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Trans About Town: Tatiana Mala-Niña

Tatiana Mala-Niña drag trans lgbtqia

Real Interviews with Real Trans People

tatipic4-e1517864170177-209x300 Trans About Town: Tatiana Mala-Niña(HOUSTON) Tatiana Mala-Niña is a local drag celebrity who has been performing in Houston and the surrounding area for the past six years. She has been a finalist for both the Gayest and Greatest Awards and our very own FACE Awards for the favorite drag queen. She is currently a hostess for the Roomers Show the second Saturday of every month at The Room Bar in Spring, Shenanigans every Thursday at Hamburger Mary’s, Cabernet at the Cabaret Fridays at Michael’s Outpost, and is featured in the cast of Eye Cons (also at Michael’s Outpost). She is also consistently booked in other shows at various clubs and bars as a guest. She is the self-proclaimed Glamedy Queen of Houston, being a perfect convergence of glamor and original comedy. But aside from her successful career in drag, Tatiana is also a transgender woman.

Ian: What made you decide to pursue medical transition?

Tatiana: I always knew I was different, but it wasn’t until I saw members of my drag family live their own truths that I believed it to be possible for myself. They gave me the strength to come out and really admit, even to myself, who I was.

What do you find are the hardest, and the most rewarding, aspects of transitioning?

In both aspects, passing. When you go out and don’t feel like you pass in today’s society (breast size, waist, masculine appearance), it’s very daunting. You’re constantly worried that people will “clock you.” On the flip side, when people do see you as you are, this can be very affirming.

tatipic1-169x300 Trans About Town: Tatiana Mala-Niña

What difficulties and advantages do you find you have being a woman in the drag scene?

An advantage is that you feel more feminine when you perform. It’s more than a character, but a more elevated version of myself. Not to mention the cleavage! The biggest disadvantage, I would say, is that many cisgender performers feel that it’s cheating. We are faced with more criticism than a cis male performer. Also, when people touch me without permission, I actually feel it, which is a bigger violation in my opinion.

What would you change if you could?

I would love to be able to perform without padding. That would be so nice! Same thing with wigs. I would love the option of being onstage with nothing more than my own body. These things transfer into my daily life as well.

Let’s talk surgery …

The first surgery I am saving for is the one that takes the longest to recover from, FFS [facial feminization surgery]. After that I would like to get a fat transfer to my hips, to allow my body to be more proportionate. The final surgery, at least for now, would be breasts! I wouldn’t have huge tits, but I want to be able to swing them around in a circle ha ha ha! I haven’t decided on the lower region yet, but when that day comes, I doubt I’ll share.

What is your favorite thing about being a trans woman in drag?

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Being a drag queen allows me to explore so many aspects of femininity. I can be a beauty queen in a long flowing dress, a chola from the barrio, or an old church lady. I get to experience every aspect of being a female and can be any girl I want to be onstage.

What do you want people to know about trans female performers?

I want people to know that we work just as hard as cisgender performers. Most of us started out believing that we were just men, and that hard work mentality does not leave us when we transition. We put just as much time into makeup, costuming, and performance as anyone. We are not less than just because we take hormones.

Final thoughts?

If you are a lover of drag in any form, I would expect you to be mindful and aware of transgender issues, as well. So many of us are both, male or female. The little things I see from our fans, like using transgender in the past tense [read: transgendered], can be hurtful. Educate yourselves and it will help you become an ever better ally to both drag performers and trans people alike.

Ask Ian

Ask Ian Trans Advice Column

A Trans Advice Column

This addition to the About Trans section is designed to aid in the spread of information about transgender-related topics. All questions are welcome from all walks of life. This includes cisgender, transgender, and non-conforming people. Questions may be edited for content, and all names are changed to protect anonymity.

Please submit your questions to ian@about-online.com

Q: I’ve met some people recently who are transgender, and they use acronyms that I have never heard. I want to be a better friend to them, and I’m a little uncomfortable asking them what they mean when they use these terms. Can you give me a breakdown of the most common phrases used that could help me follow these conversations with them?


What I Learned as a Trans Dominatrix

trans dominatrix sex sex work

How I learned to survive as a trans woman and sex worker.

Any names mentioned in this piece have been changed to preserve anonymity.

