After ZEE

Curator's Note

Why don’t you ask me? Ask me what pronoun I prefer. Why isn’t this just common and practice?/your hand reassures my thigh/you give me a card. You tell me, she, her, and ze. ZEE. ZEE Matanawee/under the dinner table, she places her hand on her thigh, it will be all okay. Thai popstar extraordinaire. This is a small story about pronouns, transnational sexual identity, and the lusciousness of Asian female masculinity.

I first learned about ZEE from my friend and collaborator, Jai Arun Ravine, trans Thai American dancer, poet, and filmmaker. (http://srlp.org/bigchangejaiarunravin/ ) Together, we watched this video and swooned. ZEE. In her ethnography, Toms and Dees: Transgender Identity and Female Same-Sex Relationships in Thailand, Megan Sinnott outlines gender and sexual identifications that differ from the West. In Thailand, for example, masculine women, like ZEE, are largely identified as toms (from "tomboy) and their feminine partners are identified as dees (from lady). "Apparently, ‘lesbian’ was an untranslatable, culturally specific term." Sinnot’s rigorous ethnography outlines the complex identity formations that occur in Thailand and illuminates how Western LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) identities should not be assumed as common currency.  

In Thailand, a tom is a star. In the video, ZEE does get her heart broken. Her dee does end up giving in to pressure and marrying the cis-dude. But like most lesbian shows, we understand this reality is anything but. As in, who would really leave Carmen at the altar? Who would really leave ZEE on the street? ZEE troubles the problematic discourse that the LGBT West is the most progressive, advanced, and accepting. Although Ellen is lovely to view on daytime television, I don’t see a popstar like ZEE happening in the U.S. anytime soon. CAN ZEE SAVE? In the midst of homophobia everywhere, (especially the heartbreaking homophobia in Russia and India) I wonder how queer pop music reimagines? Can Youtube.com, Asian Female Masculinity, and celebrity rework our models of transnationalism, LGBT, and resistance?

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