Artists Art Issues Exhibitions About Us Search

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

Bookmark and Share

Marí­a Amelia: So you self-identified as a lesbian at some point, then as transgendered butch and I’m sure there’s no sequence, right? As you said, they’re sort of free-floating identities, right?

Joey: Well, first I was a “tomboy”, then a “femme”, then a “lesbian”, a “butch”, a “gender-queer”, a “transgendered boi”(7) into “boy”, and now I suppose I’m a “trans man”… but I perform so many identities that don’t even know what box I’m in anymore!

Marí­a Amelia: Ok, let’s go back to the wedding —how did you socially promote this event? Can you describe further, and I know you’ve mentioned specific strategies, the uses of alternative law. That is to say, what were some of the strategies and platforms that you used for the gay marriage?

Elizabeth: We promoted the wedding using very different language depending on the space. We presented it in intercultural, activist and academic spaces. With the media, the message was simple: “the first gay couple will be married in Ecuador.”

At certain times in the Project, we strategically mimicked the assimilationist discourse to lower our profile and pander to the institution. Although the ultimate goal was subversion, it allowed for the public official to feel comfortable enough to authorize a marriage as political as Joey and Hugo’s. On the other hand, the low profile avoided an initial rejection and allowed us to place the debate in mainstream public opinion: instead of an academic or political audience, we were able to get the attention of ordinary people. There lies a difference in strategy between our alternativist transfeminism and a certain sector of radical feminism that doesn’t allow concessions and declares that “marriage is a patriarchal institution; it is irreconcilable with my feminism and I’m against it in any shape or form.” No matter how impeccable the abolitionist arguments may be in their criticism of the patriarchal nature of marriage, their weakness is that they exist in a place that is comfortable for the system: the fringe. Those “stirring up trouble” on the fringe are often disregarded, like alley cats fighting. In contrast, raising our subversion from within, sometimes we are able to upset the system much more because we make noise within the Civil Registry, not from some distant “outside.”

Joey: And in my case I found myself in a situation where I was comfortable enough to actually marry in a way that I believe in.

Elizabeth: On the other hand, to actually go through an institution which you never believed in is an important test of honesty. One of the lessons of this project—to organize and put on a wedding from start to finish like so many couples do in the world—was to experience the monumental weight of the institution. It’s one thing to say “I don’t believe in marriage and will never marry.” It’s another thing to go through the ritual, to take off the tuxedos and feel the nerves of the day before the signing of a simple paper that you then realize is not so simple.

Joey: And the amount of paperwork, finances and stress that I went through for months before I even got to this country, jumping through hoops, made me realize how difficult it is for someone whose partner is from the third world who is desperately trying to get into England and how impossible this economy of marriage is in that it’s purposely designed so the majority cannot get in. Those with education, contacts, money, time and the know-how can, but the majority doesn’t stand a chance.

Elizabeth: And the law supports that economy. In Ecuadorian system, for example, for foreigners to marry Ecuadorians, they are only required to produce paperwork verifying they are legally single. In contrast, the British system is designed for strict immigration control, and therefore Joey had to swear in the name of the Queen of England to marry Hugo Vera and only him. The idea is to avoid arranged marriages for money and an influx of foreigners into the United Kingdom.

Joey: Before I left the UK, I was required to specify the person I was to marry and hand in copies of their ID number, DOB, hometown, their address, phone number, their father’s and mother’s name. I had to perform a “where did you meet?” interview and oath before I could get married abroad.

Once in Ecuador, a British Embassy employee and a Civil Registry public servant allied to purposely try to stop the wedding by creating new problems every week. So we miscalculated that I could try to pass as my legal sex and perform an ordinary “woman” to make things easier for us. And I just managed to look like a drag queen, which of course made everything worse. I stood out so much worse that they wouldn’t believe I was female like it said on my passport.

Elizabeth: In fact, the same day that Joey appeared as a drag queen in the Civil Registry, he had appeared in a suit at the office of the Embassy staff a few hours before. He also, as a precaution, brought two affidavits that he was unmarried: one as a man and one as a woman. He swore on both to be honest and truthful. It was fascinating from a performative point of view.

Joey: Women know about being subservient and changing things from the inside because they’ve done it throughout history with the men they’ve been or not been married to. I can say that from the perspective of being a woman for years I have the absolute utmost respect for femmes who strategize in a man’s world every day. But more recently I’ve almost lost the ability to perform being ‘a woman’ which is why Ellie [Elizabeth] will often kick me under the table to keep my mouth shut because as a masculine gender you’re used to being able to open your mouth more often. But this cross-cultural experience has taught me to respect conservative cultures and helped me see my white Western privilege materialize.

Elizabeth: I think this Project has tested both of us on our professional limits; you as a gender terrorist and me as an alternativist.

* * Click here to read Part 2 of The first gay marriage in Ecuador * *


1) Elizabeth Vásquez is a transfeminist lawyer whose activism in the areas of gender and sexual diversity is based on the original design and execution of “alternative uses of the law”, abbreviated as “AULs”. She founded the Legal Patrol and Project Transgender—Different Bodies, Same Rights, and is she who has established the principle lines of discourse and action of this organization. Contact:;
2) Joey Hateley is a transfeminist experimental theatre artist — practitioner, writer, director, educator and art-activist. He creates innovative transformative cross-cultural performance work that focuses on issues of identity, diversity, inclusion and empowerment. He is the Artistic Director of TransAction Theatre Company, an organization that devises socio-political interdisciplinary performance. Contact:;
3) She addresses the fields of gender, sexuality, identity, and citizenship in LGBT, Latino and immigrant communities, mainly in the United States and Ecuador. Contact:;
4) “Alternativism” is explained further during the course of this article.
5) Since no rule of law in the Ecuadorian system defines what a “man” or a “woman” is, a sufficiently creative judge could define a person as a “man” or “woman” based on generic considerations instead of depending on the civil identification system’s letters F and M.
6) He is referring to a permanent scar on his chest from having cut himself in a performance for the 2010 Conference Against Transsexual Pathologization, Project Transge

3 of 3 pages     previous page

back to issues