The Fascination of the (Dead) Transgender Body: The Strange Case of Raúl/Raquel Suárez, 1930

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 12:00 PM
Cabinet Room (Omni Shoreham)
Mir Yarfitz, University of California, Los Angeles
In late March, 1930, newspapers in Buenos Aires reported that customs
office employee Raúl Luis Suárez had been discovered after death to
have been born female. Suarez had been living as a man for over twenty
years, had married a women and was living with another female lover.
More than a week after death, Suárez’ body was dug out of the grave
for examination, and newspapers printed photographs of the tomb being
excavated and close-ups of the bloated corpse. Several months of press
coverage exploited this “dark drama of identity impersonation…
interesting and juicy” that “powerfully enflamed public opinion.” The
name of the “man-woman” Raúl or Raquel Suarez was used to signal
numerous similar cases uncovered by local journalists, including that
of a German ex-submariner who was arrested for dressing as a woman and
told the press he had been married to a woman who dressed as a man.
The press revisited 1906 coverage of the “unbelievable adventures” of
another “man-woman,” and published salacious stories of other
gender-bending after-death discoveries from history and the present
day, often emphasizing subjects’ bohemian lifestyles, transgressive
sexuality, perversion and degeneration. As historians have not
previously discussed these cases or the pornographic gaze of the
porteño media, this paper explores these representations of
cross-gendered behavior using theoretical insights from transgender
and pornography studies.
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