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Tornando o Debate Queer: The aim of this article is to contrast prominent discourses on prostitution and human trafficking to the context of prostitution in Brazil and local feminist discourses on this matter, understanding their contradictions and limitations. Is it necessarily exploitative?
My argument is that discourses on sex work, departing from sex trafficking debates, are heavily engaged in a heteronormative logic that might be unable to approach the complexity and ambiguity of experiences of transgender prostitutes and, therefore, cannot theorize their possibilities of agency. The aim in this work, by critically engaging with that thematic, is to understand the effects and possibilities opened up by different discourses on prostitution considering the background of travesti prostitution in Brazil and to understand how these localised experiences can produce insights on larger power structures.
The word travesti 1 derives from transvertir , meaning to transform or alter the style, nature or essence of someone or something. Being a travesti is not simply about cross-dressing, or drag performing, but adopting feminine names and pronouns, hairstyle, clothing style, cosmetic practices, ingesting hormones and applying silicone directly into their bodies. Don Kulick affirms that travestis do not self-identify as women, and therefore they would configure a specific combination of female physical attributes and male homosexual subjectivity.
To avoid that, it is necessary to focus on the contradictions of universalistic explanations and to deconstruct naturalised binaries upon which our knowledge is built. In other words, this will mean translating this coproduction and transforming it to think local stories and engage differences theoretically in a spatially and historically localised manner Pereira: The choice for a queer perspective is based precisely on its proposition of embracing deviation, of straying from the norm and opening the possibility of alliance in difference, and of not taking fixed identities as a point of departure.
However, to manifest this difference without falling into the repetition of preceding authoritarian practices requires caution. Generalising moves in fighting compulsory heterosexuality and mining easy binaries without proper contextualisation can end up, according to Pedro P. Pereira , in a rushed approach that integrates different positions in a homogeneity. In his terms, away from the context of enunciation and without proper attention to the singularity of each theoretical body, we would simply reproduce theories — in a repetitive movement from centre to margins — rejecting the resistance of the realities analysed by these very theories.