Carceral histories reveal much about the US security landscape, its commitment to the immobilization of bodies, and its reliance on race, class, and gender to determine national belonging. Drawing from race and ethnic studies, feminist security studies, feminist geographies, queer carceral theory, and queer and trans of color theory, this paper seeks to think queerness and carcerality together to locate the limits of security logics as well as models for coalitional fugitivity.
What is California’s spatial relationship to the crafting of criminality? California, as Kelly Lytle Hernández puts it, is a settler carceral space, and Los Angeles its carceral capital. One of the first buildings under the Spanish Crown was a jail and its conquest was driven in part by a colonial fantasy: to capture a dark-skinned Queen and her butch warriors who, according to European fiction, ruled the women-only island of Calafia. It follows, then, that state practices that aim to control, confine, and correct gender nonconformity have a historic debt to the mapping of nation and to the colonial fiction that continues to produce a body to capture and a space to capture it in.
Attending to the spatial and carceral logics of immobilization as they impact racialized gender nonconforming people, this paper looks to a brief history of institutional and carceral spaces in Los Angeles used to segregate and monitor sexuality and gender deemed deviant, with a particular focus on how sex-segregated spaces came to be sites where deviant sexuality and gender later flourished. One such space is the ‘Daddy Tank,’ or Cellblock 4200, a maximum- security holding cell at the L.A. County Jail used in the 1970s to detain masculine presenting women, transmasculine folks, and women assumed to be lesbians.
This paper first establishes the twinned queer and carceral histories of the Los Angeles Daddy Tank within a larger understanding of the entanglement between capture, desire, and gender nonconformity in California, and then turns to the affective resistive modes of queer survival and coalitions that formed in response. Turning to histories and accounts of those who experienced the Daddy Tank and formed affective resistive bonds within it, and to queer activism in protest of the Daddy Tank, I hope to think through coalition, its activations and limitations; and mostly, in thinking gender nonconforming queerness and carceral histories together, I hope to think through a spatial approach to prison abolition.
Dan/ Dani Bustillo is a trans* androgynous, Latinx identified person and a third-year student in the Visual Studies PhD program at University of California, Irvine. Their work examines the visual culture of security in the U.S. and its impact on gender nonconforming and Latinx subjects. They are interested in security media of the everyday and counter security media produced by those impacted by it in resistance.
Bustillo is also one half of the artist collective, The Best Friends Learning Gang, a decentralized, queer, pedagogical experiment that hosts expertless workshops on topics the organizers know nothing about.