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Queer ducks, Puerto Rican patos, and Jewish-American feygelekh: birds and the cultural representation of homosexuality.


In Puerto Rico and at other locations in the Greater Hispanic Caribbean (and in its diaspora), to be called pato [male duck] or pata [female duck], far from being a sign of affection, is rather a quite disconcerting and at times traumatic event, for it is to be marked as queer, strange, different, sexually or gender non-compliant, or simply marginal. I have always been fascinated and disturbed by the fact that these seemingly innocent, neutral words can have such charged associations and provoke such strong emotions. Much like the word gallina [chicken], which also has profoundly negative implications (of cowardice, in that case), pato and pata are the source of many a child's and adult's nightmares, including my own (La Fountain-Stokes 1999). Remarkably, this phenomenon is not limited to Caribbean Spanish but also occurs in other cultures and languages, such as English, Portuguese, and Yiddish. How and why is it that these animal (specifically, bird) names become synonyms, stand-ins or epithets for stigmatized gender and sexual behavior? And how have contemporary writers and artists in Puerto Rico and the United States dealt with the complex meanings and valences of these words?

The use of animal metaphors in reference to homosexuality and to individuals who transgress dominant gender and sexual norms in the Americas and Europe--particularly the pejorative, stigmatized usage by dominant groups who do not identify with or practice queer sexualities, and the reappropriation and transformation of these terms by marginal subjects--is actually a quite widespread, multilingual phenomenon that has received little scholarly attention, at least from a comparativist perspective. (1) It can also be seen in relation to the more generalized practice of using animal words in reference to sexuality, particularly the use of bird names in relation to male and female genitalia and to women, at least in the English and Spanish languages. (2) Linguistic, and particularly lexicological, analysis of queer bird and animal epithets reveals manifestations in the Greater Hispanic Caribbean (pajaro/pajara or bird, pato/pata or duck, mariposa or butterfly, and mariquita or ladybug, used with varied frequency in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela), in Brazil (bicha or female animal, veado/viado or deer, and frango/franga and galinha or chicken, in addition to the non-animal term puto, the masculine version of puta or female prostitute, which is in common usage in Mexico and Argentina), (3) in the United States (the phrase queer duck), in England (duckie), and in Yiddish feygele, the diminutive of a woman's proper name but also meaning little bird). (4) These stigmatized usages are complemented or challenged by community-based gay/queer slang terms such as queen bee (a socially dominant gay man) and bear (a hairy, usually large-bodied gay man) and all of the attendant terms from bear culture, including grizzly bear, polar bear, bear cub, otter, and wolf. (5)

In the following pages, I will discuss some of these queer animal metaphors, focusing on lexical aspects, on the analysis of eight Puerto Rican (island and diasporic) cultural productions, and on an American Internet cartoon and motion picture (Queer Duck) and a children's book and animated film (Harvey Fierstein's The Sissy Duckling). The eight Puerto Rican texts I will discuss are Alfredo Collado Martell's "La ultima aventura del Patito Feo," Luis Llorens Torres's "El patito feo," Alfredo Villanueva-Collado's Pato salvaje, Angel Lozada's La patografia, Frances Negron-Muntaner's "La patita fea," Alexandra Pagan Velez's "El cisne," the Arthur Aviles Typical Theatre's El pato feo (co-written by Marlyn Matias), and my own performance piece, Abolicion del pato.

Many of these cultural productions--including those by Collado Martell, Llorens Torres, Lozada, Negron-Muntaner, Pagan Velez, Aviles and Matias, and Fierstein--directly partake of the metaphor of duck as homosexual in the context of the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen's well-known and widely translated children's tale "The Ugly Duckling" (1844). Andersen's (perhaps little known) personal biography; specifically the fact that he was attracted to men--particularly to Italian ones, as the Brazilian writer Joao Silverio Trevisan has noted, based on Hans Mayer's research--is quite relevant; Trevisan sees this story as "a expressao fantasiosa do desajustamento de um homossexual: o patinho feio era, de fato, seu proprio autor" (2002: 263) [the fanciful expression of a homosexual's imbalance; the ugly duckling was, in fact, the story's very own author]. (6) It is thus rather interesting to learn of the impact that some of Andersen's stories had on Oscar Wilde, possibly the most famous homosexual writer of all times (Nassaar 1995, 1997).

While I will not explore the natural sciences (specifically, biology) in any detail in this particular essay (which in fact forms part of a much broader book project), my research is also informed by the recent scientific bibliography on same-sex sexual behavior in the animal world, for example, the book Biological Exuberance (Bagemihl 1999), which

focuses on birds and mammals. Popular interest in bird homosexuality became quite apparent in 2004 with regards to the "gay" penguin couple of Roy and Silo at the New York City Central Park Zoo (Smith 2004), even leading to the children's book And Tango Makes Three, which is about how, with the help of a zookeeper, Roy and Silo raised a baby penguin chick (Richardson and Parnell 2005); the couple later separated (Musbach 2005). Judy Irving's 2005 documentary The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, which focuses on the life of Mark Bittner, also included same-sex bird interaction. Other artistic/intellectual perusals that explore the links between animals as symbols of queer sexuality and nationality include Chantal Nadeau's Fur Nation (2001), an exploration of gender and sexuality in Canada, whose publishers rejected her original title of Beaver Nation for its implicit sexual double-entendre. I will unfortunately also not be able to explore the relevance of totemism and symbolic anthropology as elaborated by intellectuals such as Claude Levi-Strauss and Mary Douglas (specifically, their discussion of the ways cultures use symbols of animals for different purposes); this remains for a future time.

Duckies, patos, and deer (oh, my!): Nature as (queer) metaphor

As I have mentioned, in a great part of the Hispanic Caribbean and in other parts of Latin America (possibly even including parts of northeastern Brazil), the word pato (male duck)--and in England, its diminutive, duckie--is a synonym or popular variant for "homosexual," or at least for an effeminate man (a maricon); pata (female duck) serves (in Spanish, in the Caribbean) as a referent to lesbians, to masculine women or to marimachas. In the United States, queer duck is an everyday phrase used to identify strangeness; "queer," logically, also has associations with homosexuality, first as an insult and now as a word that has been reappropriated and resemanticized by activists, academics, artists, and even by popular and mass culture, as in the case of the program Queer as Folk (transmitted on Showtime) and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (shown on Bravo). Curiously, in England, duckie is also a synonym for male homosexuality, associated more with the colloquial usage of the term "dear" as a form of address (as in "Hello, dear!" or "Hello, duckie!"); in fact, one of the most popular gay dance clubs in London is called, not surprisingly, Duckie. (7) In a fascinating twist, in Brazil, the word veado (meaning deer, a homophone of "dear"), has also come to mean homosexual (although at times with the homophone equivalent alternate spelling viado, as in desviado or deviated), suggesting a possible transatlantic link or misunderstanding (dear > deer > veado), perhaps the product of English sailors in Brazil (or vice versa) or any other contact engaged in by travelers, merchants, or diplomats. (8)

These translinguistic and transcultural coincidences suggest a fundamental connection between animals and the idea of queerness, which would indicate that (at least in Puerto Rico), a translation of "queer theory" as teoria pata (and in Brazilian Portuguese, as teoria viada or perhaps teoria des/viada) would be good matches, at least in terms of an approximation to a certain linguistic cultural unconscious (or as an alternative or variant to teoria maricona or even teoria des/plumada in Spanish); a different option from that chosen by the Brazilian scholar Guacira Lopes Louro (Um corpo estranho, 2004), who emphasizes the "strange" nature of queer theory, that is to say, the way it enacts an estrangement or literally "makes strange," closer to the teoria torcida [twisted theory] of the Spaniard Ricardo Llamas (1998) or to the raras rarezas [strange oddities] of the editorial collective of the Mexican journal debate feminista (Moreno 1997).

On the obscure pleasures of lexicology: A (queer) exploration of words

I would like to propose a critical approach that can be (perhaps jokingly) thought of (following Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Erasmus, and a slate of other odd thinkers) as a "methodology of madness" (locura) or a "theory of contiguity." This approach is predicated on reading sideways, rhyzomatically, for the relations between things that are next to each other in arbitrary categories (the alphabet, the animal kingdom, the dictionary). It involves queer looks, a strange way of looking at the world for hidden relationships and points of contact: a schizophrenic re-mapping, focusing on the notion of queer birds; perhaps a bird's eye view of the world or a queer, bird-centric Weltanschauung, where words and sounds can merge and diverge and dissolve and, eventually, solve (riddles, mysteries, paradoxes).

This proposal parts from a rigorous yet playful obsession with dictionaries, from the way they validate intuitions, systematize aberrant logics, and allow people like myself to gather at times dissonant information. In the following pages, I will focus on entries in a variety of dictionaries in English and Spanish and in other scholarly and popular sources, looking for connections between queerness and ducks in English and Spanish (and between queerness and birds in Yiddish), be it at the level of word, homophonic association, root, or phrase. As we will see, rhyzomatic language associations and practices (games, puns, confusions, misunderstandings, misreadings, or just plain malicious exchanges) create networks of meaning that people are very aware of and exploit for diverse purposes. In this sense, queer linguistic usage (or the use of language to express issues concerning marginal or stigmatized sexualities) is no different from other "subversive" or connotational linguistic practices. At the same time, let me be clear about the nature of this inquiry, which relies on published sources and anecdotal evidence: I make no claims to rigorous original linguistic research, but rather, to a learned mixture of amateur intuitions and diverse readings in the field. As such, I am profoundly aware of the risks of propagating what Arnold M. Zwicky (1997) refers to as "unexamined folk theories" (21), and fully embrace his call for linguistic research that "fully engages the analytical tools of their trade" (21).

English (and American) queer ducks

As dictionaries confirm, there is a wealth of colloquial expressions in English that associates animals and inanimate objects with queerness, although frequently in the traditional or dominant sense of this word, which is to say, as something odd or unusual, and not in the sexualized form that is most common nowadays. Phrases such as "queer duck," "queer fish," and "queer as a three dollar bill" form part of a certain common, shared linguistic imaginary of oddness (Cliche Finder 2001). According to the Hypertext Webster Gateway, "queer duck" (noun) is defined as "someone regarded as eccentric or crazy"; the site offers the following synonyms for the term: kook, odd fellow, odd fish, queer bird. A quick search in the Webster's Third New International Dictionary comes up with the following varied entries under duck: "(3) pet, or darling, often used as a term of address; (b): something or someone attractive or charming (as in 'a duck of a car' or 'he was a nice old duck, and very fond of her'); (4) one that cannot act effectively because of disablement or other cause; compare dead duck, lame duck, sitting duck; (5) duck on a rock; (6) slang (a): a person with peculiar mental or physical characteristics (as in 'a little old duck with waxed mustache, you say, and a cane?' or 'he's a queer duck') (b): rascal; (9) so called for its shape (slang) urinal" (a meaning curiously shared in Spanish, where pato also refers to bedpan).

A quick purview of "queer" in the same dictionary comes up with the following examples: "(1) (b): (queer defined as) eccentric or unconventional," as in this phrase from the celebrated author Mary McCarthy: "looked like a gentleman, though he was as queer a duck as you could meet," along with the more typical meanings and synonyms such as "differing in some odd way from what is usual or normal: strange, curious, peculiar, unexpected; mildly insane, touched; obsessed, hipped; (slang) sexually deviate, homosexual; (slang) worthless, spurious, counterfeit (as in 'queer money'); questionable, suspicious; not quite well, faint, giddy, queasy; (and in Scotland): droll, amusing, and comical. Synonym: see strange."

The most interesting American gay cultural manifestations of this phrase in the last decade is most likely the Internet cartoon Queer Duck ( and, which is about a group of American gay animals (a cat, a bear, an alligator, and a duck, whose personalities are all seemingly based on gay white men) and The Sissy Duckling(both the cartoon film and the children's book) made by the renowned actor Harvey Fierstein. The rather unusual ducklings in the HBO program The Sopranos, which lead the main protagonist Tony Soprano to experience anxiety attacks every time they appear in his backyard swimming pool, can also be seen under this light, particularly as his psychoanalyst ties them to concerns over his masculinity and his relationship with his (Italian-American Mafioso) father. Other bird terms that suggest strangeness, madness, or worthlessness in English include the word cuckoo and the expressions for the birds and neither fish nor fowl. (9)

Jewish American or Yiddish Feygelekh

The use of the word feygele (plural: feygelekh) in Yiddish as a synonym for gay has been extensively explored by Michael J. Sweet (1997) and is discussed and used by many other writers and scholars, including Herbst (2001). (10) As Sweet writes, feygele, "literally 'little bird' or 'birdie,' [is] used in North American Yiddish and American Jewish (Eastern Ashkenazic) English to denote a gay effeminate male" (1997: 115). It is also the diminutive of a woman's proper name (Feyge), and is commonly used as a term of endearment for children and women: "In its more general use, feygele is the diminutive of foygl (bird) and is a term of endearment for a small child or a beloved female, in which sense it is frequently found in Yiddish love songs and lullabies" (Sweet 1997: 117). Some popular sources believe that feygele is the origin of (or was influenced by) the slang term "fag" or "faggot" for homosexual, a view that does not coincide with Sweet's analysis. (11) Rather, Sweet traces the term's origins to 1930s American immigrant neighborhoods--as the term was not in use in Europe--and sees its links to the term fairy, which was common parlance at that time. As he states, "It is not my contention that feygele is a direct translation of fairy but merely that it took on a similar meaning under its direct influence" (1997: 118).

Sweet also explores other "associative connections," specifically with birds and butterflies, and also compares the Yiddish usage with other languages. Birds are a particularly rich comparison, as "Birds have sexual and erotic associations in many languages; in Yiddish, nakht-feygele (night-birdie) can mean streetwalker" (1997: 119). The comparison to butterfly is particularly interesting:

Another metaphorical analogy between flying creatures and gay/nellie men is, of course, the butterfly, associated in many cultures with frivolity and sexual license.... According to the files of the Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry (LCAAJ), the most widely distributed word in spoken Yiddish for butterfly is zumerfeygele 'summer birdie.' (1997: 119)

Sweet goes on to compare this usage to Russian, Mexican Spanish, Hebrew, and German, seeing German as the most likely influence on the usage of the term. He unfortunately summarily dismisses the possible links between (Latin) American Spanish and American Yiddish, without accounting for the possibility of a link with the Cuban usage of the term pajarito (little bird) or Greater Hispanic Caribbean mariposa (butterfly), neglecting to consider the historical links between Cuban and Mexican Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jewish immigrants and their relatives in the United States, or the fact that Mexico and Cuba were often used as temporary stations before migrating to the north, and bringing with them the linguistic associations of Spanish. (12)

The most interesting cultural production to engage the word feygele (and, in fact, its first documented usage) is American Matchmaker, a Yiddish film made in the United States in 1940 and directed by Edgar G. Ulmer. As Eve Sicular (2002) notes,

[T]he topic of denial and "closet Jews" comes up amid triple entendre feygeleh (little bird/darling/fairy or faggot) jokes that emerge verbally, visually, and musically through the screwball comedy Amerikaner Shadkhn (American Matchmaker, 1940, USA). I only noticed these little gems after about five or six, or fifteen or sixteen, times rewinding to one scene that kept sticking in my mind. But after catching the first feygelah reference, suddenly I noticed telltale birdcages placed within carefully composed frames, and not-so innocent song lyrics that originated in folk lullabies but here ever-so-archly reprised throughout the soundtrack and film credits, not to mention innumerable jokes about the bachelor protagonist and his landsman Friday (a.k.a. Morris the butler). (203)

As Sweet also notes, the film plays with the multiple valences of the word for comedic effect:

The protagonist of this film is a "confirmed bachelor," whose bachelor butler in one scene addresses their canary as feygele and compares its bachelor state to his master's and his own, indicating its (and their) gender ambiguity. The scene clearly presupposes the audience's knowledge of the double meaning of feygele. (1997, 118)

Another Jewish comedy that can be seen as engaging in feygele humor is Mel Brooks' 1968 film The Producers, where the demented Nazi-sympathizer German playwright Franz Liebkind (played by Kenneth Mars) is first portrayed tending his pigeons on the roof of a New York City tenement building; his homoerotic attraction to Adolf Hitler is highlighted throughout the movie, and works in counterpoint to the explicit effeminacy of the theater director Roger De Bris (Christopher Hewett), Roger's personal secretary Carmen Giya (Andreas Voutsinas), and the fey actor Lorenzo St. DuBois, a.k.a. "LSD" (Dick Shawn). Of course, all of these characterizations serve as distractions from the profoundly homosocial bond (and seduction) that occurs between the main characters, the producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) and his accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder). (13)

Patos (y pajaros) en espanol

To this wealth or treasure-trove of English and Yiddish, I would like to add an investigation of Spanish lexicology. This will entail looking at dictionaries from Spain, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, as well as specialized texts and humorous publications. Looking at words in close proximity to pato and pata, as well as looking at a wide variety of meanings and derivations, will serve to create a surprisingly complex web of referential associations, many of which have in fact been registered in artistic and scholarly works. These include, in addition to animal associations and attribution to humans (bestialization), issues of physical deformity (particularly of the legs) and subsequent disability; questions of mental and linguistic confusion; and general matters of illness.

To my knowledge, the definitive origin of the usage of the word pato to describe homosexuals (or more specifically, effeminate men) has not been determined, although there are many competing (and, one could say, compelling) theories and conjectures. For example, there is an interesting coincidence in the frequency of other Hispanic Caribbean lexical items such as pajaro [bird], mariposa [butterfly], and mariquita [ladybug], which are used in Cuba and the Dominican Republic to refer to male homosexuals; all of these animal words refer to insects or birds that have wings and fly, associating their use to terms in other languages such as fairy in English and feygele in Yiddish. (14) Clearly, pato and pajaro would seem to be lexically related, while mariposa and mariquita (which is also popular in Spain) seem to be derived from (or related to) marica and its superlative maricon, all of which come from Maria, that is to say, the proper name Mary, which in English also has connotations of male homosexuality. (15) (In fact, mariquita is a diminutive of marica, which is a diminutive of Maria.) Pato and pajaro would also seem to be directly linked to the Spanish phrase tener pluma or plumero (literally, to be full of feathers), which has a quite generalized usage in Latin America and Spain as indicating effeminateness. (16) It also seems possible that there might be a link between pato [duck/effeminate man or homosexual], puta [female prostitute or whore], and puto [homosexual], as the pairings pato/puto/puta and patalputa imply similar conceptions of sex/gender transgression, captured in such expressions as the Dominican saying "Primero puta que pajara" ("Better a whore than a dyke") referring to parent's disdain on learning about their daughter's lesbianism (Reyes Bonilla 2004). (17) In fact, the eminent etymologist Joan Corominas registers the use of puto as a referent for sodomite as early as the fifteenth century (1973: 484), as Camilo Jose Cela also observes in his Diccionario del erotismo (1988: 773); Cela also quotes Nebrija on the subject. One can easily speculate on a simple vowel transfer or slippage that would make the rather strong puto into a more playful metaphor, that of the domestic animal pato. To my knowledge, no one has commented on this possibility as an etymological root.

One scholar who has proposed a solution to the origin of pato is the Cuban linguist Carlos Paz Perez, who states in his volume La sexualidad en el habla cubana (1998b) that the use of this term for homosexuals comes from effeminate men's way of walking, which resembles the movement of certain animals, specifically fish and domesticated farm birds, a fact that he doesn't expand on. (18) Paz Perez, who is echoed by Garcia and Alonso (2001), (19) uses this explanation to clarify the use in Cuba of a whole variety of animal terms (what he refers to as "zoomorphic metaphors that allude to animals"), although he also points out that some these terms are highly stigmatized, and as such are predominantly used by intolerant or homophobic individuals: "Algunas con una fuerte carga peyorativa, y por lo tanto, utilizadas, sobre todo, por las personas intolerantes con esta orientacion sexual: cherna, ganso, pargo, palomo, pajaro, pato, yegua: 'Me lo dijo el ganso que se mudo para el segundo piso'" (Paz Perez 1998b: 55). Significantly, Paz Perez clarifies that the source of his theory is popular conceptions (the result of a very large sample of informant responses, of more than 200 people, half of them incarcerated), which indicates that this is a folk theory--in other words, a popular belief that registers people's self-explanations--and, from a historical linguistics perspective, not a rigorously tested one with documentary proof. (20) This is not to say that it is necessarily incorrect, but that it is not definitive and as such should not be taken as the final word. One can easily imagine other theories: for example, Bruce Bagemihl (1999) registers extensive scientific observation of ducks' and other birds' same-sex sexual behavior, which is fertile ground for speculating that the term's origins have to do with the observation of natural sex behavior and not in an animal's way of walking. Another theory could be an association of plumas (feathers) with writing and effeminacy, particularly the preconception of writers as weak men who are "not of the sword." The preponderance of animals that fly (birds, insects) and swim (fish) also suggests a certain "strangeness" in comparison to land-centered animals, indicating a discomfort with such creatures captured in the English-language phrase "neither fish nor fowl." As this is a historical inquiry, one possible way to solve it might be by ascertaining the earliest usages of this term in writing, by consulting adequate archival sources.

One of the most unusual (and funniest, although most likely incorrect) explanations is the one posted by Matt and Andrej Koymasky in their "Glossary of Gay Slang Terms." They define pato as "a male homosexual," suggesting that it is "possibly referring to Latino men wearing their hair slightly long and flipped up, resembling the feathers on the back of a male duck," a definition that would conceptually link the term to the DA or Duck's Ass hairstyle, a trademark of rebellious 1950s American masculinity (think James Dean and the Fonz). The Koymaskys offer no documentation for their claim, which at any rate seems rather far-fetched.

