About Trans

Home About Trans

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?

tatipic2-200x300 Trans About Town: Tatiana Mala-Niña

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.

Trans About Town: Roxanne Hutchins

roxanne hutchins houston trans about town transgender drag queen

Roxanne Hutchins is a 50-year-old trans woman from Whistleville, Georgia who has been working with trans women of color for the better part of three years. In addition to being a local drag legend, she has made it her mission to increase visibility for the community as a whole. She is a quiet, private woman offstage, but a force to be reckoned with when she’s out. She has been medically transitioning since 1996, and considers this a lifetime commitment.

Roxanne1-220x300 Trans About Town: Roxanne HutchinsI’m not sure about you, but I would consider you pretty famous in this town! To what would you attribute your familiarity in the Houston transgender community?

Commitment. Once I knew that I was trans and made that commitment to be my genuine self, it made me walk and act with consciousness. This allowed me to identify to people. I was never treated like a “drag queen”, but always like a lady in the gay community. Many people recognized me for who I was before I even admitted it to myself. Once you commit to that life, and you walk the walk and talk the talk, people will see and respect that.

Tell us a bit about the work that you do with trans women of color.

I’ve always been like a big sister to people in the community. I have plans to start a “big brother, big sister” program soon to mentor people just coming to find themselves. I’ve taken a step back temporarily to take care of myself, but when I return that’s definitely a plan I have going forward. We also have plans to start a fundraising campaign to grant scholarships to get surgeries and things done.

In the past I’ve volunteered with an organization called MSociety, and we developed a program for black trans women called SOS, Save our Sisters. We are going on our third year. It’s a place for black trans women to meet and mentor each other. We talk about our lives and help each other with issues that we have. We have also been helping other people get their name and gender marker changes done, with the help of some people here in Houston. We want to do so many more.

I also think it’s important to know that the things I want to start will be open to all trans people. We cannot segregate ourselves, because if we keep seeing ourselves as different, then all we will see is the differences.

Roxanne2-300x300 Trans About Town: Roxanne HutchinsWhat do you feel is the more rewarding part about that work, and why are black trans women particularly in need of visibility in leadership?

After my attorney helped me change my legal information and we set up a clinic, we were able to get several groups of women’s name and gender changes done as well. That was so rewarding, it changed their lives. This was almost a year ago. To know that you had that kind of impact, and in some instances might have even saved some lives, that was big. I really felt very proud of that. I want to do that again, I want to do more.

For the second part of the question, I feel like visibility in leadership is so important because people need to be able to see themselves in their representation. We have such strong leaders, but some may not know that. They don’t see people in those roles that they can look up to. It’s difficult to build people up if they don’t see people that look like them in leadership. But being trans doesn’t have to be all that you are. We shouldn’t marginalize ourselves. The struggle of transgender women is the struggle of all women. When we see women in positions of power we should identify with them, no matter what color their skin is or if they are LGBT or not.

What do you feel are the biggest issues that trans women of color face in society right now?

Safety. When I’m out in the world, people don’t see me as anything other than a black woman. But when I come home, I’m alone. It’s when I’m the most trans. Sometimes I ride the bus, and the walk from the stop to my house is the longest walk for me, because I don’t feel safe. I’ve been followed and catcalled. I found it odd. It could have turned ugly or even fatal real fast. I can’t speak to white trans people, but black trans women are really a fetish. That can be dangerous, and it affects our dignity and self-respect.

Roxanne3-297x300 Trans About Town: Roxanne HutchinsWhat are the biggest differences between your generation and those that are just now coming to light? How have trans women your age paved the way for younger women?

The journey is so different now. The destination has changed. When I was young we simply set out to be women. We set out to live our best lives, whatever that looked like to us individually. Sally didn’t do it like Betty, but they both did it. Now it seems there is a recipe. There are understood ways that you transition. That’s because people are sharing their transition stories more openly now. We didn’t share experiences we just shared resources. This is good hormone doctor, this is where I get x, y, or z. That was, if you were asked. And now it’s okay if you never have bottom surgery or even top surgery for that matter. Trans is so different today, so different. It is exciting I have to admit, to see what happens next for our people.

