Please visit the Fall 2012 class website project at Queer Arts Los Angeles Website.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


This a short clip of VISA's surprise class visit.  VISA is a Cuban transgender sex worker activist concerned with a wide range of community issues including immigration, personal debt, voter's rights, health access, and undocumented queers.  VISA is a character developed and performed by Karen Anzoategui.  VISA is based on individuals known to Anzoategui and is not intended to represent all transgender individuals.
Anzoategui is an Argentinean raised in Los Angeles.  She received her BA in theatre from Loyola Marymount University.  She is employed by a non-profit organization assisting individuals with HIV/AIDS access housing and other resources.  She is a working actress with Television and Film credits.  She tours university and community theatres performing her own work.  One such performance is titled Ser which is a 70 minute semi-autobiographical one woman show about a young Argentinean soccer-obsessed tomboy raised between L.A. and Buenos Aires by her ever-present mother and drop in and out "James Brown" father.
Most recently, Anzoategui is a Los Angeles Theatre nominee for Best Featured Actress in a Local Musical for her role as Rita in Evangeline the Queen of Make Believe, a rocker play with original music by the multiple Grammy Award-winning East Los Angeles Chicano rock band Los Lobos. Told through story and song, EQMB is set in the late 1960s and centers around Evangeline, a young high school graduate from East L.A. who is a devoted daughter by day, and a Hollywood go-go dancer by night.
As a performance art activist, Anzoategui is dedicated to raising difficult issues in order to create a space for dialogue.


  1. VISA’s surprise visit to our classroom was an interesting experience. VISA is a Cuban transgender sex worker and is supposed to represent a limited point of view. I definitely appreciated the commentary on social issues by VISA, which covered topics from voting to student loans to immigration. Mixed in with sexual jokes, VISA’s commentary opens an interesting dialogue that is not always readily accessible. Race and class in America are always difficult discourses, but VISA was able to make several insightful comments that brought them to the forefront, while continuing her sexual jokes. VISA is a controversial figure that blurs the lines.

    The character of VISA, created by Karen Anzoategui, is supposed to represent a limited perspective, a singular representation of a member of the transgender community. I struggled with the character of VISA, despite her humor and social commentary. I struggled with her because after studying the media academically, I find it difficult to see stereotypical performances as funny, despite the performer’s intentions. I think that done on any level, from a small class performance to mainstream media, stereotypical performances work to reinforce the stereotypes, rather than breaking them down and destroying them. When you then take a community that is as marginalized and as hardly portrayed in the media (and often only then portrayed as a negative stereotype) as the transgender community, it is easy for any representation to become controversial or appear stereotypical.

  2. I enjoyed VISA’s surprise visit to class the other day because it was unexpected. I was able to enjoy the performance for the most part. I thought that a lot of what VISA said was true and that it was an important critique on many parts of society today. It was a good way to start a discussion or dialogue.

    At the same time, though, I have a problem with cisgender people portraying trans* people and can see where the controversy that we briefly spoke about in the discussion afterward stemmed from. I identify as trans* and I often see members of the transgender community sexualized and commodified in media. And even though Karen Anzoategui said in the discussion that she drew from the experience of friends and people she knows, she isn’t trans*. It is important to share stories of trans* people, but I think the message or whatever you want to call it is diminished. I wish that trans* visibility had more to do with actual members of the transgender community and not people parodying their lives. And although Karen seems to be doing her VISA performance for the “right” reasons (rather than a malicious portrayal), I can definitely see how people may be offended. Transgender people need to be heard and seen, not simply portrayed.

  3. Karen Anzoategui's character, Visa, showed what a wonderful performer she is. During the beginning of her performance, I thought Visa was a humorous interpretation of a dynamic transgender personality. I especially loved when she sat down with Professor Gaspar De Alba, who asked her about her sexuality. The banter that followed was hilarious! Visa's response to the question was "I'm bi-everything." Professor Gaspar De Alba then asked, "But you're not bipartisan, right?" Visa's humorously emphatic "No" response left me laughing thereafter.

    The messages Anzoategui relayed through Visa revolved around topics that I often forget to acknowledge. She discussed how there are topics that the trans community avoids addressing because it invokes images that they don't want to be associated with. Her message about bringing these topics to light (like prostitution among the transgender community) was very powerful. Circumventing an image without addressing an issue only hurts members of the community who live out the experiences.

    Anzoategui was also asked about how she defines community. I loved her answer to this question. She talked about community being a collection of people that connect on different levels. She pointed out that communities expand by connecting people through shared experiences, and that these connections are not restricted to blood family or a localized region. Her visit was also a reminder that the queer community should come together, not set back by internal conflict, but rather moved foward by lifting each other up.

  4. I was completely caught off-guard when VISA came into the classroom, sporting her negligee and carrying her open laptop. I must admit that I was convinced it wasn't part of our class, but quickly realized that it was. I found her performance not only entertaining, but informative and provocative. Her visit brought up a lot of stuff it seems for people, and as a performance character, seems to be somewhat controversial. Developed my Karen Anzoategui, VISA's attributes break down all social, gender and political barriers bringing us someone who could really care less about definitive lines and policies, focusing her time and energy on her community and her activism. I really responded to that about the character VISA, while identifying as a chicana trans (MTF) sex-worker, she really doesn't want to be boxed in and instead is care-free and informative.
    For Karen, I commend her on pushing open the doors for this kind of performance, showing that despite not being trans or whatnot she is able to embody and openly discuss topics that do pertain to her own community of those she cares about and works with. I think there should be a larger emphasis on building on these ideals allowing people to experience the many different aspects of groups of people that many of us don't come into contact with on a daily basis. This level of exploration is something we should be orienting ourselves toward, which could possibly bring our cultures and varying degrees of social and political groups together.

  5. VISA was an interesting and interactive way to discuss various serious and controversial topics but in a mediating way through VISA's quirky personality and humor. Through the use of humor and VISA's eccentric personality, these topics that normally go unnoticed or disregarded can be brought to the viewer's eye in an in-your-face style which is much more effective than other methods.
    Through VISA's raunchiness and humor these topics of immigration, politics, gay rights, etc. are presented to the viewer and are impossible to ignore through the captivating VISA and then pushes the viewer to analyze these topics further. It might even nudge the audience to participate outside of their comfort space and become physically involved. That is essentially what VISA's character has accomplished which is to take the viewer out of their comfort zone and take a closer look at the many aspects and layers of America in a critiquing way. This reminded me of Jonathan Swift's essay "A Modest Proposal" in which he argues in his essay that in order to solve the issue of poverty, people should eat children. He uses satire and humor in order to bring the issue of poverty to the forefront of the community which is extremely effective much like VISA's satirical character. Her character is not meant to be taken as a limited view of the transgendered community but more of a satirical tool in which to bring these important issues to the viewer's face.