Fortunately, the Puerto Rico-based, Spanish-born linguists Rosario Nunez de Ortega and Isabel Delgado de Laborde offer a much more nuanced, historical approach in their very informative study Los que dicen !ay bendito! Dichos, modismos y expresiones del habla coloquial puertorriquena (1999), proposing a variety of possible origins and trying to ascertain the specific moment in which the term began to be used with a queer meaning. Under their entry "ser pato" (1999: 174), they reference Josefina Claudio de la Torre's 1989 definition of the term as 'Afeminado. Homosexual" [Effeminate. Homosexual] and also cite a literary passage from Magali Garcia Ramis's very well-known novel Felices dias, Tio Sergio [Happy Days, Uncle Sergio]: "Si hombre, pato, le salio pato ese muchacho a la pobre Tati Almeida" (Garcia Ramis 1986: 31). Then, they engage the geographically specific definition offered in the Real Academia Espanola's Dictionary (DRAE) of pato as an effeminate man in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Venezuela, and compare it to Angel Rosenblat's discussion of the term in Venezuela (he incorrectly claims that the usage of the term as effeminate is exclusive to that country), as well as to Augusto Malaret's definitions of pato in Puerto Rico in 1917 and 1937, which do not mention effeminacy or homosexuality. Nunez and Delgado speculate that that usage of the term in Puerto Rico must be later than Malaret's work; this is an understandable assumption, given the enormous stature of Malaret as a rigorous scholar and one of the founders of Puerto Rican lexicological studies, but should not be taken as definitive, as his biases and self-censure might have kept him from registering this meaning (although he does register mariquita in 1917 as "Marica, u hombre afeminado y de poco animo," 249). (21) Nunez and Delgado cite Rosenblat's analysis (his referencing a text from 1605--La picara Justina--indicating discomfort with ducks, as they live between land and water; he also mentions their waddling), and also indicate other links to physical deformity (ser patuleco), to plumas and plumero, and to the term marica. In addition, they offer a large number of other colloquial phrases, many of them quite humorous. This short (one-page) exploration is, to my knowledge, the most comprehensive attempt to understand the meaning of this word in Puerto Rico.

Historically speaking (and diverging from the above-mentioned analysis), the earliest mention I have seen for a queer meaning of pato in Puerto Rico is Malaret's 1917 definition ofpaton as "cachaco? a term used disparagingly for young men who spent too much attention on their outward appearance, particularly on their clothing; it is a term comparable to dandy (Malaret 1999). (22) While dandyism does not necessarily imply effeminacy, it does indicate transgressive gender behavior that has been frowned upon at different moments; it is also a sign of a particular type of modernity expressed through clothing. Luis Rafael Sanchez will highlight this transgression as a source of collective discomfort and censure in his short story "Jum!" (1966), where the epithet pato is richly employed to very detrimental extremes, as the protagonist--who is referred to as "el hijo de Trinidad"--is led to his death by an intolerant mob composed of his formerly affable neighbors (Lugo-Ortiz 1995).

The recently released Tesoro lexicografico del espanol de Puerto Rico (2005), published by the Academia Puertorriquena de la Lengua Espanola and authored by Maria Vaquero and Amparo Morales, offers additional information about what dictionaries have registered queer meanings of pato in Puerto Rico. Under the third entry for pato (masculine noun), they cite four sources indicating its meaning as homosexual (Altieri de Barreto 1973, Maura 1984, Claudio de la Torre 1989, and Nunez and Delgado 2000), and three indicating its meaning of afeminado or effeminate (Llorens 1981, Claudio de la Torre 1989, and Nunez and Delgado 2000). The authors reproduce the above-cited passage from Garcia Ramis's novel (which they borrow from Nunez and Delgado), and also offer the term traidor [traitor] as a synonym, which comes from the lexicon used in prisons (Altieri de Barreto 1973) and by drug addicts (Maura 1984). In a separate entry, they also offer a definition for pata as "lesbiana," but do not reference any additional sources for this meaning, which suggests that it has been less documented. Other relevant entries include amariconarse ("Coger una persona ciertos amaneramientos propios de los afeminados") and patuleco ("Dicese de la persona amanerada. Homosexual o lesbiana"), both of which reference Maura (1984), as well as pajaro ("Homosexual") and pargo ("Homosexual mayor de edad que mantiene al joven con quien tiene relaciones"), from Claudio de la Torre (1989).

According to the Puerto Rican anthropologist Rafael L. Ramirez (1993), pato is a synonym for maricon, although with a softer, less aggressive charge. In Dime capitan: reflexiones sobre la masculinidad, Ramirez argues that in Puerto Rico, masculinity is defined by a binary opposition male/not male, constituted through the opposition "real man" or "macho" vs. "maricon" (defined as the negation of masculinity, the not-man). He states: "En oposicion al hombre completo, al macho--lo que uno debe ser-se encuentra lo que uno no debe ser--el no-hombre, el maricon. El maricon es la total negacion de lo masculino, es sujeto devaluado y despreciado, y llamarle asi es el peor insulto que se le puede hacer a un hombre puertorriqueno" (1993: 111). In a footnote, Ramirez adds: "Tambien se utiliza 'pato' como sinonimo de maricon cuando el hablante considera que este ultimo suena muy fuerte, grosero o vulgar" (1993: 111). Paz Perez also suggests the use in Cuba of pajaro [bird] and especially pajarito [little bird] as terms with a softer charge; he even mentions homosexual men calling each other pajarito as a term of endearment or solidarity. Nunez and Delgado also differentiate between marica, mariquita, and maricon in terms of grade of offensiveness; as they state: "La expresion mas generalizada en el espanol coloquial, ser marica, da lugar al aumentativo y al diminutivo ser mariquita, ser maricon, mucho mas infamante" (2001: 174). I confess that in my personal experience, I have not perceived this marked difference between the terms, as I sense pato to be as offensive as maricon.

Pato is one of the terms mentioned by Pedro J. Cordova Jr. in his M.A. thesis, "Perspectiva sociolinguistica en el uso del lenguaje de una comunidad gay puertorriquena" (1994), which, to my knowledge, is one of the very few available sociolinguistic studies of gay Puerto Rican language. (23) In this study, Cordova includes the word pato along with others such as loca, marica, maricon, mariquita, bugarron, and draga; all of his gay Puerto Rican respondents (who all reside in New York) use pato with the same frequency as loca, marica, maricon, and mariquita; all of these words can have either positive or negative connotations (1994: 52). As far as pato is concerned, Cordova indicates its usage in nomination ("nombramiento"), defining it as "hombre homosexual afeminado o no" [homosexual man, whether effeminate or not], and also indicates its "utilizacion de procesos semanticos" [semantic process use] as "hiperbole, metafora, sinonimia" [hyperbole, metaphor, synonymy] (1994: 49). Unfortunately, Cordova does not explore the particularity of this term, nor does he distinguish it from the others.

Pato as homosexual also appears in dictionaries of Cuban Spanish such as those edited by Cardenas Molina, Trista Perez, and Werner (2000); Garcia and Alonso (2001); and in the prolific work of the aforementioned Carlos Paz Perez (1998a, 1998b). It also appears in the work of Murray and Dines (1995: 180-92), Stephens (1999: 421), Herbst (2001: 220), and of the rather homophobic Puerto Rican humorist Manuel Mendez Saavedra (1995). (24) Garcia and Alonso register the phrase "Si no es pato, sabe donde esta la laguna" (2001: 149), a humorous expression suggesting knowledge about the gathering places of men with similar inclinations, but used to imply an individual's homosexuality. Diverse sources document similar usages of pato as homosexual in Honduras, Mexico, and Venezuela. And, as we have previously mentioned, the Real Academia Espanola's authoritative Diccionario de la lengua espanola--one of the most conservative Spanish-language dictionaries, held in the highest esteem in most Spanish-speaking countries--includes this meaning: "5. fig. Cuba, P. Rico y Venez. Hombre afeminado" [5. figurative. Cuba, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. Effeminate man] (1998: 1098).

A search under pato, --a (the water fowl) in Maria Moliner's Diccionario del uso del espanol doesn't seem to bring up much except perhaps a curious meaning, that of pato as boring person or event: "(2) (inf.; n. calif.; no figura en el D.R.A.E.) 'Patoso.'" Notice the fascinating gender indeterminacy: "Se aplica a una persona (en masculino tanto si es mujer como hombre) sosa o patosa. (T., pato soso) (3) (inf., no figura en el D.R.A.E.; 'Pasar'). Aburrimiento. Cosa (fiesta, tiempo) aburrido" (Moliner 1992: 669). (25) She also offers pato soso: "persona aburrida" [a boring person]. I suspect that this is not the etymological root for the Puerto Rican homosexual--we might be a lot of things, but we're usually not boring! Moliner also offers the phrase pagar el pato: "Ser la persona de que se trata la que se lleva la culpa o paga las consecuencias de cierta cosa," for which she offers the example: "No se como te las arreglas que siempre pagas tu el pato" (1992: 669). This meaning would identify patos as the ones to blame, responsible for (or at least blamed for) problems, a sort of scapegoat (yet another animal metaphor).

An additional search in Moliner for terms related (or contiguous) to ducks brings up patojera ("manera de andar de los patojos") and patojo, --a. ("Se aplica a la persona que anda con dificultad por algun defecto o enfermedad de las piernas, y moviendo el cuerpo a un lado y a otro como los patos") (1992: 669); in other words, one who waddles or walks like a duck because of a problem in the legs. This meaning would seem to encompass the homonymic association of pata as female duck but also as the leg of an animal or a piece of furniture, as I will explain later on. But before further exploring these associations with legs and walking (and particularly, with "disabilities" in walking, a meaning we can associate to the "disablement" associated with ducks in English in phrases such as "lame duck"), I should remark that immediately after the definitions for pato as duck one finds in Moliner another, that for pato--as root stem from the Greek "pathos," meaning illness or condition suffered, and its associated words: patogenia [pathogenesis]; patogenico, --a. [pathogenetic]; patogeno, --a. [pathogenous]; patognomonico [pathognomonic]; patologia [pathology]; patologico, --a. [pathologic]; patologo [pathologist] (1992: 669). It is precisely this homophonic contiguity which leads many (including his mother) to misname Angel Lozada's 1998 novel and refer to it as La patologia [The Pathology] instead of by its proper title, La patografia, which we could translate as The Pathography, or perhaps, following Lee Edelman's Homographesis (1994), as The Homographetic Duck. Of course, Lozada was fully aware of this productive confusion and in fact plays with the pathological readings of homosexuality in Puerto Rican culture, as well as with the notion of a queer writing subject (and the novel as the end product of a queer writing project); in fact, the book opens with a "facsimile" of the definitions of pato and patografia ("descripcion de las enfermedades" or description of illnesses) from the Diccionario de la Real Academia Espanola. Arnaldo Cruz-Malave has also played with this double entendre in his critical work about authors such as Rene Marques and Luis Rafael Sanchez. (26) Another close (but much more humorous) term would be the adjective patidifuso, sa, translated in the Vox dictionary as "astonished, astounded, amazed"; the renowned gay Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar in fact chose the name Patty Diphusa as his own pseudonym or literary alter-ego, claiming that she is "[una] estrella internacional (eso dice ella) de fotonovelas porno" [an international star (or so she says) of porn fotonotelas] (Almodovar 1991).