I don’t feel that we’ve paved the way for anyone in some ways. We paved the road, but the grass has grown over it because people aren’t walking that path anymore. The way that trans people are taking now is nothing that we have made for them. That’s okay. It’s a good thing. It’s just different.

Roxanne4-300x261 Trans About Town: Roxanne HutchinsTell us about how the terminology has changed since you were coming up. What words do you use that some now may find triggering?

When it comes to triggering it really drives me crazy when people tell others what they can be sensitive about. Tranny isn’t so much a trigger as just downright insulting to me personally. In my day, a tranny was a prostitute. I have never been a hooker. The word tranzy was a term of endearment amongst “us girls”. That word seems to have disappeared from the lingo. My sisters from that generation still use it, and that makes me smile.

Do you have any closing thoughts?

Part of me feels some kind of way using trans in general. Why can’t I just be me, not trans this or trans that? I don’t identify as gay or trans or anything, just me. If we took some time to be the same, instead of just different, then we might get a lot farther. But at the end of the day, your journey is your journey and we have to respect that. Whether you’re trans or cis, it’s ok cause we’re just women. Some people drive a Maserati, some drive a Pinto. They’re still cars. And we are all just people.

We are stronger together than we are apart.

We Need a Larger Table

Dylan Wilde Forbis trans texas community

In order to succeed as the trans community, we must find a space where all of us fit in.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” C.G. Jung

 

It was early February of 2017 when I attended a training in Dallas called the Transgender Leadership Institute, or TLI. Those in attendance made the training quite unique. It was an even mix of transgender and gender non-binary adults, with almost even numbers of parents of transgender kids. My partner and I had just attended the 2017 Creating Change Conference and I was excited to keep the flow going with this new training. It was a fast-paced and intense workshop. There were about eight hours of education and tasks spanning over almost two days. In the end, I didn’t get anything from the workshop itself that I didn’t already know, yet I experienced more in those eight hours than I was prepared for. There were things in my life that I had not yet begun to process, which I was going to have to confront all weekend. I’m going to give you a rundown so that you can have a clearer picture of what I was struggling with while this training was taking place.

14115569_10154355978925833_1351346938280663430_o-300x300 We Need a Larger Table
Photo by Eric Edward Schell at Pride Portraits.

The first thing that I had not yet sorted out in my mind was that I was a finalist for a top surgery scholarship granted to trans people by an organization called Point of Pride. At this point in my life, I had been in my physical transition for 5 years. I was very familiar with mourning the idea of my inability to have top surgery, but this was a rejuvenating possibility. I felt hopeful; and with help, I did some research about the previous year in trans excellence (people winning awards, attending the DNC, and other wonder advancements), made my submission video, and waited with bated breath. In the end, although I was a finalist, I did not win. I was devastated, it tore my heart into a million pieces.

Not now Dylan, there’s work to do, I told myself.

As if that wasn’t enough to nearly break me, I had gone to a job interview the week before the training workshop began. It was for a non-profit community outreach role for an organization that had recently begun this campaign of going into middle schools and reigniting students’ dreams in an effort to reduce teen pregnancy, expulsions, and other problematic behaviors.  During the interview, I was asked if I would be able to relate to non-transgender kids, or kids whose skin was darker than mine. My response to them was, “All kids are assumed cisgender and straight, as was I.” My theory of education is rooted in diversity inclusion; they didn’t have to worry about singling out or excluding children. Goals that are focused on values of self acceptance, self awareness, and the tools to communicate with each other also give youths the tools to communicate with themselves. In reference to my race, growing up a biracial Texan who looks white in the winter and Mexican in the summer, I am painfully aware of my skin tone. I grew up in the neighborhoods and schools this campaign was visiting. My earliest memories were of living in an apartment complex on Spice Ln. and going through the hole in the old wood fence with my dad to pick up food for our family. These, along with many other similar experiences from my childhood are the ones that connect to youth, not just the color of your skin.

And yet, I didn’t get the job.

My mind was covered by a wet blanket, but, I told myself, Not now Dylan, there’s work to do.

