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REVIEW: Oscar-Winning Film “A Fantastic Woman”

The Chilean film took home the Oscar for Best Foreign Film at the 90th Annual Academy Awards tonight, making it the first trans-led film to ever win an Oscar

I recently had the opportunity to go with some friends to a screening of a new, Chilean film entitled Una Mujer Fantastica (A Fantastic Woman). I was excited to see this film because it is the first Oscar-nominated (and as of tonight, Oscar-winning) film starring a trans woman, and representation like that is hard to come by. When the film began, I was surprised at how good it felt to see a woman like me on the big screen.

largeposter-206x300 REVIEW: Oscar-Winning Film "A Fantastic Woman"The film opens with Marina (Chilean actress Daniela Vega) singing in a bar as a man comes in and watches her. She smiles at him, and they go to dinner for Marina’s birthday. The man is Orlando (Francisco Reyes), a business owner and Marina’s much older cis boyfriend. That night, they go home and make love; but later, Marina wakes in the middle of the night to find Orlando sitting up, gasping for breath, and speaking incoherently. She rushes him to the hospital, where he dies of an aneurysm. What follows is the story of Marina trying to pick up the pieces of her life and say goodbye to the man she loved. All the while she is harassed and insulted by Orlando’s family, friends, and the police.

Marina’s life was easy and happy while she had Orlando—a nice apartment and car that belonged to him and which they shared. After his death, all that is taken from her as Orlando’s ex-wife demands the car and his son orders her to move out of the apartment immediately.  As soon as she loses the protection afforded by her relationship, the world rushes in to attack. The police repeatedly question Marina under the suspicion that she had hurt Orlando, misgendering her, and suggesting that Orlando had been paying for her company. Apparently, cis people cannot actually love trans people. Orlando’s ex-wife, Sonia (Aline Küppenheim), deadnames Marina repeatedly, an insulting and delegitimizing act that suggests a trans person’s identity is a playact that can be observed or ignored as is convenient.

Interspersed with the story are dreamlike sequences—Marina walking along a sidewalk suddenly hit with a wind so strong she has to fight to not be blown away; Marina alone in a nightclub transformed from rain-drenched to glam makeup and silver-and-gold dance costumes dancing with an army of likewise beautiful LGBTQ people. These moments both highlight and give respite from the trials she faces every day.

The greatest triumph of A Fantastic Woman is perhaps showing cis audiences the struggles that trans people face daily as we are deadnamed, misgendered, and asked ignorant and invasive questions by law enforcement, healthcare professionals, and total strangers (why is it okay to ask a trans person about their genitals? I honestly don’t get it, and I never see or hear cis people ask each other such questions). Sitting in a dark room hearing a theater full of cis folks gasp in shock and disgust at moments trans people experience daily, I thought maybe that cis people don’t listen, understand, or believe trans people when we talk about our experiences; but seeing it happen themselves, to a character with whom they can’t help but identify after nearly two hours in the dark, drives it home.

A Fantastic Woman invites audiences into the world of trans women, creating understanding and compassion. By the end of the film, Marina gets a chance to say goodbye to Orlando, and has found the strength to fight back against the people who attacked her.

A Fantastic Woman is rated R and has a run-time of 1 hour 44 minutes. Spanish with English subtitles. Content-warning for deadnaming, misgendering, assault, kidnapping.

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.

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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.

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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.

Queer Houston, We Have a Problem

endorse lupe valden jenifer rene pool

What the actual heck is the GLBT Political Caucus thinking?

(HOUSTON)—Over the weekend, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus announced its long-winded list of endorsements for the 2018 primary elections, which are now only one month away (March 6th, 2018). The list, which consists of 60 names—59 Democrats and 1 Republicanhosts some notable names, from Beto O’Rourke to Fran Watson and beyond. However, it also is missing a couple of not only recognizable, but very important names in two very important slots.

Jenifer Rene Pool for the Texas House of Representatives and Lupe Valdez for governor. Why do these names matter? Well, for one, Pool was the president of Houston’s GLBT Political Caucus from 2006 until 2008. And then there’s the fact that she was also the first trans person to ever win a primary election in Texas in 2016 (although, she was defeated in November). As for Valdez, well, she made history by being one of the first democrats elected to office in Dallas in 2004 after a long span of time, and by being the only Latina sheriff in the entire nation elected and serving in 2004. Now, as their political candidacies are just a month shy of votes that could disconcert the Texas political establishment, Houston’s GLBT Political Caucus has pulled a very Texas-fitting move by endorsing straight, white men rather than these two queer women.