I knew before I came out and began my transition that I would most likely have to do some form of sex work in order to survive. I had to resolve myself to the fact that this would probably be part of my future as a trans woman, because it might be difficult to be gainfully employed if my identity didn’t match with what people perceived when we met. This is unfortunately common among the people in my community.

Beginning a life in sex work wasn’t even the hard part.  I had tried for so many years to alleviate my depression and dysphoria through random sex, I had lost track of how many partners I’ve had. I also tried to escape my dysphoria through cocaine abusea serious addiction that alienated friends for years. I managed to quit using cocaineas well as ecstasy, acid, mushrooms, and marijuanaand have been clean since January of 2015.

My main experience with sex work was as a professional dominatrix, so that will be the primary focus of this story. I infrequently performed on-camera sex work with another trans woman, and prostituted myself once or twice, but I will leave those things to someone who may know that life more intimately.


Lizpic1-242x300 What I Learned as a Trans DominatrixFlexibility is essential. Whatever “rules” you have are probably going to be broken at some point, or at least severely bent. For example, I would never meet a client until the House sub, Nettle (sort of a secretary/assistant/ plaything/demonstration tool), had gone over the rules of the Dungeon, discussed safety measures, obtained informed consent from the client (consent I would also obtain before beginning a session), and collected payment (or tribute, as we liked to call it.). There were occasions when a potential client was wary and needed extra reassurance. Michael was a man who had never visited a dominatrix before; and though he was interested, he was nervous. He wasn’t experiencing anxiety just about safety and whether or not I would hurt him, but was also nervous about anonymity. So I dropped the dominatrix persona (having a persona, almost like a stage character, really helps especially in BDSM) and sat down with him to speak one-on-one so that he could see that I was a real person rather than a whip-wielding maniac.

Everyone is looking for something they think might fill a hole in their lives. The majority of the men who booked sessions with me requested “CD” (or crossdressing) services. For them, that meant fishnets, panties, and a bra in which they would perform tasks like massaging my feet, cleaning the Dungeon, or touching my body and making out with me. For me, it meant acceptance from older men stemming from my terrible, sometimes physically/mentally abusive, relationship with my father. Most men who visited me were older and had the disposable income to use on luxuries such as a visit to a dominatrix,

Whatever it is that people are looking for, most are too afraid to chase it. This is usually out of the fear of the unknown, or that of looking stupid. I don’t regret working as a dominatrix, at all. Sometimes I can’t believe I did, but it was what I had to do in order to survive and I enjoyed it at the time. Ultimately, I decided to stop, because I wasn’t okay. While I had no problem facilitating men’s fantasies of being tied up (tying knots is something else I’ve learned as a dominatrix; who needs the Boy Scouts?), being beaten, having hot wax poured on them, or watching them ejaculate just from looking at me, I still wasn’t okay with being fetishized.

I knew that my clients were coming to see me because they found the idea of a woman with a penis to be supremely erotic, even (or especially) if they would never be allowed to see or touch my penis; the idea of its existence, tucked out of sight, was what made them drip on my carpet. But in the end, I wasn’t okay with my transness being fetishized, or promoting the fetishization of trans women.

To be clear, for trans women who do perform sex work, I have no judgement, because we as trans women do what we must to live and survive. I refuse to shame or judge anyone for their sexual lives, as long as these activities only involve consenting adults. And since I am a white trans woman, I had the access and perceived respectability to be a dominatrix, to be “in charge.” Yes, I worried about being murdered by a strange man (which is why I kept a gun hidden but easily accessible), or being arrested, but there are many challenges which trans women of color face as sex workers which I was able to avoid.

The shame lies not in sex work, nor in doing what needs to be done in order to live. The true shame lies in a cisgender world that continues to marginalize trans people, look down on us for being marginalized, and then using the only currency, the only thing of value left to us to survive. The shame lies in a society created and controlled by white people who desire the bodies of people of color, but don’t value their ideas, contributions, or culture. The shame lies in a patriarchy that only sees women as fuck toys. One day, if trans and cis, queer and straight, people of color and white, women, men, and non-binary people work together to end this fucked up system, sex work can become something into which people enter not because they have to, but maybe because they just like to fuck.

Stop Fucking Killing Us

Trans transgender safety murder

Elizabeth Davidson discusses trans visibility and safety.