Moliner's dictionary also places the noun patois from the French in contiguity with these terms, patois being a word that suggests (geographical) variation, minority (subaltern) status, mixture, and impurity or linguistic violation: "lenguaje incorrecto propio de cierta clase de personas" (1992: 669). Right now, I am more interested in the other, homonymic pairing of pata as female duck but also as leg of an animal, for in this range of definitions and expressions there is a greater emphasis on "[el] sentido jocoso-despectivo" (Moliner 1992: 665) that is to say, "playful/demeaning interpretations" (sic), or rather, ones that highlight a deviation from "normal" body development and locomotion (and thus serve to mark a person as "disabled"). One example is the word paticojo, meaning "lame, limping" (adjective) or "lame person, cripple" (noun); others include patiestevado [bandy-legged or bowlegged], patituerto [crook-legged] and patizambo [knock-kneed] (Vox 1995: 1232). On a lighter note, the purposeful or mistaken confusion between pata and pierna (animal vs. human leg, properly speaking) also provokes countless humorous expressions, including estirar la pata (literally, to stretch the leg, meaning to die, akin to "kick the bucket") and meter la pata (akin to "stick one's foot in one's mouth," but more aptly described as making an embarrassing mistake or committing an indiscretion). (27) In fact, Lozada has shown, in an essay titled "No metas la pata en San Juan (Reflexiones sobre la homofobia en la politica de Puerto Rico y sobre los movimientos lesbico-gays puertorriquenos de la decada de los 90)," how this phrase ("no metas la pata," loosely translated as "don't make a mistake") was also understood as "Don't elect the lesbian," the motto of a smear campaign devised in 1996 against the New Progressive Party San Juan mayoral candidate Zaida "Cucusa" Hernandez, a masculine woman whose sexuality has always been a matter of contention. (28)

Rounding up our lexicological summary, it is worth mentioning that Susana Pena (2004) has a fascinating analysis of the ways in which the word "pajaro" has been transformed among Cuban American gay males in Miami (see her essay "Pajaration and Transculturation"). Antonio Martorell's essay "Nominacion, dominacion y desafio," where he discusses the use of many of these terms, is a particularly moving exploration in a Puerto Rican queer context of that age-old question: "What's in a name?" and that also oft-repeated and not-quite-so-true phrase: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" (1993: 10). But as my mother--who was born in 1928--said to me when I told her the topic of this essay, "pato is a very ugly word, I do not like it at all, and it has been used as far back as I can remember." And it is true. Many are the traumas and bitter memories that we have from hearing this word used against us in childhood.

Puerto Rican ducks are only sometimes queer

A thorough revision of Puerto Rican and Nuyorican cultural productions that engage patoslas and patitoslas as part of their title would necessarily include, at the very least, the following items, in chronological order: Alfredo Collado Martell's "La ultima aventura del Patito Feo" (1931); Luis Llorens Torres's "El patito feo" (1940); Alfredo Villanueva Collado's Pato salvaje (1991); Angel Lozada's La patografia (1998); Frances Negron-Muntaner's "La patita fea" (1999); the Arthur Aviles Typical Theatre's El pato feo (2000); and my own performance, Abolicion del pato (2004). Alexandra Pagan Velez's award-winning short story "El cisne" (2001) also takes up this metaphor and gives it a rather novel twist. Of the eight, only the last six, which correspond to works created in the last decade and a half, explicitly engage the topic of homosexuality.

Alfredo Collado Martell's exquisite rewriting of Hans Christian Andersen's tale begins in medias res and engages the traditional story from the aesthetic vantage point of Latin American modernismo, in the tradition of the Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario, proposing a continuation or extension of the plot. (29) In this retelling, characterized by jewel-like poetic language (what we could almost describe as extended prose poetry), the ugly duckling grows up to become a swan and falls in love with a young duchess, in what would seem to be an approximation or echo (or perhaps an inversion and desexualization) of the classical Greek story of Leda and the Swan. (30) Here, "la duquesita" has an artist make a sculpture of the swan in white marble but later breaks the swan's heart by abandoning him and going off with a human suitor. As the swan grows despondent, she has him transported to her palace and attended by a physician. The duchess accompanies the swan at his bedside and takes care of him, growing faint and weak with lack of sleep. After an extended agony, the bird dies. She then has him embalmed and placed in her chambers as a decoration; his preserved dead body thus competes with the statue made before his untimely demise:

Y el patito feo, bellamente embalsamado, lucio de nuevo entre las reliquias adorables de la duquesita. Ahora el cisne torno a ser elegante, magnifico, gallardo, abierto como una tulipa entre el fulgor de los espejos sobre su pedestal de plata, y parecia que estaba en un gran lago, de aguas tan puras y cristalinas que copiaban hasta las mismas pupilas muertas del ave reina mirando hacia el crepusculo, roto en el primor de extrana cristaleria, como si el sol fuera una bandera de arte triunfal, alejada por los silfos en busca de tierras de misericordia y promision. Asi termino su vida el patito feo de Anderson (sic). (Collado Martell 1988: 52)

Luis Llorens Torres's version, which appeared in his volume Alturas de America (1940)--a title that would seem to prefigure Pablo Neruda's Canto General in its grandiloquence--retakes Andersen's story in order to stage a political or ideological battle between Latin American countries and the United States, very much in the spirit of the Uruguayan Jose Enrique Rodo's influential essay Ariel (1900). (31) In this retelling, Puerto Rico is an ugly duckling because it has been abandoned or misplaced by the blue swan of the Hispanic race in the nest of the overweight North American duck. Llorens Torres goes on to transform the unhappy Puerto Rican swan into a living red, white, and blue flag, which stands in for Hispanic tradition defined in the most conservative terms as the direct heir of Greece, Rome, and the Mohammedan people ("el pueblo de Mahoma," 311); as the proud colonizers of the Americas and ancestors of Puerto Rican revolutionaries such as "Manolo el Lenero," who would fight for the independence of the island during the Grito de Lares revolt in 1868. In this version, Puerto Rico struggles to join its twenty fellow Latin American swans because he sees himself in them and does not want to be a duck. As the poetic speaker declares:
   Porque ha visto su retrato
   En los veinte cisnes bellos.
   Porque quiere estar con ellos.
   Porque no quiere ser pato. (Llorens Torres 1967: 313)

Of course, this unequivocal (manly) resistance to being a duck can very easily be read as denial of an effeminate status, a negation of the abject subjectivity of homosexuality (which is linked to colonialism, an idea that Rene Marques would also espouse in his 1960 essay "El puertorriqueno docil"). Curiously, the queer critic Arnaldo Cruz-Malave has recounted a fascinating anecdote in which he, as a young child in San Sebastian del Pepino, a stronghold of nationalist sentiment, would recite this poem in its entirety from memory, and furthermore, whenever he felt that he was being abused or slighted by older children or by his family, would declare in a loud voice: "YO SOY EL PATITO FEO" [I am the ugly duckling] (personal communication).

Alfredo Villanueva-Collado's 1991 book of poems Pato salvaje [Wild Duck] is perhaps the first major work to engage the symbol of the homosexual "pato" as its central motif. (32) The book in fact shares its title with a play by the Norwegian Henrik Ibsen, The Wild Duck [Vildanden] (1884). (33) The Puerto Rican poet is the nephew of Collado Martell, whom Villanueva-Collado refers to as "tio Nenito" but never met (Collado Martell died at the age of 29 in 1930; Villanueva-Collado was born in 1944). (34) Many of the poems in Pato salvaje focus on the AIDS-related death of Villanueva-Collado's lover of 17 years, Victor Manuel Amador (1944-1988), an artist who collaborated in the production of other gay Puerto Rican poets' books such as Llama de amor vivita (1988) by Carlos Antonio Rodriguez-Matos. In fact, in his introduction to Pato salvaje, Rodriguez-Matos (who signs "CarloSteve") discusses the use of the term "pato" in his own poetry as well as in that of Villanueva-Collado and in the work of Manuel Ramos Otero. As he says, "Los tres rechazamos la domesticlidadlacion y optamos por el salvaje=libre" [The three of us reject domestlicitylication and opt for savagelwild=free] (Rodriguez-Matos 1991: 8).

In the very last poem of this collection (also called "Pato salvaje"), the poetic speaker enacts a dialogue with his deceased lover. The one describes the social rejection they experienced (and how this serves as a source of knowledge and difference, an agent of social transformation by virtue of being marginal or an outsider), while the other empowers him to violate dominant norms and fly free. In the seventh stanza of the poem, the poetic speaker says:
Como nos tiran   piedras           por las calles
      Vamos desnudos    erectos.
Prenados    del conocimiento   mas amargo.
      Marcando     para otros  superficies.
            Puliendolas   con nuestros cuerpos.
Al fin un solo     ser redondo.         Parturiento.
      El ninfomano        de lo invisible.

(Villanueva-Collado 1991: 84)

This proud (yet pained) resistance, reminiscent of the Platonic ideal of the lover's unified body (of two in one, undivided), is reaffirmed at the end of the poem, which is also the last set of verses of the entire book:
      Sobre los techos    saldra el sol  para el adios
cuando partas.            En mi bandada al fin.         Pato salvaje.

(Villanueva-Collado 1991: 85)

Thus, the process of grieving at the loss of a loved one is transformed by the remembrance and celebration of mutual struggle and the affirmation of liberty.

Angel Lozada's loosely autobiographical novel La patografia, published in Mexico in 1998 in the context of the International Book Fair of Guadalajara (dedicated to Puerto Rico that year, on the centennial of the U.S. invasion of the island), features on its cover a watercolor by the gay Puerto Rican artist Rafael Rosario Laguna of a duck flying over a tropical landscape full of plantain and banana leaves. The novel is a bildungsroman or developmental narrative that tells the story of Angel Rosado Mangual (also referred to as "Luisin"), a child growing up in the 1970s in Mayaguez, a city often linked in the popular imagination with male homosexuality. The protagonist of La patografia is harassed and persecuted for being effeminate, and in a Kafkaesque twist begins to sprout feathers ("plumas"), grows a beak and lay eggs, and finally is attacked (hunted), defeathered ("desplumado"), shot at, sodomized, kicked, cooked, and consumed in a violent homophobic carnage (what the author calls a "patocidio" [duck/queer/pathocide]); his body becomes, instead of a sacrificial lamb or scapegoat, that of a sacrificial duck a l'orange. (35)

Organized as a new Puerto Rican bible, Lozada's novel has sections such as "Genesis," four gospels (according to Mama, Titi Alicia, Mami, and Tio Lazaro), an "Arrebato" [rapture], and concludes with "El Patocidio," which can be read as the Apocalypse or end. The child's persecution is narrated in detail, as he falls victim or prey to the entire town of Mayaguez as led by a certain "Profesor Neron" (the Spanish spelling for Nero, as in the Roman emperor) and an evangelist parodically referred to as "Jode y Rasca" [bothers and scratches], which we can take as a reference to Jorge Raschke, one of the most visible (and vociferously anti-gay) conservative religious figures on the island. The anal rape of El Pato [The Duck] is carried out by the police with a bottle of Malta India, a non-alcoholic, extremely rich malt beverage manufactured in Mayaguez that is popular with Puerto Rican children. The novel's end is striking by its double move of horror and redemption, murder and celebration. After the execution, the narrator offers a social critique, commenting on the government's and the general public's complicity and lack of concern with the situation of homosexuals:

El gobierno no hizo nada para procesar a los acusados, porque el patocidio no es un crimen. Quitarle la vida a un Pato no es un crimen. Por lo tanto, el gobierno no radico cargos contra el profesor Neron ni contra el evangelista Jode y Rasca, ni contra la multitud histerica de miles de mayaguezanos que se dieron cita aquella tarde para crucificar a aquel angel. El patocidio no era contra la ley. No se investigara, ni se procesara, ni tan siquiera se denunciara a ninguno de los policias que decidieron rellenar con una Malta India al Pato que se banaba en la fuente del parque. (Lozada 1998: 317)

This violence leads to a broader pronouncement on the island population's desire to deny any space for homosexuality, and an identification of a particular (nationalist, autochthonous) Puerto Rican homophobia:

combatiremos, con unas y dientes, a todo aquel que nazca Pato, a todo aquel que ponga huevos, a todo aquel al que le salgan plumas, y pasaremos una ordenanza, una ley: que a los Patos no los queremos, que a los Patos los mataremos, porque queremos a esta isla limpia de lo animal, sin Patos, sin aves que nos molesten. Por eso de ahora en adelante les decimos a los Patos: en Puerto Rico no los queremos, en Puerto Rico los mataremos, porque aqui no es un crimen matar un animal. (Lozada 1998: 318)

While extreme and certainly hyperbolic, Lozada's argument about anti-gay violence is based (at least in part) on reality: bias crimes and murders have been frequent not only in Puerto Rico (del Puente 1986) but in the United States (Herek and Berill 1992) and at other locations around the world such as in Brazil (Mott 1996) and Colombia (Ordonez 1995).