A little more background on these two women:

Jenifer-Rene-Pool-1 Queer Houston, We Have a ProblemJenifer Rene Pool is more than just a trans womanshe’s a successful businesswoman and advocate who not only has been appointed to the Buildings and Standards Commission, the Police Advisory Commission, the Task Force on Buildings and Standards, the Special Task Force on Film in Houston, the Houston Police Advisory Committee, but has also served thoroughly and actively in the LGBTQIA community for decades and owns her own consulting firm. In 2016 (as aforementioned), Pool became the first trans person to ever win a primary election in the state of Texas, beating opponent Erik Hassan for the Harris County Commissioner’s Court, District 13 seat by a staggering margin. Pool pulled in 78.28% of the votes. Hassan, on the other hand, reeled in only 21.72%. In November, Pool lost the seat to Republican candidate Steve Radack, but by a much smaller margin than Hassan had lost to her in the primary. Radack won with approximately 58%, leaving pool with about 42%. Now, Pool is running for the Texas House of Representatives, heavily emphasizing the repair of infrastructure, implementing comprehensive flood protection, reforming education to a quality standard, and so much more.

TLMD_LUPE_VALDEZ-e1517945975587-300x229 Queer Houston, We Have a ProblemLupe Valdez has served as a captain in the US Army, and has also worked as a federal agent. She served as Sheriff of Dallas County from 2004 until just last year. Valdez’s work in the federal government involved investigating fraud in the country, as well a crime corps outside the country. As the sheriff, she spent a great deal of time reforming prisons that were understaffed and overpopulated. Her advocacy for inmates extended even further, however, seeking better care for prisoners suffering mental illness. As mentioned before, Valdez was one of a handful of LGBTQIA elected public servants serving over the course of her career as sheriff; and when she began in 2004, she was the only Latina in the entire country to hold the title of sheriff. Now, Valdez is running for governor. Valdez is running on higher minimum wages, equal pay, affordable college educations, affordable healthcare, more and better public transit options, and raising the standard of education.

Unarguably, these are two strong political candidates. Right? And they just so happen to identify as LGBTQIA. Still, Pool and Valdez aren’t the only two LGBTQIA candidates running for office. In fact, there are almost fifty queer people running in Texas alone. Certainly, they can’t all win. Still, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be given the opportunity to win.

Jennifer-Rene-Pool-e1312640557522-225x300 Queer Houston, We Have a ProblemI’m a staunch believer that we shouldn’t elect queer people just because they’re queer. I wouldn’t be electing Caitlin Jenner just because she’s trans. She’s also a Republican who endorsed Donald Trump. Not quite my cup of tea. However, among those near-fifty candidates that we’re talking about, nearly all are running on the Democratic ticket and are talking about issues that matter to the LGBTQIA community. After all, when it comes down to it, we’re concerned about the same things that cis and straight people are. We just want to be safe and afforded the same opportunities. But more than anything, what the community needs right now and more than ever is representation. Rare is the occasion that any given person is going to agree with each and every political stance taken by any given politician; but even rarer—especially in the LGBTQIA community—is the opportunity to be represented by a majority of politicians. We’re a community of minorities that converges like a Venn Diagram with other minority groups. We’re made up of gay people, trans people, bisexual people, black people, Hispanic people, Jewish people, Asian people, disabled people, veterans, asexuals, the non-binary, and so many more. Unlike the representation we see in our government—especially so in our state’s government—we are more than just white, cisgender, straight, male faces. So, why is that so much of what we’re seeing? And more importantly, why are those the faces that the Houston GLBT Political Caucus is endorsing over queer trans women or queer women of color? 

Screen-Shot-2017-12-06-at-6.20.19-AM_1512562828089_11882921_ver1.0-300x225 Queer Houston, We Have a ProblemThough it was reported in 2017 that Congress is now composed of 19% nonwhite individuals, there are only seven people who identify as LGBTQIA currently serving—less than 2%. Worse still? Only one of those 7 is a nonwhite person. So, if we take this information into consideration, and if we bother to ask why in 2018 we’re still seeing a giant lack of representation in our national and state government systems, it is equally important to ask why the Houston GLBT Political Caucus is endorsing straight, cisgender, white men in place of a strong trans woman and a Latin lesbian. Both of these women have worked tirelessly over the course of their political careers to ensure safety for the LGBTQIA community and who want to bring their voices—our voices—to Austin to make effective change.