2017 now stands as the deadliest year on record for trans people in the United States. At the moment I’m writing this, twenty-seven trans people have been murdered in this country … and we’ve still got a month left. I would personally be willing to bet that two more trans people will be murdered by New Year’s Eve. (*Since writing that previous sentence last week, I’ve attended a vigil for a trans woman of color, Brandi Seals, who was murdered here in Houston. Citing numbers seems pointless now that the numbers are rising almost too quickly to keep track.)  Why is this happening? Is it because more and more of us trans people are coming out and living as our authentic selves? Are we seeing a pushback by bigots who can’t stand seeing us happy?  Or is the rhetoric of conservative politicians emboldening their supporters to attack us? In my opinion, it’s all of the above.

We used to be just a side-show attraction – if you have a free afternoon and a deep-seated desire to wound your soul – you can watch any number of Maury episodes that invite audience members to guess “is it a man or a woman?” Now, however, people take us seriously. And isn’t that just nuts? Likewise, if you’re loathing yourself or genuinely just find your curiosity piqued to know what the world has to say about trans people, you can tune into conservative media and hear about how “the transgenders” are out to get the women and children of America. But there still stands the fact that in 48 states, the murderer of a trans person can claim that they were “freaked out” to the point of murder, and will receive a less severe sentencing than if they’d simply pled guilty. That alone makes me think that in a lot of places around the country, any  reason to murder trans people is a good reason.

So what do we do about this? Honestly, if I had a way to change the hearts and minds of the country (or at least daytime TV programming), I would have already used that power a long time ago. Honestly, it’s going to take a united effort by more than just the trans community to convince the world that murder is bad; so, if you were hoping to find an easy solution to this problem in this essay, I’m sorry to disappoint you. However, there are some simple things we can do that can help make our lives easier, happier, and hopefully a little safer.

#1 Come Out!

I know that it’s scary and difficult; and yes, I know we have to do it over-and-over again to many different people, as it is rarely believed that we know who we are.I’ve come out to my family so many times that I’ve lost count. Are they supportive? For the most part, no. Maybe they’ll come around and realize through knowing me that trans people aren’t creepy weirdos lurking in bathrooms, but instead are bright, funny, talented, beautiful people. Conversely, they may leave me alone and stop telling me, “You have evil in your soul.” But by coming out, you’re letting others  know that they already know a trans person. And if people know one of us, it’s harder for them to believe the lies about us. We have a superpower here. A magical ability. You have the potential to change someone’s mind for the better. Now, be safe about how and when you decide to come out. If you think coming out will endanger your life or well-being, come up with a strategy so you can be safe and be yourself. Above all, I want you alive and well and able to shine your unique light into the world.

#2 Find your tribe.

I’ve found mine in a number of places. I realized my transness through drag performance; and my friends in the drag scene are still some of the kindest, sweetest, and loudest champions and supporters I have. Also, going to trans support groups when I needed them helped me find a community of trans men, women, and non-binary folks that I still turn to and rely on some 2+ years into my transition. Because my birth family isn’t so great, my family of choice consists of the people I love and who love me back unconditionally, as any real family (birth or chosen) should. Having a tribe means having a place where you know you belong, and a group of people who are concerned for your wellbeing and safety—people who will check on you and encourage positive, safe, healthy living.

#3 Watch your back!

It sucks and it’s going to sound like I’m putting the burden on us to not become victims, which is not my intention. With that said, it’s clearly a dangerous time to be trans. Don’t tell anyone that the funny-looking object on my keychain is actually pepper spray, but that’s what it is.I’ve been attacked before, and I don’t want that to happen again, to me or to anyone else. Talk to some cis girls about how they protect themselves—they’ve been dealing with creeper dudes since they were kids. Maybe Karen at work has some tips? Remember, Tiffany at the coffee shop told you to get your keys out of your purse *before* walking out to the parking garage! Bond with these people who can advise you on safety and maybe they’ll even end up being in your tribe.

There’s been a lot of stress and political upheaval this past year, and maybe that’s been driving the violence against the trans community. Personally, I hope 2018 calms down. Perhaps drawing attention to the issue will wake up the rest of the country. For information on resources and where you might find your tribe, contact About Magazine, the Montrose Center, Legacy Community Health, or search Facebook for groups to join.

And cis people, DON’T BE SILENT! If you hear a friend, family member, or coworker making jokes or disparaging comments about trans people, call them out and educate them. We need your help, because the only way we can change the world is if we do it together.