With the narrow loss of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s bid for the Philippine vice presidency in 2016, thirty years after his late father’s authoritarian regime crumbled, and with ongoing dissent against the senior Marcos’s burial later that year in the national cemetery for heroes, the ghosts of martial law continue to haunt the Philippines and its U.S. diaspora. Noël Alumit’s 2002 novel Letters to Montgomery Clift illustrates the psychic and affective ramifications of martial law displacement and resists the idea that such wounds have healed. Rather than focusing on the intersections of identity structures on the formation of an individual, this essay looks at the protagonist’s relationships to other people to explore the gendered and queered dimensions of diaspora and exile. While the story follows eight-year-old Bong Bong Luwad’s escape from the Philippines under the Marcos dictatorship, his queer sexual discovery in the United States, his coming to terms with his mental illness as a result of being separated from his birth parents, and, importantly, the imaginary relationship he develops with dead American actor Montgomery Clift, I read Alumit’s novel through a transnational queer feminist lens to foreground women’s central role in structuring the narrative. By focusing on the cross-gender affiliations that Bong develops with women, I renew queer engagements with feminist cultural critique. Ultimately, an attention to the affective ties between femininity and queerness in the diaspora engenders alternative accounts of subalternity and the palimpsestic histories of colonization and state terror that complicate how we understand displacement and exile in our contemporary moment.

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