When I started working with her I realized there were a few other people I could recruit. I recruited Alexandra. At that time Alexandra had just graduated high school, a pretty chubby girl. Alexandra is Puerto Rican. She was 18 at the time. After I recruited Alexandra there was another Salvadorian loca, very tall, and another kid who is around somewhere. There were four of us. We were called "Las Atredivas," a group of transformistas; let's say female impersonators. We created that group. Really it was my idea, and Hector León, La Condonera, had the ease of knowing people, the connections, because he was involved with Proyecto ContraSIDA. Proyecto ContraSIDA was on 18th Street and Dolores, where the ice cream shop is now.

Las Atredivas spoke with Gustavo Arabioto, an HIV coordinator for an organization of the time. He also got involved. He connected me with the bartender at Esta Noche, this beautiful Puerto Rican boy who died. He asked the owner if we could perform there. He said we could. And I proposed to them a show with the Atredivas that began at 1:45 a.m. They used to have a license that let them open until 4 a.m. on Saturdays. I'm not sure if they still have it. Word got around as I told my friends who hung around the area, many were straight, and so the bar would fill at that time with a completely different crowd.

That's how people began to know me. Immediately when Proyecto ContraSIDA saw me doing this, they recruited me and offered me a job. Back then they had to train me. I didn't know anything about community. I was scared people would call me a Communist. I was the first trans Latina employed to address issues of HIV in San Francisco.

When I first arrived in this country and saw the first transsexual women, I was like: wow. When I saw Zulca in L.A, for instance, the first time, I looked at her and just staaaaaared. All silicone. A very beautiful monster. She is a marvelous person that Zulca. With a wide knowledge about all this! It was like talking with the guru of transsexualism. That's when I began to transform myself, to transition.

So I never went to the doctor. In that, trans Latinas hold the power because they bring their hormones from Mexico. During that time there wasn't that thing where you could just say: I'm going to make myself a girl and go to the doctor. I'm not sure how it was for the white girls; I think they could because there was that problem of the gatekeepers. But I, personally, never heard about that, going to the doctor.

This is what you did: You went with an older loca who advised you in what hormones to take. They gave you fantastic recipes and you'd try and see which one worked for you. Some would turn you hys-te-ric! Ha ha! It was wonderful. We got them through the black market. What many of these hormones are is really strong birth control. And they'd turn you into a beauty! So-much-tits.

It's great that now doctors intervene because the problem with all of this is that people get sick, they get cancer in their brains, for example. When I began working with the community I saw horrors! I've seen locas shooting straight to their tits, which can provoke cancer.

And then there is silicone. Silicone is also very Latino. Silicone is from South America, that's why the locas Latinas are super involved in this because silicon was brought from Venezuela. There are people who are all made of silicone and then, imagine, the body tries to get rid of it.

You now can also buy silicone by getting that thing to close pipes, that clear liquid, and then add baby oil. And you inject that. The body absorbs the baby oil and you are left with a piece of solid rock stuck up your ass.

Before starting my work with Proyecto ContraSIDA, Tamara Ching asked if I wanted to represent trans Latinas in the Human Rights Commission during a meeting at City Hall. At that time, transsexual people got disability because transsexualism was a mental disease, and I thought this to be horrific because in this capitalist country when they give you disability you don't count, because you are not producing. What they want is for you to die so they can stop paying you. Okay, it is not like that, but basically, it is like that. I went there to protest.

One of the first things I advocated for is that there are a number of people in the Latino community who don't dress as women but are women. You know? These loquitas who have their woman's name, they don't take hormones but are fierce tipas. They have to be respected as women. That happens a lot in the Latino community. I was bringing these issues to the forefront and people were realizing what was truly happening in the community. Because Proyecto ContraSIDA, you know, we were in a fantastic location: 16th and Mission was truly the Mecca of transsexualism and faggotry.


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These stories are inspirational and touching. Natural born citizens take so much for granted. The struggle to be more than the sum of your bits and pieces is one that every person can identify with. I hope to read more articles like this one in SF Weekly!

Faithful reader,

John Gunderson

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