Dylan-and-Sheila-300x282 We Need a Larger Table
Dylan and Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

Then of course, there was the fact that the 2017 Texas Legislative Session was in full force. SB4 and SB6 were causing a lot of concern from intersected communities. ICE was doing raids all over the USA and Texas. Trans people were harassed at climbing rates, all while debates with my family over new laws being considered were common, and civil discussions were not. No one had finished processing the 2016 election. Most of us were still having withdrawals from the elation and success of the Women’s March. It felt like HERO (the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) all over again. With HERO, I volunteered for an advertisement in support of the bill that aired every morning for two months. There was also a billboard and ads in local newspapers. So much was at stake and it was the first video of its kind, a trans person education campaign during a city wide election. I was out to the world, no turning back. I received some push-back from our community, and I understood. I looked white—passing privilege. I looked male—passing privilege. Even though I can’t get jobs, I passed. Even though my family doesn’t accept me, I passed. Even though I couldn’t afford to progress my transition, I passed. Why don’t I feel that passing is enough?

Again, my mind spun in circles.

Not now Dylan, there’s work to do.

During one meal break in the middle of our training, we were asked to sit with people we didn’t know to extend our circle. I chose the furthest table away, because it felt right. It was mostly transgender and non-binary adults, with one mother of a trans woman. We were all talking about our experiences, and she was speaking about her daughters’ experiences, as if she’d lived them herself, like many proud mothers tend to do. The topic shifted to something I don’t think either of us was prepared for. While dealing with the impending death of a family member, this woman had asked her daughter to not visit before they passed away. The family member was elderly, and it might upset them to see the daughter and her transition. She listened, as an obedient daughter would. A fire ignited in my chest due to the parallels in my own life. In 2013, my grandmother was in a hospice. I was over one year on hormones and eight months post-name change. My car was repossessed exactly 10 months prior, after I lost my job in the Union for discrimination, and my parents were refusing to give me a ride. Despite this, I took two buses and a light rail to get to the hospice. One of my aunts greeted me at the door and let me see my grandmother, Ernestina Solis Camarillo. The strong, beautiful woman I knew had become frail from her treatments, but she was still there. It was a short visit. I told her I loved her, and she lovingly replied, “Yo también te amo, mi hijo”.

Hijo. Male. I am Dylan.

This was the last interaction I had with my Grandma Tina. She passed away not long after. I explained my experience to this mother, and that I could not imagine listening to my parents. Staying home. Not venturing out to visit my grandmother. Unlike me, her daughter never had the chance to obtain that kind of closure. But who knows if she would have received it at all? I didn’t; but at the moment I didn’t care. The floodgates of my emotion had engulfed my mind.  I was shut down.

Not now, Dylan, there’s work to do.

During the day, many of us that were keeping tabs on SB4 were seeing live streams of ICE raids all over Texas. The ones that hit home were around the Southwest Alief area where I grew up. I was guilty with my privilege of being able to attend this training while so many were living in fear of losing their freedom, actively being harassed by police officers, or spending endless nights in detention centers. This was two weeks after I attended the Creating Change Conference, and the first time I sat through a racial justice institute as a biracial person, in the People of Color Workshop. While at CC, I heard testimonies of people with lives just like mine. trans men, half-white and half-Mexican, and I wanted to learn more about the struggles of equity through my genes. It’s very easy to know how to relate to being trans as myself, but I didn’t know how to relate to being a trans person of color. Meeting these people gave me a new perspective.  

DSC_0006-X3-300x245 We Need a Larger TableI spent the night in my room with my weekend roommate and another activist, both Latinx community members. Back in my hotel room, I hung my Texas Rainbow flag over the painting above my bed and we talked about organizing all night. We began deconstructing fear by discussing the fact that injustice towards trans people anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, because we are everywhere. Our trans siblings are in those camps, in those raids, being harrassed. So, why are we here and not talking about that? We made a space to have the discussion, but I slept uneasy because while I was in a hotel bed, there were people—my people, our people—sleeping on concrete floors and in what can only be described as dog kennels. I felt powerless.

Not now, Dylan, there’s work to do.

The next morning, the final day, I was a different person. Everything that had gone unchecked was taking over. I was resentful. This place was filled with something I was familiar with, and it hurt. I was cold, short-tempered, and fed up. I swear I knew these people and they did not want to change. Over the course of the last workshop, I was working out my problems in real time, in a room full of dozens of people—strangers. When it became apparent that I was visibly upset, one of the mothers of a transgender child came up to give me a hug from behind. The gesture was meant out of love, but I was not in the place for any physical contact. I asked to not be touched and took the “call in” (a private way to discuss issues without hurting feelings) outside. I explained that touch is consensual even when coming from a nurturing place, and we had a beautiful, respectful conversation. That ended with a big hug and lots of tears. I was experiencing healing. When the workshop was over, I asked the woman who had spoken of her daughter over dinner if she had a moment. We unpacked our conversation, and I thanked her for being present. I apologized for my outburst and we found another healing moment together.

It was obvious that I had come to so many realizations with no time to log them. I have had time to process since, and would like to share this with you.

First, I am grateful for exclusive trans, GNC/non-binary, and queer spaces. We fight our whole lives for the right to exist, and there is something powerful, surreal, and earth-shaking about being in a room full of those who have had a similar struggle. I appreciate it as the revolutionary act it is. We need to continue to challenge ourselves to grow not only in these spaces, but out of them, as well. If we are to be truly successful we need to structure a balance. It is sure to fail, so goes life, but we will succeed if we are patient, if we listen, and if we try.

14380051_10154438503055833_4139309703263043320_o-300x300 We Need a Larger Table
Photo by Eric Edward Schell at Pride Portraits

Second, learning how much I can take and what a burnout feels like makes it easier to feel one coming, but doesn’t accomplish anything at the time it’s happening. It’s not easy, and it’s not talked about enough within our activist communities. There are no resources or places to go that offer support because we all need it in different ways, and when you’re experiencing a burnout it tends to come with a burn out of funds, as well. After all, most counseling opportunities cost a shining coin. I needed a place to cry and not perform my life or be “on”. I think self-love/care is the brand that has given us a place to begin the conversation, but we need to acknowledge it is also dismissing of the larger issue. Self-care is something you give yourself. So, I can just say, “Remember self care!” and that fulfills my requirement as a friend. We need more involvement; and we need less judgement. Seeking help, time, space, love, or even blowing up in an activist space is a healthy display of emotion but we need to learn what happens next.

We’re a family and we all need to learn more. Do more.

Third, it is not easy or comfortable to talk about issues that we have no control over. One of the largest parts of organizing is isolating issues before we can acknowledge and accept to begin finding solutions. I personally have been working very hard to have these difficult conversations, but reached a roadblock I didn’t expect. Four days after the conference I was arrested on “day without an immigrant”, for a warrant I had from two years prior for not having insurance on my vehicle. That’s a story for another day, but it changed my entire year. I no longer had the ability to advance myself, these concerns, this conversation, or accomplish anything other than keeping myself afloat, which friends and family kept reminding me I needed to do. I am sorry now that I didn’t take their advice. I feel that in 2017, I let my community down and I stayed lost. After preparing for a year to attend the open session, my own fear and paranoia of being arrested while traveling kept me home. I never felt someone reach out to me, but I think it had to do with being buried by my fear. As surely as I felt lost for months I found laser sight at the Unity Banquet http://www.unitybanquet.com/ . Clarity in the words of Judge Phyllis Frye, “Why aren’t you running?” and Former Mayor Annise Parker, “Allies are great, but we have to make sure we use our own voices, too.”

26116047_10155873156095833_7610033871413737293_o-300x200 We Need a Larger TableLastly, to reiterate the Jung quote from before, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves”. I was turned off by everything because I saw what my mind had been experiencing over the past five years. A lack of acceptance, stubbornness, selfishness, all wrapped up in unsupportive parents. I could not see past it, but just as clearly as I saw these things, I was able to let them go and destroy that projection of dysfunction onto strangers. I am so grateful for the experience of such a unique type of workshop. I was unprepared, though; life had a different plan. I came in at the bottom of my life at that moment, and I left at the bottom, too. I left with a new experience of uncharted territory, and it was going to take months to process.

So, here we are today.

Every single parent who accepts their child is a radical revolutionary. When I think about problems that come up in my life, sometimes I imagine one of those mothers as my own. Calling me her son. Telling me she’s proud of meDylan. I am so happy for the children that have parents willing to challenge themselves and grow. It can’t be easy. I only see the pushback they choose to share, but I know it must be scary for them. The Transgender Day of Remembrance https://www.glaad.org/tdor , lawmakers attacking their children, schools not creating a safe space for all students, and the common concerns of a growing child. One of the largest rewards for me is seeing these amazing kids organizing in their schools. Sharing their lives on social media because they are loved for who they are.

I love our community and the challenges we face in making new seats at the table. Although, sometimes it feels like standing room only. Maybe it’s time we got a bigger house.

Are you registered to vote?


Dylan Wilde Forbis is a native Texan who grew up in Houston’s diverse South West side, commonly known as Alief. He has been active in the Houston LGBTQI community for 12 years. In 2012 he began his physical transition from female to male, and today is active in the fight for Transgender equality. After publicly coming out in 2015 during a commercial for the city wide HERO campaign, Dylan began a more open position in the movement. In January of 2017 he moved to Pearland, TX with his partner and is currently running a campaign for candidacy as Texas State House District 29.

Trans About Town: Adriana LaRue

Adriana LaRue Trans Drag Queen Houston Trans About Town

Adriana LaRue is a local celebrity in the drag community of Houston. A regularly-featured performer at Hamburger Mary’s and JR’s, winner of the thirteenth season of Dessie’s Drag Race, and  current reigning Miss So You Think You Can Drag, she is a force to be reckoned with and has made a name for herself with her high energy performances, amazing dancing abilities, and a personality that can only be described as infectious. For the latest edition of our column Trans About Town, we sat down and talked to the queen herself. 


Ian Townsley: How long have you been performing.

Adriana LaRue: September 9th was my three year anniversary — so three years and counting.

What has been your favorite performance thus far?

My second performance ever, which was at Meteor, when I did “Break Free” by Ariana Grande. That was the night I actually realized that this is what I wanted to do. Three years later, I’m still doing it and I’ve never looked back. Every time I perform that song, that same feeling I had that night is with me. In my finale performance for season 13 of Dessie’s Drag Race, I left my heart on that stage with the same song. It paid off, too, and I was chosen as the winner. 

Adriana1-1-e1541511650729 Trans About Town: Adriana LaRueHow do you classify yourself and why (drag queen, female entertainer, etc.)?

I don’t care for a label to be honest, because a label should not identify us. I’m simply an entertainer. But, in this community, people care so much about labels. They can classify me however they want!

Do you think being a trans female drag queen is easier/harder and why?

For myself in particular, I think it’s an in-between. I can get away with just looking pretty and not having to wear so much, such as pads and all those pantyhose, because my body is naturally curvy. In another way, it’s hard being that I am plus-sized. Lots of people have that mentality of, “Oh, she’s big so she can’t dance,” or “She can’t do anything but walk around and be boring.” I have to set the bar high for myself to exceed people’s expectations of what a big girl like myself can do!

What made you choose to be “out”?

The LGBTQ+ community, my friends, the encouragement I’ve received, and honestly self-love! A couple of years before I started performing, I actually wouldn’t tell people that I was trans because I was scared of not being accepted in the “straight world”. But coming into the community, it was a whole different situation. I would tell people that I was trans and they would be like, “Oh my god! I’m so happy for you! That’s amazing that you’re living out your truth and you’re being your true self!”

What advice would you have for new or up-and-coming trans female entertainers?

My advice to up-and-coming trans female entertainers is: Sister, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do what these queens have been doing for years! You are just as equal as any of us! If no one is giving you an opportunity, make opportunities for yourself. Be heard! Be an active member of the community; spread love; be positive’ and don’t give words powers that they don’t have!


Follow Adriana LaRue:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Adriana2-1 Trans About Town: Adriana LaRue


To be featured or to nominate someone to be featured in a “Trans About Town” interview, please send a suggestion to ian@about-online.com.