As someone told me lately, “If the Caucus ain’t gonna support you [queer people], who will?”

To hear the Caucus’s new and sitting president tell it, as reported to MyStatesman, “We absolutely, positively wanted to endorse Lupe, but she didn’t do as well as we would have liked in the interview.” But that doesn’t quite seem like a good enough excuse. When it comes down to politics, the public eye never leaves a politician, especially not in the current era of 24-hour news coverage. A politician’s reliability, their credibility, and their flat-out ability to do the job aren’t solely based on one interview. They’re based on what work the candidate in question has done to effect change in the community. And neither Pool nor Valdez has carried out a career lacking said efficacy. Moreover, their careers—possibly even somewhat stunted due to their LGBTQIA statuses—have not come without pressures that their candidates have never had to face. As women—one trans and one cis—and as members of this community, both of these ladies have jumped hurdles to assume and maintain the positions they’ve fought tirelessly for to protect the well-being of other people. And, let’s be honest, these are both women of a certain age. That’s not a jab at them—that’s a jab at the times in which they’ve had to be unafraid and unabashed in order to make the strides they’ve made to get to where they are. Their political lives have had to shatter more glass ceilings than many in politics can ever imagine having existed.

 

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Andrew White, who won the Caucus’s governor endorsement over Valdez

And, as a community of mixed voices—gay, bi, trans, non-binary, lesbian, black, Asian, Hispanic, and more—we need heroes that are comfortable being uncomfortable to stand up, sword and shield in hand, to say no to the assholes in Austin who seek to shove us back into the holes we’ve worked so hard to wiggle our way out of. No more bathroom bills. No more denying us spousal benefits for city employees. No more revoking our right to marry. No more refusal to change gender markers. We need leaders whose voices reflect the people who are underserved—and we are the underserved. I’m not sorry to say that I don’t need a straight, white, cisgender man making decisions for my big, fat, gay life, just like our trans brothers and sisters don’t need one making decisions for them, and just like our lesbian sisters don’t need them making decisions for them, and just like our non-binary siblings don’t need them making decisions for them. We all need a voice that sounds a bit more like ours—a perspective that has been shaped by adversity and experience.

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Adam Milasincic, who won the endorsement over Pool.

With that said, I’m not sure what the Houston GLBT Political Caucus was thinking when they made these decisions. No offense to Andrew White or Adam Milasincic, the men endorsed in place of Pool and Valdez. Their resumes are impressive, but they’ve also lived lives of white boy privilege. If we’re going to continue talking about draining the swamp and equality and reclaiming our time and nevertheless persisting, our community and the organizations and caucuses that self-proclaim to represent the politics of our best interests need to recognize that it’s time to stop endorsing straight, white, cisgender men in lieu of people who have walked down the roads we have. As someone told me lately, “If the Caucus ain’t gonna support you [queer people], who will?”

Houston GLBT Political Caucus, shame on you. Shame on you for not supporting our trans sister and our sister of color. Sure, they may seem like the underdogs right now. But isn’t that what all of us in this community are? The underdogs? Isn’t that what all of your sitting board members were at some point? But in 2018—a year into a presidency of pussy-grabbing, trans military-banning, and wall-building—you need to be setting the example that even the underdog deserves a chance to shine. You need to be elevating our people and putting them on a pedestal and telling not only these candidates, but the world, “Yes. You can do this. You are the best person to represent our community.” And you have failed in doing that here. As happy as I am that you have endorsed many candidates that I think are going to go out there and use their voices to do great things for us, I am so disappointed in you for discouraging two strong, fierce-as-fuck women when you had the chance to expose them to people who need to know they’re out there fighting for us.

Shame on you.

And queer Houstonians, yes, we have a problem. But we are the only people who have the power to fix that problem. So, on March 6th, get up, go out, and vote. Vote for the queer people on the ballot—no matter who has or has not endorsed them. Make your voices heard. Because the louder that we shout, the more of us that show up, the harder we fight back to be heard and seen and to live an equal and happy life, the more the world will change for the better.

Vote.

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.

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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.