Yet, contrary to this grisly indictment, the final passages of the novel are in fact the fulfillment of the child's death wish: to be prepared by his aunt (Titi Alicia) and served (perhaps akin to or an inversion of the perverse ending of Peter Greenaway's 1989 film The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover) in a delectably ironic celebration of cannibalism: a Puerto Rican equivalent of Brazilian modernist antropofagia. In a "mock" TV presentation in the style of Carmen Aboy de Valldejuli (a famous cookbook author), we read Titi Alicia's presentation:

Aqui les presento con mucho gusto el "Pato a la Mayaguezana en Almibar de Chinas". Espero haber logrado esta receta detallada, con figura, color y todo, para que puedas repetir la receta cuando te plazca. Este plato tipico de nuestro pais es lo maximo, lo ultimo, lo mas sabroso que tiene para ofrecer el arte culinario puertorriqueno. Este Pato sera el que nos distinguira para la historia de la humanidad, porque en ningun lugar del mundo se prepara al Pato tan bien como se hace en Puerto Rico, en ninguna parte de la tierra se cocina al Pato como se hace en Mayaguez, y en ninguna parte del mundo se hace semejante relleno tan delicioso para estofar a los Patos. (Lozada 1998: 319)

In La patografia, Puerto Rico is presented as a location of impossibility for queer subjects. Lozada's literary and vocal denunciation, particularly during book presentations and other public appearances, initially created much resentment and anger among some island-based activists, who saw this position as negating their work and life experiences. (36) It is not surprising that Lozada's second novel No quiero quedarme sola y vacia takes place in New York and Washington, DC, where Lozada resided in the 1990s and early 2000s; his third novel project focuses on a young santero in the Bronx. No quiero quedarme sola y vacia was only published in 2006 after six years of efforts, having been rejected by eight publishing houses. In an interesting twist, after many years of living in the U.S. and Mexico, Lozada moved back to Puerto Rico in the summer of 2004 and taught creative writing seminars at diverse universities. In late 2006, he moved back to New York.

Frances Negron-Muntaner's (so far unpublished) retelling "La patita fea" (1999) is an ecofeminist dystopian account in which the gender of the protagonist is changed to female. (37) The ugly duckling is born that way because of environmental contamination and pollution provoked by industrial development (in some ways perhaps akin to the Chicana playwright Cherrie Moraga's body-less, wheelchair-bound character of Cerecita in Heroes and Saints); she emigrates to the United States because of intolerance (similar to the case of Claudia Marin in Negron-Muntaner's well-known 1994 film Brincando el charco: Portrait of a Puerto Rican) and then has to face a pandemic of enormous proportions; finally, she returns to her country of origin, where she embarks in an environmental cleanup project and meets another female bird with whom she spends a romantic interlude. The story ends, however, apocalyptically, with the death of all birds by toxic contamination. This story has been illustrated by the renowned experimental filmmaker and artist Poli Marichal, whose film Dilemma I: Burundanga Boricua (1990) also presents a dystopian view of the island as a site mired in diverse social problems (Negron-Muntaner 1997).

Alexandra Pagan Velez's short story "El cisne" offers a nearly opposite rewriting of "The Ugly Duckling" tale. (38) Hers is a masterpiece of compression and synthesis, as it is full of rich details and recreates a small universe in a rather limited number of sentences. The story, which won the young writer El Nuevo Dia's Best Short Story prize in 2001, focuses on a provocatively dressed drag queen or transvestite as she walks down the street in a small town, looking at storefronts, reminiscing about her past love affairs and thinking about her mother, all the while laughing and enjoying herself immensely. Her glee is nearly interrupted at the story's climax, located at the very end of the narration, when the protagonist is harassed by passersby, who scream out at her "!Pato, so pato!" [Faggot, you faggot!], to which she cleverly responds, "!Pato no, cisne, cisne, mi vida!" [Not pato, swan, swan, my dear!]. This story offers a strong image of the life and psychology of its protagonist, and sees the bird metaphor as a positive embodied attribute linked to happiness, as the very first sentence reveals: "La risa domina sus pasos, los entrecorta, hace de su figura el cuello de un cisne" [Laughter marks her steps, interrupts them, turns her body into the neck of a swan]. It breaks with dominant trends that present trans subjects in a tragic manner, as victims, and in fact shows her as happy, complex, and resistant, with a great sense of humor. This is a real achievement, and shows continuity with and expansion of the vision of Manuel Ramos Otero ("Loca la de la locura") and Mayra Santos-Febres (Sirena Selena vestida de pena), whom Pagan Velez explored in her master's thesis (2005). The protagonist's triumph is the triumph of camp as a politicized queer aesthetic, as opposed to a doctrinaire or militant viewpoint.

In New York, the Arthur Aviles Typical Theatre's dance-theater production of El pato feo, described as a "transgender fairy tale" or "transgender storytelling play," retells the flight of a queer Puerto Rican male duckling born in the countryside of Maricao, first (and not surprisingly) to Mayaguez, then to South Beach and Miami (where ze runs into Elian Gonzalez and Mary Poppins), (39) and finally to Spanish Harlem and Hunts Point in the Bronx, where ze sees three fabulous drag queens from GMOB (Gay Men of the Bronx) who embrace hir and accept hir as ze is and help hir transition into a new female identity. (40) The play is told in Spanglish by the actress (and co-author) Marlyn "Tita" Matias (currently part of the Nuyorican Rule Comedy Troupe), who is dressed as a chicken and only speaks in superlatively mellifluous storytelling tones, even when recounting the most horrific, violent anecdotes about the ugly duckling, who is constantly referred to as "el pato feo estupido, zangano, idiota, maricon, pendejo, cabroncito, con la pinga grande, hijo de la gran puta y desgraciao, muertivitis, mothafucka bicho grande, jodio, mamao y botao" (Aviles and Matias 2000: 8) These anecdotes include drug abuse, queer bashing, and other violent examples of intolerance.

This multimedia play also includes two short films by Richard Shpuntoff, filmed in Hunts Point, in addition to a singing rabbit, a dancing swan, a go-go boy, and a nine-year old child dressed as a bumblebee, who draws and listens to a walkman while Professor Chicken narrates her story. Towards the end of the performance we learn that the ugly duckling "was no longer el Pato Feo but a splendid DIVA, [and] the other drag queens were not coming to kill him but to greet him," seeing hir decked out in a "pretty dress with ruffles and sequins" (Aviles and Matias 2000: 11). The narration is also accompanied by the silent process of transformation of a drag queen, La Julio, who steps onto the stage dressed as a man at the beginning of the play and by the end has become a woman. Aviles has commented that this was an enormous challenge for LaJulio (now deceased), as s/he had to carry out the transformation in less than twenty minutes, which was a very reduced amount of time to effect such a change.

My own piece Abolicion del pato [Abolition of the Duck] has a central character and protagonist, that being Prof. Lola Lolamento Mentosan de San German, Ph.D. (a name originating from a popular Puerto Rican word game), and two "friends," the indigenous dolls Rigoberta Quetzal (an allusion to the Nobel Prize-winning Guatemalan/Maya Quiche human rights activist Rigoberta Menchu Tum) and the nusta or princess Isabel Chimpu Ocllo (which is in fact the name of the mother of the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega). The three tell the story of Lola's spiritual "backwardness" and conduct a series of games, puns, rhymes, and songs with the audience. (41) The abolition of the duck is the queer subject's engagement with the history of slavery and racial prejudice in Puerto Rico; the queer duck is or constitutes a form of abolition, but s/he must redeem him/herself for the sins of his racist, formerly slave-owning family by carrying out a series of linguistic and performative rituals of purification. As such, the performance piece does not explicitly propose to abolish ducks (gays), but rather to allow them to enact an abolition of racism. However, given the tremendous psychic charge of the word pato--and the significant stigma attached to it--one can only wonder if, in fact, the performance also serves as a type of ritual demystification or spell that attempts to grapple with the pain produced by homophobia.

These diverse Puerto Rican productions explore a variety of queer subject positions, ranging from outright (even if unacknowledged) denial or elimination (as in Llorens Torres), decadent poetic excess and aesthetic sublimation (Collado Martell), mourning (Villanueva-Collado), anihilation (Lozada and Negron-Muntaner), outright celebration and empowerment (Pagan Velez, Aviles and Matias), and linguistic and theatrical anti-racist games (La Fountain-Stokes). Most of these, in one way or another, tell migration stories, no matter whether they are successful or unsuccessful. The most recent works defend a space for queer identities and do it by appropriating a set of highly stigmatized terms (pato or pata) and resemanticizing them, in a process akin to that which Judith Butler has described for the term "queer" in the U.S. Furthermore, I believe that in at least some of these works, there occurs a process of disidentification with dominant, negative heterosexist narratives akin to that described by Jose Esteban Munoz in his theoretically groundbreaking Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics (1999); that is to say, the texts perform this gesture (a simultaneous embrace and critical rejection or negotiation) or allow for its interpellation by readers or audience members. It is not simply a recuperation of patos and patas but a rather complex and plurivocal exploration of the multiplicity of positions, situations, and conditions that this term can invoke as a sign of the Puerto Rican sex/gender system.

Queer ducks in cyberspace (and elsewhere)

"He's here, he's queer, he's a duck."

Puerto Rican cultural productions dealing with ducks (queer and otherwise) have had somewhat limited circulation, except perhaps for Llorens Torres's classic poem (seen by many as one of the finest examples of anti-U.S., anti-colonial writing in Latin America in the 1940s) and for Lozada's 1998 novel, which seems to have received reasonable distribution and also generated good press and scholarly reviews. The more recent appearance and increased visibility of queer "queer duck" cartoons and children's narratives in the United States, all of them created by Jewish-American talent, has generated much broader mainstream media coverage, something that can be seen as having to do to with the high level of integration of white Jewish-American artists who write and perform in English in the New York publishing and Hollywood film, television, and animation industry, especially as compared to Latinoslas and more in particular, to Puerto Ricans. In this respect, it becomes interesting not only to highlight the lexical and cultural coincidence of queer ducks (be it in English, Spanish, or Yiddish) in the United States and its colonies, but more pointedly, to signal the differences in terms of production, distribution, and reception of cultural texts that engage these metaphors.

In their article on the internet flash animation Queer Duck, published on Nov. 10, 2000, in Next Magazine, Lorie Caval and Gary Montgomery unabashedly gloat over the release of what was perhaps the first openly gay cartoon series in the world, one which would unfortunately turn out to be rather short lived in its first incarnation, even though it boasted a theme song by RuPaul, had an openly-gay Jewish male nurse duck as its protagonist, and tackled themes of right-wing politics, gay marriage, urban culture, sex, drugs, and religion. (42) While the collapse and (apparently only temporary) bankruptcy of the Los Angeles-based internet/new media company put a temporary damper on the production of this series (only five three-minute episodes initially appeared), Queer Duck was later picked up by the cable network Showtime, and currently has 20 episodes online, which are screened after episodes of the American version of Queer as Folk. (43) There is also a recently released feature film (Queer Duck--The Movie), which was screened in film festivals in early 2006 and released on DVD on July 18 of that year by Paramount Home Entertainment. (44) Articles on the Internet in the early 2000s also stated that the program had been acquired for television transmission by the C1TV gay cable network (an apparently now defunct predecessor of the MTV Network's LGBT channel Logo), which at the time had the American TV rights to the British Queer as Folk episodes.

