice, finding allies in all walks of life, getting inspired, sharing, investing in and creatively expressing marginalized perspectives.

As a performer I consciously reflect and dialogue with my communities’ experiences and transit between different perspectives and persona’s both on and off stage. If my identity is relational, it will always change depending on who’s addressing me in relation to the (sub)cultural context I find myself in. If trans can be seen as a state of mind (and body) subversion, then I am a nomad that transitions between identities in multiple ways. If I’m wearing a suit, I’m addressed differently than if I’m wearing my skater gear, than if I’m in a hip-hop workshop, than if I’m looking professional or teaching children or being a drag-queen. I’m constantly and consciously shifting in relation to complex interpersonal dynamics influenced by multiple contexts such as class, race (inter)national and geographical contexts and that’s Trans in and of itself for me. Trans is a state of mind (body) that uses power or systems subversively from within to draw attention to the fallacy or flaws in the system itself. Trans is a transitory subjectivity that connects the dots subversively and continually shape-shifts in relation to context to move between fixed identity boxes. As much as it is an identity, Trans is a kind of political consciousness that involves politics of allegiance in subverting mainstream perspectives, like a morphic state of socio-political being intersecting with multiple communities. Queer is perhaps seen more this way in the west, whereas trans is still seen in a more essentialist way, which makes no sense to me as often Trans people are working directly to subvert essential body based notions and narratives of identity.

Marí­a Amelia: Throughout your experience and work your concept of trans seems to be not only non-mainstream but it confronts the way that trans people, traditional trans people, define themselves, also showing how the GLBT traditional social movement will define trans - both here as well as in England as well as in the States.

Joey: Transsexualism can be incredibly assimilationist, upholding the binaries in traditional ways, whereas “transgendered” has more links to the term ‘gender-queer’ in England. I identify as trans in a similar way to what Judith Halberstam calls a nomadic butch, linked to how Rosi Braidotti talks about nomadism, as a shifting and multiple subject that avoids beings read as simply male.

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