Archives of Sexual Crossings: The Meanings of Puerto Rican Topless Transgender Performer Vicki Starr

Friday, January 3, 2014: 9:30 AM
Maryland Suite A (Marriott Wardman Park)
Horatio Roque Ramírez, University of California, Santa Barbara
One early April morning, 1955, Leynor drafted a letter to Ms. Victoria, written and mailed on stationery from El Corral Motel, in Yerington, Nevada. In a small town where prostitution was legal, the Corral Motel promised “ranching, mining, fishing, hunting, riding, swimming, and skiing.” Leynor’s letter to Ms. Victoria suggests that more diversions were for sale, she and Dony arriving in the town specifically to work, with the help of an ad. Leynor herself explained that she was to begin working in San Francisco’s famed Beige Room in North Beach (open during 1949-1958, where “America’s Most Beautiful and Talented Female Impersonators” performed, as it advertised). The week before the letter, Leynor, Rey and Miky had been in San Diego, not far from Victoria’s residence in Southern California in San Pedro. This brief handwritten letter is one of thousands of existing documents of queer Latina sexual migrations in postwar United States, and specifically MTF transgender and Latino and Latina/Latin America women impersonating artists, opening up a wealth of information. Written in Spanish by Leynor, Victoria was a famed topless Puerto Rican transsexual performer, a late 1940s island transmigrant. There are numerous geographies linked through the letter, but there is so much more to consider. In this presentation I propose to examine the relationship among oral history to queer archival practices; the queer “archive” itself as a multilingual and multinational material and discursive site (following Foucault and Halberstam); and the legacy of Vicky Starr into the 2000s.
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