In addition to the lead character, who is a blue-colored Jewish gay male nurse (and a duck!), the Queer Duck flash animation episodes feature a menagerie of friends, including Oscar Wildcat, Bi Polar Bear, and Openly Gator, as well as several family members, including Mr. and Mrs. Duckstein, Queer Duck's straight brother Lucky (whose voice is done by RuPaul), his young nephew Little Lucky, his butch lesbian sister Melissa, and his gay uncle Sid. Queer Duck was conceived in November of 1999 and first appeared in October of 2000; it was the creation of Mike Reiss and Xeth Feinberg, whose additional collaborations include the Internet cartoon Hard Drinkin' Lincoln, a satirical portrayal of the former president as an alcoholic. (45) Reiss, who "has won three Emmys and a Peabody Award for his work on The Simpsons and co-created The Critic among other credits," came up with the show and wrote the scripts, while Feinberg, who is a designer/director/animator, was in charge of visuals (Caval and Montgomery 2000: 17). Feinberg has stated that he wanted the characters in Queer Duck to be "purposefully cute and cartoony (versus, say, 'edgy' or 'cool' or more human looking). The idea of friendly cartoon animals with active gay sex lives seemed to be the most ultimately subversive and fun way to get the stories to work" (Caval and Montgomery 2000: 17). He has also said that Queer Duck, whose voice is done by Jim M. Bullock (from Too Close to Comfort TV fame), was his favorite character: "[he's] such a crazy over-the-top personality, who's a silly looking duck. It's weird, but he becomes a bit more real each episode I do" (Caval and Montgomery 2000: 17).

As Caval and Montgomery notice, Queer Duck (the protagonist) is characterized by his penchant for fowl-mouthed jokes (pun intended!); the series in general is quite racy (Jefferson Graham from USA Today described it as "raunchy") and was definitely made for a mature, adult audience. Jami Attenberg, for example, saw Queer Duck as's foray into the commercially "hot" Will and Grace type of homosexual-theme programming, and commented: "Feinberg ... gives Queer Duck a charming, sweetly colored visual veneer that contrasts well with the show's no-holes-barred debauchery." Attenberg goes on to mention that the "quality of the scripts has dropped since the first episode," which was a celebration of Coming-Out Day, and concludes: "Queer Duck, the character, is a one-trick pony-er-duck. He's just really, really stereotypically gay. Three episodes from now will we still want to listen to anal sex and drug jokes? Well, maybe. Does that mean we're gay?"

I share Attenberg's apprehension about the mixed messages of Queer Duck, yet I must admit that I am rather fond of the series, and also find the film enjoyable, but only insofar as an extension of the episodes. (46) Among the most questionable aspects of this animation are its depiction (or lack of depiction) of racial and ethnic difference (episode eleven, a Casablanca-style spoof titled "The Gay Road to Morocco," is particularly problematic in this respect, as are the "Asian," slant-eyed, heavily accented gay pandas in the film), as well as the racial "whiteness" of the four principal characters; the animation has been described by Reiss as a gay version of the HBO program Sex and the City, which also had no people of color in its main cast. It is also important to note that, the original creator of Queer Duck, was notorious for its lack of "political correctness" and for the controversies generated by its cartoons; for example, in the fall of 2000, Asian-American student groups at Rutgers University boycotted the site because of what they perceived was the racist portrayal of Asians in another cartoon series, Mr. Wong. (47) Another potentially worrisome aspect of Queer Duck is that neither Reiss or Feinberg or any of the creative talent or any of the actors who make the show are gay (that we know of), except for Bullock and RuPaul; apparently, stipulated that the role of Queer Duck had to be cast with gay talent, which led to Bullock's hiring, perhaps to avoid charges of "queersploitation." (48) (The movie also features the gay Jewish comedy writer and celebrity Bruce Vilanch, further cementing Bullock's contribution.) This situation brings up interesting questions about "authenticity" (a term or category that E. Patrick Johnson has seriously questioned), but also signals the importance of paying especially close attention to audience reception; after all, if gay spectators enthusiastically engage with the cultural product, the (putatively straight) creators must be doing something right (or so one would hope). Then again, Reiss has publicly commented on how much Bullock has contributed to the project, by frequently ad-libbing and infusing his lines with queer colloquial expressions and inflections; it is also possible that some of the creative team members or actors are "closeted" or do not publicly disclose their sexuality, or have intimate knowledge of gay culture due to other forms of contact. Queer Duck's frequent reliance on common "stereotypes" of homosexuality might be the result of this lack of more direct experiential input, but also reflects a specific generational perspective, as Reiss was born in 1960 and claims that his understanding of homosexuality was decisively shaped by 1970s culture.

While I will not offer an in-depth analysis of the twenty episodes of this series or of the feature-length film (a task I reserve for another occasion), I would like to briefly elaborate on the four main characters. Queer Duck (whose full name is Adam Seymour Duckstein) is a very fey, over the top, "stereotypically" gay (meaning he is expressive and loud), yet not particularly effeminate blue-colored duck. The particularity of his color (aqua) serves to move him away from realist representation towards a color that indicates complex emotions and moods ("to be blue" as a sign of sadness or depression) or radical difference (blue fingernails, for example), but also cartoonishness and oddity. He usually wears a rainbow-colored sleeveless tank top T-shirt that reveals slender (and not muscularly overdeveloped) arms, although at times we see him in his nurse's uniform. He comes across as very much a 1970s gay duck, who loves Barbra Streisand, gossiping on the phone, having sex, and taking recreational drugs (or at least talking about them). Most significantly, he is Jewish. The series will play on notions of Jewish family relations, particularly on ideas of Jewish mothers as overbearing and overprotective. His name ("Queer Duck") is a play on the expression "he's a queer duck," as Reiss has confirmed, but can also be seen as a reference to feygele. The fact that he is a nurse and as such a caretaker is interesting; this coincides with Harvey Fierstein's depiction of Elmer, the "Sissy Duckling," who also nurses his father back to health after he is shot at by hunters.

Bi Polar Bear's name is a play on polar bear (the animal), on bisexuality (to be "bi") and on bipolar disorder (a psychiatric condition). It is also a reference to "bear" culture, that is to say, large, hairy men. The fact that he wears a leather vest and cap suggests his participation in that scene (leather, bondage, S & M); he also wears an earring. He is, in short, a seemingly Anglo-American character based on 1970s San Francisco clone aesthetics. One unusual feature is that he is portrayed as having a gay dad. Bi Polar Bear's voice is done by Billy West.

Oscar Wildcat (whose voice is done by Maurice LaMarche) derives his name from Oscar Wilde, and as such speaks with a British accent, affects a sophisticated air, wears old-style, aristocratic pansy clothes (ascots, a lavender velvet dinner jacket) and always has an alcoholic drink (a martini) in his hand; his age is described on the website as "late forties (56)," which can be seen as a clever reference to The Picture of Dorian Gray or simply to gay obsessions with youth. Oscar Wildcat is a master of irony and wit, true to his namesake. Yet, the spelling of his name ("Wildcat" as opposed to "Wilde Cat") also suggests something uncontrolled or savage in him, closer to the nature of a feral cat. This is most comically expressed in his constant discussion of his desire to kill or otherwise dispose of his mother, who apparently does not know of his homosexuality. An ostensibly English or British character, he represents the cross of an early 20th-century model of homosexuality with contemporary times.

Openly Gator (Steven Arlo Gator), who is Queer Duck's boyfriend, is the most effeminate or flamboyant of the four; his most distinctive traits include his tone of voice, his mannerisms, and his clothes, a pink floral tropical shirt and orange Mardi Gras-like beads that look like pearls. The first part of his name ("Openly") suggests he is already out, while the second ("Gator") can be seen as a link to Florida, and also allows for his constant shedding of "crocodile" tears to great comic effect. His homosexuality is not of a Miami Beach 1990s style but rather of an older style, also alluding to the 1970s. This character at times seems to come across as Jewish because of his curly hair and Harvey Fierstein-like voice (and because of associations of Jewish "Snow Birds" in Florida), but at his wedding or civil union ceremony in Vermont we learn from Queer Duck's mother that he is a gentile (in addition to being gay and a reptile, traits that disturb Estelle Duckstein profoundly). Interestingly enough, his voice is done by the African-American actor Kevin Michael Richardson.

While these characters' notions of the meaning of "gay culture" (such as Queer Duck's obsession with Barbra Streisand and recurrent attendance to the funerals of friends who have died from AIDS) at times seem dated (or rather, they seem to correspond to those of gay men who came of age in the 1970s), they do actively engage in issues of contemporary gay politics (a critique of anti-gay figures such as Dr. Laura Schlessinger and Jerry Falwell and of gay "reprogramming" or conversion therapy, a discussion of the pros and cons of gay marriage, an engagement with Boy Scouts, and issues of coming out, etc.) and life (nonmonogamous sexuality, recreational alcohol and drug use, gym culture, travel, family ties). This is another indication of the character's (and Reiss's) age, as younger gay men seem to be (for the most part, as a generation) less interested in and less opinionated about these topics, and more wont to partying (on the one hand) and political apathy.

While there is no consistent interest in things Hispanic in Queer Duck, there are three brief, passing references to Latino queer culture. These include an allusion to a character called Ricky Marlin (Ricky Martin), who is described by Queer Duck in episode six ("The Gayest Place on Earth") as "living la vida in la closet"; Queer Duck's declaration at the beginning of episode seven ("Gym Neighbors") that "In Mexico, I'm el pato pato"; and Openly Gator's Carmen Miranda-like headdress in New Orleans in episode twenty ("Mardi Foie Gras"). While this is very limited, it is more that the references to Asian-American, Native-American, and African-American gay culture, of which there are almost none (at least in the twenty episodes). However, there is African- American participation in the making of the show (the voice of RuPaul, who sings and does some characters such as the brother Lucky, and that of Richardson), and some minor (incidental) characters, whose voices suggest that they might be African American. The film also includes a parody of Michael Jackson's racial and gender identity.

Sissy ducklings

Harvey Fierstein's The Sissy Duckling (an animated film released in 1999 and also a children's book published in 2002) does not partake of the urban environment (and adult content) of Queer Duck, but rather takes place in the wilderness, in a space of "nature"; the text is in no way explicitly marked as Jewish except by the very strong association of the artist to that tradition. (49) Here, the protagonist is a little duckling named Elmer, who is set apart from his peers due to his preference for baking, painting, decorating, helping around the house, making sand castles instead of forts, and playing alone (what his father describes as "being a sissy"). These differences create conflict and rejection, as Papa Duck is disappointed with his son, whom he unsuccessfully tries to get to play baseball, to the son's great chagrin. The father/son conflict is mediated by Mama Duck; when Elmer asks her what a sissy is, she tells him that it is a way to say that he does things differently than everyone else. The father's abuse is extended outside of the home at school, where another male duckling called Drake threatens Elmer, tries to block his access, and calls him a sissy, forcing Mrs. Hennypecker (the teacher) to intervene. These tensions (a combination of familial and communal/social rejection) eventually lead Elmer to run away from home.

