Paul A. Schroeder Rodríguez
This article focuses on cinematic representations of the Latinx experience of the B/borderlands over the course of five distinct periods: silent cinema (1900s–1920s), commercial sound cinema (1930s–1960s), social problem films (1930s–1950s), New Latinx cinema (1970s), mainstream televisual cinema (1980s–1990s), and cinema in the digital age (2000s–present). Throughout her book Borderlands/La Frontera, Anzaldúa associates lowercase borderlands with destructive confrontations, and uppercase Borderlands with productive transformations. By this double definition, cinematic representations of the Latinx borderlands with a lowercase b have always dominated the big screen via Latinx characters who are either negative stereotypes or simply absent. But even as early as the silent period there have been attempts to represent the complex and oftentimes contradictory perspectives of the Latinx experience of the Borderlands with a capital B, where the switching of cultural, cinematic, and linguistic codes creates a new language: the language of a Borderlands cinema.
This article identifies a particular subgenre of the road narrative, the transgender road narrative, analyzing the film Transamerica and the novel Nevada as representative examples. The first part draws on transgender studies scholarship, showing how these texts both depict a long history of trans (im)mobility and engage with the affective geographies of gender transitioning, including the idea of the body as home. The second part draws on ecocriticism and environmental humanities scholarship, comparing how Transamerica and Nevada depict landscapes and environments in relation to trans bodies. This article thus takes this subgenre as an opportunity to explore the intersection of transgender issues and environmental issues and subsequently to develop a new line of inquiry that we might call “trans ecology.” (This article has been commissioned as a supplement to The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism, edited by Greg Garrard.)