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In The Category Is… Mexico City episode five “Boiz in Heels,” the audience receives a testimonial from Overkill and Dalia Xiucoatl, who speak on behalf of their gender identity.
Gender—the phenomena that the majority of us still misunderstand.
Both Overkill and Dalia Xiucoatl share their exploration of gender through their performance, reminding me of Judith Butler’s “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” Butler speaks of gender performance in both inside and outside a theatrical setting in which safety is afforded to drag performers but not trans people. Drag occurs in a dramatic setting where spectators are able to distinguish the gender transformation as a theatrical performance distinct from being “real,” whereas trans people existing in public face violent regulations and sanctions (Butler, 527).
House of Mamis members speak about voguing and ballroom as the facilitators of a safe transition between the binary genders, the exploration of “hyper-femininity,” as well as what lies in opposition of said binary. Performance in the theatrical sense becomes a liminal space where an individual can experience their truths without the violent backlash that occurs when that act or performativity is taken into a non-dramatic, public setting.
For House of Mamis members, and I’m certain for other queer folks, the empowerment of theatrical performance is what allows us to take gender expression away from the theatrical, and into a non-dramatic performance.
Furthermore, while the terms non-binary, gender-nonconforming, gender-fluid, and trans are helpful, the language is still restrained because it’s spoken from a standpoint existing within a heteronormative society. Judith Butler’s phenomenological perspective on gender assists in understanding that the constituting agent of gender exists prior to language. “Boiz in Heels” sparks a wider conversation about gender identity and expression, emphasizing that the point of Overkill’s and Dalia Xiucoatl’s testimonial is to recognize gender identity from the perspective of the individual being addressed.
Moreover, I also find myself connecting the phenomenological ideas of Gloria Anzaldua to “Boiz in Heels” because of Dalia Xiucoatl’s explication of her name. She identifies with Xiucoatl, the fire serpent, bringing up a short, empowering quote from Anzaldua’s Light in the Dark / Luz en lo oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality: “metaphors are gods” (55). Anzaldua studies the archetypal manifestations in our imaginings and stories, which produce an empowering effect. In appropriating, or recreating, rituals and myths, we can learn to utilize the metaphoric power into our own, personal lives.
Episode five “Boiz in Heels” from The Category Is… Mexico City is meaningful to me because of the conversation I draw from the episode. Today, I forget to talk about the series soundtrack and cinematography, but I hope my literary connections make up for the lack discussion surrounding those elements. Remember, “Boiz in Heels” is about awareness. The voice residing in us is mysterious. Listen to your intuition. Express the “self” cautiously hiding in your body.
Anzaldua, Gloria E. Light in the Dark / Luz en lo oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality. Ed. Analouise Keating. Duke University Press, 2015.
Butler, Judith. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” Theatre Journal, vol. 40, no. 4, 1988, pp. 519–531. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3207893.