Trans by Presidential Decree: Fede Baeza’s Crossdressing Style Speaks of a Nostalgic Longing for 1940s Eugenics

 

The First White Transexual Activist Receives a Presidential Salary

From the minute he stepped into his rather disproportionate office at the Palais de Glace placed like a belly button a tthe centre of the chic Recoleta neighbourhood in Buenos Aires,  Transexual Civil Servant Feda Baeza made it clear that her priority, during her tenure as National Director of Artistic Salons and Awards, that every word that was uttered by him was perceived as an actual act of activist action. Up to date, every call for works for one of the Prizes that his jobposition to be submitted for a competition whose jury is already biased against quality to instead, endorse a type of value creation for art that is closer to core values of the Catholic Church than the Homosexual Movement.

Queer Criteria for Judging Art Works

Baeza’s intention was to create a new (which, as I said already, is an ancient) method for injecting value into aesthetic objects that without that consensus are worthless because the only way of approaching them has been and is cultural. In this particular case, his method of choice was the economy of the relic. All of a sudden and when the medical industry was both needed and loathed, transexuals bore the marks of medicine not only as a technical intervention but also as an ethical system. Their identities depended on external approval and medical intervention. But Baeza saw himself as a sign in the tradition of the imported postructuralism that became lingua franca of intellectuals and critics since the 1990s. However, although a sign is not a slogan, both of them reject the sort of materiality he wanted to convey but the problem is that bizarre relationship that Diana Taylor perceived in the way Argentines as embodied beings interacted among themselves through a type of resolution of conflict that almost always involved the annihilation and disappearance of other races.

Diana Taylor, American Mother of Performance Studies

At first glance, we might think that The Church would have not approved such prosthetics; however,  the primitive Church endorsed versions of Jesus Christ transitioning back and forth from one genre to the other as it could be seen in the Vision of Ezekiel in Thessaloniki or Sant’Apollinare Nuovo where the feminisation of the alleged Lord or, should we saym Lady Christ was obviously deliberate. Baeza as a white woman from the consolidated middle classes through free public education and the elevation in apotheosis of a progressive discourse of justification of failure through victimisation, could find herself entitled to claim a position analogous to the Christ. Through his quotas that give disproportionate relevance to art made by transexuals, Baeza sees himself as a necessary dissolving figure, material and conceptual at the same time, flesh and verb. The percentages as quotas in a country that is going through an economic crisis is that instead of including it excludes and creates unnecesary resentment among those groups that will have their revenge sooner or later. Thus, the politically correct soon became aggressive enough to deter heterosexual painters to participate in the most important competntionin the country waiting for them to go. full awareness that neither concept nor craftmanship had a chance in an environment so charged with identitarian proclamations. The right of one’s own re foundation seemed to come without a previous dissolution, as the performative action of a sovereign mind. To make this even clearer, when identity politics became so ubiquitous, he knew that, somehow, the post-Kirchnerist entente almost cordiale between right and left was in desperate need of strategies that divert the public attention from the bipolar and somehow scandalous way, Fernandez administration managed the pandemic passing from a draconian immobility to leaving eighty year old pensioners under the sun waiting in dangerous proximity to passers by that were no well off enough to have the luxury to respect the law. The reach of the pandemic into the minds of the Argentines is something that need to be studied because something was broken and the result is a Hobbesian state of nature that expels under the name of love and friendship.  But there are some visual aspects that we must discuss because left undefined, they might help perpetuate the widespread confusion that leads to considering identification with a sexual minority something laudatory as, in itself, an achievement. Such automatic celebration of difference ends up doing the opposite of what is needed. The outcome is an erradication of cultural specificities that reduce difference to a matter of style or taste. As we know, homophobia and racism are embedded in the very fabric of our culture and our psyche and even though hegemonic (heterosexual) society insist that discrimination against minorities is a thing from the past and this is done through the market and the consolidation of a commercial gay niche as the condition for their assimilation.

Alberto Fernandez & His Middle of the Road Platonism

Argentines usually act out their collective traumas through verbose claims. President Alberto Fernandez has made of these types of grandiloquent wording the counterpart of an aethetic that combines discoursive exaggeration with visual boredom. No one represents the boring grey man than Fernandez. The peculiarity of his ordinariness constitutes the foundation of his cultural programme where the un remarkable is deployed as an advantage. This, in spite of the fact, that queerness is, at first glance, rather material around him with a cross dressing son and a former softporn actress as a wife. What stepmother and son have in common is a taste for popular culture in the variant of porn. Ubersexualised, they seem characters of a different theatrical play with a man that seems to find joy in his own emasculation at the hands of Vicepresident  Kirchner who seems to have chosen him as a screen on which to project her worst fears of failure. What I have always found peculiar in the President’s son is his effort to clarify that his visuals are deceitful and that his persona is nothing but a character which means that his clothes are a costume.

Watteau’s The Comedians

The constant presentation of his life as fake and as role playing even in the higher spheres of power is fascinating and makes me think about that refractive albeit reflective critique uttered as painting (the medium that can say without saying) by Watteau in his Italian Comedians commissioned by Madame de Montespan for Louis XIV. As in this painting that reflects on entertainment as the end of an era but also as the terminal crisis of ignorance as a virtue through faith. Modernity is a mirror that was put in front of the spectator whose eyes are asessed as untrustworthy. Fernandez son always opens his public aparitions feeling the need to clarifiy that he is straight. He probably does not want to compromise the already emasculated nature of his fathers presidency. Fernandez was appointed  as candidate when the current King maker in the officialist party,  former President Cristina Kirchner chose him. His middle of the roadness and unimpressive qualities embody the mediocrity of the grey man that for some reason the party in office wanted to project. Cristina Kirchner who, as a dignified authority of the Peronist movement, had, until very recently, brushed feminist issues as banal has consistently used patriarchal women to signpost her identity as a female politician. Her two inspirations are Evita and the Madres de Plaza de Mayo. Eva Peron as myth of origin and Madres and Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo as fixed source of morality with whom the traditional values of the heteronormative family remain untouched. This helped convince and ultimately convert her to the feminist cause and abortion was finally passed as law in Argentina.

 

140 Apertura Sesiones Ordinarias en el Congreso de la Nacion, el 1 de Marzo de 2022, en Buenos Aires, Argentina. Foto: Charly Diaz Azcue / Comunicación Senado.

A Wealthy Kind of Activism

But the feminist movement has historically been an elitist preserve of the rich. Firstly, by necessity and later because of the structural differences among the Argentines. Similarly, the homosexual movement has been, from the start, tied to the educated white middle classes allowing poorer sectors to join their cause when trans sexual workers were displaced by the policies of gentrification of the City of Buenos Aires during the 1990s and ever since. But when the Peronist government transformed the cause of sexual minorities into a policy of State, it was the logical step forward after embracing the Human Rights movement as main source of moral value. The risk that this sudden elevation of the rights of the sexually different to exist carried was to used them as indicators of their virtue while hiding from confronting Argentina’s real problem: its reticence to see its part in the erradication of indigenous populations, leftist activist, black soldiers, etc. The problem is the delusion that Argentines are forward thinking when, as a matter of fact, they are homophobic and blatantly racist. Official policies regarding homosexuality have been mainly distributive as gestures. Thus, government did not risk presenting the cause of the sexually different as something material but instead as an ethical position. Again, the contrast between empty words presented as big policies and no material change appear with the additional risk of making society believe that the sexually different are to blame for deepening the economic crisis with their demands, a historical claim of right wing white middle classes against those sectors they perceive as weaker such as immigrants, mestizos (who are those arrived to the city from the provinces) and homosexuals.

In my opinion, governmental measures in favour of the rights of sexual minorities must be considered as part of the kind of wishful thinking turned into law that ends up devaluating the power of law, probably, because, in the Southern Cone, real power is not devoted to the reinforcement of rule of law but is pointing in other directions. This is, however, one of the reasons. The structural one. But there are others. Intelectuals and academics have gladly adopted conceptual frameworks that made it easy to position themselves in the wider world but at the cost of dematerialising the damage that lack of state policies and denial provoke. The collective decision to favour intelectual models imported from the North made progressive thought ineffective. Such “mannerist” post structuralist turn can be best observed in how cultural policies stopped changing reality but aiming instead at changing the perception of themselves of their beneficiaries.

To find the clearest example we must go to the aforementioned transexual appointed by decree as the person in charge of the Gargantuan endogamic and corrupt system of pensions and prizes that the artistic community, mainly composed of middle and upper middle class citizens, have managed to kidnap. To give the reader an idea of how much budget from cultural activities it swallows, the so called Salon Nacional and its Premios add up to 90 percent of the budget of the sector. It is a scandalous pension scheme that at this point is not about artistic projection but shows with brutal clarity the low place of the visual arts in the distribution of public goods in the form of a pension veiledas as a Prize. Uncannily, the National Endowment of the Arts does the same but with the financing of infrastructure (a credit to buy a studio) or sponsoring pointless courses. But Argentina, today, has become a place of budgetary free riding where culture has become the excuse for scavenging the treasury before others do. So when Baeza decided to hide his penis between his legs, not having to endure the surgery and focussed on dressing up as a woman the outfit was appointed as a government official, he transubstantiated into a woman of a very particular kind. Her clothes were not too different from those wore by one of the characters in the legendary underground performance trio that took the counterculture by storm by the late 1980s with Las Poetisas (The Female Poets).

Between Underground Trans and the Widow of the Dictator: Baeza’s Look

The show was presented at the legendary Centro Parakultural withtrans performer Batato Barea, classical expressionist actor Alejandro Urdapilleta y Humberto Tortonese.  I think that Baeza, who obtained a PhD from the Universidad de Buenos Aires and is versant in Contemporary Art, conceived his tenure as a government oficial as a platform where visualities regarding  his  was inspired in Tortonese character but with a Florence Nightingale and a Victoria Ocampo twist. The latter, a vernacular Peggy Guggenheim of sorts, that financed the kind of European inspired modernism that up to date is considered the peak of Argentine Culture.  But more than two years later, the optimism that the inbetweeness of the ever changing human being allegorised in the the transexual starts to look like and what is even worse, to act as a Nurse speaking to the public as if they were mentally challenged- What fascinates me about Baezas performance of sexual fluidity is his fixating gestures: his hands closed like claws in the shape of a marsupial feet shaped as a fist to mark the rhythm of a sentence that show his desperation for meaning not to decompose and his physical pain for what she is not convinced.

As a transexual, she defines publicly as a phantasmatic projection of her PA, a better known transexual activist, that he uses as a trophy or even worse, as a source of authority. The programmes he conceived for the institution he leads mirror this desperate attempt to stop the liquid from flowing and the wind from blowing. He speaks of percentages of awards that would only be given to people that do not and will ever look like him because Baeza is an exceptional case in Argentine transexualism. That is why her choice of Ocampo as main inspiration for her look is pertinent albeit unconscious for that type of transexualism of the wealthy middle class that transforms cross dressing into a sexual chocie cannot be further from the need to navigate the perilous waters of masculine poverty making ends meet as a woman and sometimes, not even being gay. Some of this no non sense can be appreciated in Maria Belen Correa, another transexual but who instead of using her state of becoming as a weapon for personal advancement, was a fundamental piece in the reconstruction of the collective memory of a social group that in the Southern Cone does not have the tools for documenting themselves. In the interview I did with Correa, her naturalism and lack of theatricality contrasts with other models in the region. She seems to flow without having to grab anything in the process.

 

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