Hail to the Queen!
In the proud California tradition of talking to pageant winners about gay marriage, a conversation with the bloodied-but-unbowed (and actually gay) Frida Marin
Felix Ayala, a.k.a. Frida Marin, is sitting pretty in his new role as a beautiful, bedazzled pageant queen. The winner of this year’s Hermosa y Protegida (see “There (S)He Is,” March 27, 2008) beauty pageant—put on in Spanish by the Center OC each year to promote sexual-health awareness and whose contestants either dress in drag or live as transgender women—Ayala says he’s out to revolutionize the role beauty queens play by becoming as active a fund-raiser and health educator as possible within the entire Latino community (gay, straight, religious and otherwise). Although he’s gay and had only dressed in drag once in his life before this year’s pageant, he says his focus is on his new role as a positive role model within the Latino community.
His first month with the crown hasn’t been all sass and lashes, however. Just last week, Ayala was attacked in Long Beach by two men who he says chased him down and called him “fag” and “faggot” before punching him in the stomach and hitting him with a stick. An avid churchgoer/hair and make-up artist/community-college student, