The State of LGBT OC By an Activist With Transgeneros en Accion

To read this essay in the author's native language, see below.

My name is Anahi Avila, and I was born in Michoacan, Mexico. I arrived in this country in 1987, looking for a better life and in hopes of working very hard to help my family. I come from a big family—a poor family—but a family with lots of heart. Back then, no one in my family had any idea of who I really was, no one suspected anything. The only person who knew about me was my older brother, and he was very mean; this was usually manifested in beatings and verbal abuse. He was the reason I left my family in Mexico. I was only 15.

In 1993, thanks to a friend I had made in this country, I went to my first gay club. We went to a small bar in Garden Grove called the Frat House. It was there that I saw for the first time in my life a transgendered woman. I was so confused and did not understand why I felt uncomfortable around them. Perhaps it was my young age and ignorance that made me think, "Why do these men have tits?" But as they say in Mexico, mas pronto cae un hablador que un cojo (or, a gossiper falls faster than a cripple). Only three years later, I was living as a woman. I started taking hormones, and I soon too became "a man with tits," and I felt great—I looked great, and the world was mine.

In those years, "a man with tits" is all police saw, too. We were not seen with respect; we were not seen with tolerance. Many of my friends were stopped and questioned by police simply for wearing women's clothes. We were harassed on the streets; we were labeled as sex workers. Many of us were arrested on prostitution charges by undercover cops who used entrapment to imprison us. I was arrested three times. Twenty years ago, there was no pride in the streets of Orange County; 20 years ago, there was panic.

Today, we still live with fear, but it's not to the same level. I am happy to see young transgender girls in the streets in the daytime. Today, we are no longer creatures of the night. Today, we don't hide in shadows or closets. Today, we work together to try to achieve change. I attend the transgender support group TEA (Transgeneros en Accion) at the Center OC, where we learn about our rights as trans women. We also help the community in the hopes we will change people's mentalities of us. We work together as trans women to organize toy drives, fund-raisers and educational workshops; we even write letters to transgender women imprisoned in the Santa Ana Jail. We are still harassed, we are still imprisoned, but we now have hope—hope that things get better if we don't ever give up.

*    *    *

Hola, mi nombre es Anahi Avila y nací en Michoacán, México. Llegué a este país en 1987 en busca de una vida mejor y con la esperanza de trabajar muy duro para ayudar a mi familia. Yo vengo de una familia grande, una familia pobre, pero una familia con mucho corazón. En aquel entonces nadie en mi familia tenía la menor idea de quién era yo realmente, nadie sospechaba nada. La única persona que sabía de mí era mi hermano mayor, y fue muy malo, esto se manifestaba en golpes e insultos. Él fue la razón por la que dejé a mi familia en México, yo sólo tenía 15 años.

En 1993, gracias a un amigo que había hecho en este país me fui a mi primer club gay. Fuimos a un pequeño bar en Garden Grove llamado "The Frat House." Fue en el Frat House que vi por primera vez en mi vida de una mujer transexual. Yo estaba tan confundida y no entendía que me sentía incómoda con ellas, tal vez era mi corta edad y mi ignorancia que me hizo pensar "¿por qué estos hombres tienen tetas?" Pero como dicen en México "más pronto cae un hablador que un cojo" porque sólo 3 años más tarde yo estaba viviendo como una mujer. Comencé a tomar hormonas y pronto también me convertí en "un hombre con tetas" y me sentí muy bien, me veía muy bien, el mundo era mío.

En esos años, "un hombre con tetas" era todo lo que la policía miraba también. No se nos miraba con respeto, no se nos miraba con tolerancia. Muchas de mis amigas fueron detenidas e interrogadas por la policía simplemente por vestir ropa de mujer. Eramos acosadas en las calles y etiquetadas como trabajadoras sexuales. Muchas de nosotros fuimos arrestadas con cargos de prostitución por policías encubiertos que utilizaron trampas para encerrarnos. Yo fui arrestada 3 veces. Hace 20 años no había orgullo en las calles del condado de Orange, hace 20 años había pánico.

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