Up to this point, Fierstein's retelling of the story is very similar to Puerto Rican queer versions of Andersen's "The Ugly Duckling," such as those by Lozada, Negron-Muntaner (both her fairy tale and film), and Aviles and Matias. Where the story radically departs from the Puerto Rican rewritings is that Elmer is able to regain the trust and love of his father and by extension, of the entire community The Sissy Duckling thus proposes that marginalized individuals become empowered (similar to Pagan Velez's protagonist) and challenge their oppressors, who are portrayed as being able to change.

This shift is effected in the story through a series of plot developments. After running away from home, Elmer is portrayed as finding a nice tree and making himself a new home inside of it. As his flock begins to fly away in preparation for winter, the birds are attacked by hunters, and Papa Duck is injured. This provides Elmer with an opportunity to prove his worth. While Papa Duck encourages Elmer to act "normal" for once in his life and fly away (migrate) with the other ducks, Elmer carries his dad back to his home and nurses him back to health. Papa Duck recovers quickly, yet by then it is already winter and too late to fly south. Papa and Elmer spent this time getting to know each other, and end up bonding, playing games, cooking, and telling jokes. This marks the period of rapprochement, of reestablishing the father/son bond under new terms.

The story concludes with a communal reconciliation. Once spring arrives, the flock returns to the forest, and all assume that Papa Duck and Elmer have died. As the ducks begin to pay their respects before Drake, the newly elected leader, Mama Duck insists on also remembering her son Elmer; Drake laughs at this, while mentioning that no one could forget that sissy. To Drake's great surprise, the entire group then hears the voice of Papa Duck proclaiming that if Elmer were a sissy then he was one too. Papa (the transformed parental/patriarchal authority) tells everyone that his son has nursed him back to health and has taken care of him over the winter. This leads the flock (as a social collective) to go to Elmer's house to celebrate his heroic action, where the final process of resignification and reincorporation can take place.

The Sissy Duckling ends with an affirmation of identity and the demand for recognition in difference. In the final passages of the text (and last scenes of the film), Elmer lets everyone know that he has not changed and that he is a big sissy and proud of it, thus "coming out" and affirming pride at a previously marginalized or stigmatized subject position. Drake approaches Elmer to give him five, and tells him that although he (Elmer) hadn't changed, he (Drake) had. Elmer gives him five, and the flock celebrates their hero. Thus we see a transformation not only within the family itself, but also at the peer-group level.

In this story the ducks are not dealing with the social issue of homosexuality, but rather with that of divergent male gender expression or gender non-compliance, that is to say, effeminateness or "sissyness." The engagement with the topic is carried out in a way that is perceived to be suitable for children; in fact, the word "homosexuality" is never mentioned, nor are issues of same-sex attraction.

There is a bully (Drake), an unaccepting parent (Papa Duck) and no one who really supports Elmer except, perhaps, Mama Duck, who is portrayed as a loving yet weak and ineffectual character in the context of the male domination of the flock. In the end, everyone learns that being different isn't such a bad thing after all and that people can change their thoughts and opinions once they really take the time out to get to know each other.

Unlike Andersen's tale, in Fierstein's narrative it is not the subject/protagonist who undergoes a profound transformation (from ugly duckling to beautiful swan), but rather the community, which is transformed by the protagonist's actions. That is to say, Elmer (the "sissy duckling") is able to provoke a broader social process of change that allows him to have a space within his group. This entails a profound redefinition of the category of "sissy" so that it is not only acceptable but also desirable. Most noticeable in the story is the emphasis on masculinity and the desire to change the father/son (cross-generational, vertical) relationship as well as the (male) duckling/duckling (intragenerational, horizontal) peer link. Males (particularly masculine-acting ones) are presented in a negative light (as the source of the problem), but also as agents capable of change; females are presented as loving and in solidarity, with no recognition of female complicity in the maintenance of heteropatriarchy and sexism. Ultimately, Fierstein's widely distributed book, and the HBO film directed by Anthony Bell with Fierstein's script, have made an important intervention among children and adults, following in the tradition of other children's books such as Daddy's Roommate and Heather Has Two Mommies. The film is perhaps the first to seriously address this topic for a mainstream juvenile audience, and as such shares a pioneering status in animation, akin to the one Queer Duck holds for adult audiences. The strong Jewish references (be they explicitly incorporated, as in Queer Duck, or simply suggested by the author's identity, as in The Sissy Duckling) serve to remind us of the multiple struggles for incorporation (and the diverse histories of exclusion) that people have undergone in the United States; the relevance of the term feygele to contemporary American culture becomes immediately apparent in the context of these queer, Jewish, bird-oriented cultural productions. At the same time, Fierstein's (or the creative team's) decision to not make his sissy duckling openly Jewish can be seen as a gesture towards universalizing his narrative, or as a sign of assimilation.

Towards (re)settlement: Betwixt language(s) and culture(s)

In this essay, I have mapped a rather ambitious cartography, focusing on the complexities of language and cultural representation in the Americas and, to a lesser extent, Europe. I have consciously chosen to present all of this material in the condensed form of one article in the interest of providing readers of diverse backgrounds (and with differing interests) new points of comparison. Several conclusions should be self-evident by now, regardless of our desire to expand each individual section and flesh it out in more detail. These conclusions are as follows:

1. There is indisputable evidence that diverse social and cultural groups in the Americas and Europe have employed animal metaphors to describe or refer to same-sex sexual behaviors and attractions. The uncertain or contested nature of the specific origins of these metaphors in no way invalidates the fact that profoundly dense cultural and representational networks of meaning have surged from these. The etymological and lexicological exploration of these origins is an interesting (and suggestive) endeavor, but it is not clear that "true" origins can ever be determined. As such, I have proposed a methodology of linguistic contiguity, of homophonic associations, and of conceptual leaps.

2. The privileged metaphors of birds and ducks (especially, but not exclusively linked to Andersen's fairy tale) have generated an enormously rich cultural production in a variety of languages (Danish, Yiddish, English, Spanish). This is especially (and decisively) the case for Puerto Rican/Nuyorican culture, but we can argue more broadly for the United States and for the greater Hispanic Caribbean (including Mexico).

3. An understanding of the centrality of the metaphor of "duck" (or "bird") as queer in Puerto Rican (and Greater Hispanic Caribbean, Yiddish, Jewish, and Anglo-American) culture allows us to shed significant light on the functioning of language and the representation of sex and gender difference in other cultural groups. Continued exploration and rigorous historical documentation and analysis of this phenomenon can help to clarify a fascinating phenomenon of contemporary societies, particularly as queer and other progressive artists, writers, and thinkers struggle to overcome and transform older forms of discrimination, marginalization, and persecution. To understand the queer meanings and contestations of pato and pata (and of queer ducks and pajaros and feygele) is to come closer to a global project of liberation.


An earlier, much shorter version of this article appeared in Portuguese as "Naturezas Extravagantes: Sobre Patos Porto-Riquenhos, Veados Brasileiros, e Outros Bichos Raros," published in Imagem e identidade: Estudos da homocultura, edited by Denilson Lopes, Berenice Bento, Sergio Aboud, and Wilton Garcia (Sao Paulo: Nojosa Edicoes, 2004: 309-18). Summaries in English and Spanish have also appeared in the Boston weekly newspaper In Newsweekly ("On Puerto Rican and Jewish American Ducks" and "Sobre patos caribenos y patos judios-americanos," 10 Aug. 2006; see "Local Latinazo," I wish to thank Yolanda Martinez-San Miguel, Cesar Braga-Pinto, Gloria Prosper-Sanchez, Ben. Sifuentes-Jauregui, Denilson Lopes, and Carmen Oquendo for all of their assistance and intellectual support in the conceptualization of this project. Nerea Llamas and Tom Burnett, librarians at the University of Michigan, and my Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) assistants, Carla Renae Grinnell and Shannon Harbin, also offered invaluable help. I also wish to thank Ingrid N. Thompson at HBO Family & Documentary Programming for facilitating a copy of The Sissy Duckling and for her generous enthusiasm and interest in my work.


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(1) There are a number of important studies on language, gender, and sexuality, including books, dictionaries, and anthologies by Richter 1987), Livia and Hall (1997), Herbst (2001), Campbell-Kibler et al. (2002), Cameron and Kulick (2003), and Leap and Boellstorff (2004). Many of these specifically address issues of homosexuality and language.

(2) Regarding Spanish, see Cela (1988); for English, see Richter (1987).

(3) On viado and veado and other terms in Portuguese, see the interesting observations of Dynes (1995), Green (1999), Kulick (1998), and Parker (1991), as well as specific word entries in the Novo Dicionario Aurelio (Ferreira 1986) and the Dicionario Houaiss da Lingua Portuguesa (Houaiss 2001).

(4) See Baker (2002a, 2002b) and Herbst (200D for a discussion of some of these terms in English and Yiddish.

(5) On bears, see Kampf (2000) and Wright (1996). There are different competing definitions regarding what defines bears, but the predilection for facial and/or body hair seems to be the key element.

(6) For additional discussions of the relationship between Andersen's sexuality and his literary production, see Amanick (2001) and Johansen (2002).

(7) I wish to thank Robert Howes for bringing this use of duckie to my attention (personal communication, 2004).

(8) I wish to thank Vivaldo A. Santos for pointing out that viado might come from desviado (personal communication, 2005). My speculations on the links between "dear" (as a term of endearment or address) and its links to veado run counter to all published narratives about the origins of the usage of the term in Brazil. See Green (1999) for historical speculation on its origins, as well as authors cited in endnote three.

(9) defines the idiom "for the birds" as follows: "Worthless, not to be taken seriously, no good. For example, 'This conference is for the birds--let's leave now.' This term has been said to allude to horse droppings from which birds would extract seeds. This seemingly fanciful theory is borne out by a more vulgar version of this idiom, shit for the birds [Slang; first half of 1900s]." (

(10) Sweet indicates that the term occasionally appears with other spellings, such as "fagola," feigele, and faygeleh (116). In Shneer and Aviv's anthology Queer Jews (2002), the preferred spelling is feygeleh (plural: feygelehs), although it also appears as feygelah (see Dubowsky, Felman, and Sicular). Herbst includes a discussion of feygele in his entry for faggot, defining it as follows: "Feigele (faygeleh), meaning little bird, from a Yiddish word, faygl, has been used as an epithet for a gay person. A bird usually evokes feminine characteristics, but also has wings--like a fairy. It is most likely influenced by fag but without the term's negative connotations" (88).

(11) According to the Pink UK's Gay Slang Dictionary, feigele is "a Yiddish term for gay that is derived from the word bird," and it "is another possible root for the term 'fag.' This is especially possible in the United States. The terms 'faggot' and 'fag' referring to a 'bundle of sticks' were rarely used in historical American English. Furthermore, American English has incorporated many Yiddish terms (and pronunciations) into its lexicon. 'Feigele' is pronounced 'veyg-uh-luh,' and as in most Germanic pronunciations, the 'v' sound is commonly softened to an 'f.' In the northeast US, 'fag is pronounced more like, 'feyg.'"

(12) See Behar (2002).

(13) See Felman (2002) for more extensive analysis of The Producers as a queer text, including its later Broadway revival.

(14) Some well-known cultural representations of this are Severo Sarduy's novel Pajaros de la playa (1993), Juan Goytisolo's Las virtudes del pajaro solitario (1988), Margaret Gilpin and Luis Felipe Bernaza's Mariposas en el andamio (1996), and the protagonist of the third part ("Diario intimo de la soledad") of Giannina Braschi's El imperio de los suenos (1988), who is called Mariquita Samper.

(15) Nunez and Delgado (2001) discuss the iterations of these terms, citing Rosenblat for the etymological origin. As they state, "La expresion mas generalizada en el espanol coloquial, ser marica, da lugar al aumentativo y al diminutivo ser mariquita, ser maricon, mucho mas infamante. De ella dice Rosenblat que procede de 'Maria, dulce nombre de mujer, a traves del diminutivo Marica'" (174). Also see Cela (1988, vol. 2: 616-8).

(16) See Pereda (2004) for a hallucinating number of definitions and references to pluma, including pluma azul, pluma de camion, pluma de tio, pluma natural, pluma rosa, pluma vasca, plumera, plumerio, plumero, plumilla, plumofoba, and plumosa (151-3). This dictionary oddly does not register pato or pajaro, indicating its Eurocentric bias.

(17) In Cuba, Fernandez Lopez registers "I prefer my son to be a thief than a faggot." Similar expressions in English include "Better dead than gay" (Nicholas and Howard 1998) and "Better to be dead than gay" (Nicholas 1998), registered here in relation to suicidal inclinations.

(18) "Muchos de los encuestados coinciden en senalar que las voces cherna, ganso, pargo, pato surgieron para denominar al 'afeminado' por la relacion con el contoneo al caminar que caracteriza a estos individuos, y que semeja la forma de andar de estos animales" [Many of those interviewed coincide in pointing out that the terms cherna [Mediterranean grouper], goose, pargo [red porgy], [and] duck are used to name 'effeminate men' because these individuals' characteristic swaying of the hips and shoulders while walking resembles the way of moving of these animals] (Paz Perez 1998b, 55).

(19) Garcia and Alonso have an even more far-fetched theory for the etymological origins of pajaro and plumas as signifiers of homosexuality, linking it to indigenous uses of feathers as part of ritual costume or clothing and to the defeat of indigenous populations after the conquest. Under this theory, one imagines that the usage would have traveled back to Spain and been widely adopted there as an Americanism.

(20) Paz Perez indicates that he conducted a large survey of homosexual men and women in Cuban prisons and then expanded his sample to include a total of 200 informants, equally divided by sexes and location: "La muestra que presento ha sido tomada a partir de rasgos del habla de 200 homosexuales entrevistados (100 hombres y 100 mujeres), el 50% cumplen sentencias en centros penitenciarios de Ciudad de La Habana, por haberse vinculado a actividades delictivas, como autores directos o como complices" (1998b, 52). He indicates that this sample includes a large variety of self-identifications (active, passive, active and passive, bisexual, heterosexual), and that he also interviewed an additional group of about twenty markedly homophobic individuals in order to register the "most pejorative lexicon used to refer to these people": "Por otra parte, consideramos algunos criterios de hombres y mujeres marcadamente homofobicos, a fin de acopiar el lexico mas peyorativo para referirse a estas personas, sin que estos informantes formen parte de nuestras estadisticas" (52).

(21) Nunez and Delgado themselves state that they partially limited their inclusion of vulgar expressions in their book out of concern for "chaste" readers: "Estos 'dichos' recopilados tienen dos niveles: los de caracter popular y los de caracter vulgar. En esta ultima categoria no los hemos incluido todos, por aquello de 'los castos oidos'" (11-2). To their virtue, the authors actually do include many vulgar expressions, which makes their book extremely valuable for the analysis of popular language.

(22) On "cachaco" and other terms such as "pisaverde" (particularly as they were used in Colombia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries) see La Fountain-Stokes (2000). Malaret offers a good number of additional terms which are also worthy of comparison: pato, ta adj.; pato m.; patojo, ja adj.; patuleco, ca adj. (274-5).

(23) Gloria Prosper-Sanchez has indicated to me that there are additional unpublished studies, including one on gay speech conducted by Dr. Juan Escalera Ortiz in Cayey in the mid-1990s.

(24) Mendez Saavedra (1995) offers many particularly virulent jokes on this subject, for example his definition of "homo sexualis portorricensis": "Ancestro de algunos puertorriquenos, encontrado recientemente en el Yunque, cuyo fosil viene a confirmar la teoria cientifica de que realmente existio en nuestro pais, en tiempos muy remotos, un ser intermedio entre el hombre y el pato" (1995: 75). This definition is accompanied by a drawing or cartoon by Jose E. Gonzalez ("Ricky") of a humanized duck with a mustache, wearing excessively large sunglasses, a straw hat, bow tie, striped shirt, sleeveless vest sweater, dark pants, and holding a wood cane or walking stick.

(25) The definition for patoso, --a also indicates disapproval: "(Palabra de sentido despectivo como otras de la familia de 'pata'.) Se aplica a la persona falta de gracia o inoportuna en lo que hace o dice; particularmente, si pretende lo contrario. Tambien, a la persona falta de agilidad o de gracia en sus movimientos" (Moliner 1992: 666).

(26) "Ungrateful, contemporary Puerto Rican writers have decided to speak not from the space of a stable, 'virile,' and 'mature' identity but from that 'patologicalmilieu' of castration and gender-crossing, superfluity and equivocalness that both Pedreira and Marques display and condemn. If in the latter's texts, Puerto Rico is imagined as a torturously closeted young man endlessly sliding toward the 'normality' of heterosexuality and the recovery of a paternal order, in contemporary Puerto Rican writing this ambivalent pato opts instead for his locura and blossoms into a self-conscious drag-queen" (Cruz-Malave 1995: 151).

(27) "Meter la pata (vulgar, pero de uso muy frecuente entre toda clase de personas, en lenguaje coloquial). Cometer una indiscrecion o un desacierto" (Moliner 1992).

(28) Lozada wrote this paper as a final assignment for Prof. James D. Fernandez's course "Democratic Transitions and Civil Society in the Iberian World," New York University, Spring 2001. There is debate as to who actually devised the smear campaign against Zaida "Cucusa" Hernandez. Lozada claims that it was the opposition, that being the Popular Democratic Party. Gloria Prosper-Sanchez has indicated to me that in fact, there is substantial evidence to believe that it was the candidate's own party that devised this campaign, and that Lozada was informed of this when he presented his argument in public. This same party (the Partido Nuevo Progresista) publicly refused to allow the openly gay, HIV positive activist Pedro Julio Serrano to present his candidacy to the Puerto Rican legislature, without hiding the fact that the sole reason for their denial was Serrano's homosexuality. (Prosper-Sanchez, personal communication, 2006).

(29) See Rosa (1988) for a discussion of Collado Martell (1900-1930) and of this story in particular. Rosa does not mention questions of homosexuality in his article, nor does he explore the symbolism of the duck in much detail, but rather focuses on the importance of the swan in Latin American modernista writing.

(30) William Butler Yeats' poem "Leda and the Swan" 1924) presents a much more erotic version of this story.

(31) See Diaz Quinones (1982) for an insightful discussion of Llorens Torres's work.

(32) See Martinez (1992) and Rodriguez-Matos (1994) for a discussion of Villanueva-Collado's poetic production and a more detailed analysis of Pato salvaje.

(33) According to the Britannica Student Encylopaedia, Ibsen's The Wild Duck is "an ironic play ... [that] tells the story of a misguided idealist whose compulsion to tell the whole truth brings disaster to a family. The five-act drama was published as Vildanden in 1884 and produced in 1885." Also see Johansen (2003).

(34) Personal communication (May 2006).

(35) See Arroyo (2002) for a discussion of Lozada's novel and a comparison to the work of Rene Marques and Manuel Ramos Otero.

(36) This was rather notoriously the reaction at the National Latina/Latino Lesbian and Gay Organization [LLEGO] annual meeting at San Diego/Tijuana (October 1999), where a group of Puerto Rican lesbian activists became infuriated at Lozada's insinuations that Puerto Rico was an "unlivable" place for homosexuals. The women felt he was disqualifying and belittling their experiences, which were of living openly on the island in the 1990s; in this respect, it is important to remember that Lozada left in the 1980s, after high school, to attend college and serve in the navy in the U.S. (and later to become a seminarian in Mexico), and that his novel was written in its entirety outside of Puerto Rico.

(37) My analysis is based on a 1999 manuscript and not on the version included in this issue of CENTRO Journal.

(38) Pagan Velez was born in 1978 in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and raised in the neighboring town of Yauco. She has participated in diverse literary magazines published by young writers, including Zurde, Codice, Brisas, and Punal de Epifania, and has also published in Internet websites such as En la Orilla, Obra del dia, and Letras Salvajes. Her unpublished book of short stories is titled Cuentos de la calle. The author is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Hispanic Studies at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras. See Letras Salvajes 7 (2005), (accessed 4 Dec. 2006).

(39) I am employing the transgender pronouns ze and hir as a way to try to overcome the limitations of he/she and his/her. Other alternate pronouns include s/he and sie. See Leslie Feinberg (1998, 2006).

(40) See La Fountain-Stokes (2002) for a discussion of earlier AATT productions (Arturella and Maeva de Oz) that also engage children's stories (Cinderella and The Wizard of Oz, respectively) and give them a queer Nuyorican twist.

(41) See Fiet (2004) for a review of this piece.

(42) An image of Queer Duck also appears on cover of the 10 November 2000 Next Magazine.

(43) The American version of Queer as Folk was based on a British series of the same name. Both have been considered landmarks in television history because of the explicit representation of gay sex on screen. The American series was set in Pittsburgh but filmed in Toronto. Its fifth and final season screened in 2005.

(44) See "Paramount Home Ent. Greenlights Queer Duck--The Movie" (2005).

(45) HardDrinkin'Lincoln is also on, where it is described as follows: "Abraham Lincoln: statesman, leader, beloved President--and America's favorite boozehound! 'Hard-Drinkin' Lincoln' shows us the real Honest Abe: a loud, lewd, obnoxious guy in a big hat--the kind of guy you sit behind in the theater and just want to shoot. So come knock one back with The Great Emancipator!" See (accessed 5 Dec. 2006).

(46) See Cornelius (2006) for a scathing critique of Queer Duck--The Movie. He rightly criticizes the film for being poorly structured and not having a coherent story line.

(47) Mr. Wong was created by Pam Brady and Kyle McCulloch, and described on the website as "[t]he touching and heart-warming story of a girl and her eighty-five year-old Chinese houseboy. Love and loss abound." For extensive coverage of the Rutgers controversy, see articles in the Daily Targum, including "Flier Raises Questions in Asian Community" (2000), "Students Meet to Plan Action against Web Site" (2000), and "Flier Shows Racial Bias and Is Not Acceptable" (2000).

(48) Reiss discusses the issue of gay representation in an interview included as part of the bonus materials of the Queer Duck film DVD, specifically in the featurette "Getting the Right Homosexual" (2006). Obviously, by "gay" I believe what is implied is "openly" gay, or out of the closet. By "queersploitation," I am alluding to the 1970s film genre of "Blaxploitation" [Blacksploitation], suggesting a product made by non-gay artists for gay audience consumption.

(49) For a discussion of the film version of The Sissy Duckling, see Goldberg (1999) and Goodman (1999). The film includes the voices of Ed Asner (Father Duck), Dan Butler (Drake), Andy Dick (Abner), Melissa Etheridge (Mama Duck), Harvey Fierstein (Elmer) and Estelle Getty (Mrs. Hennypecker). Songs performed by Fierstein and Dionne Warwick.
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Author:La Fountain-Stokes, Lawrence
Publication:CENTRO: Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies
Article Type:Report
Date:Mar 22, 2007
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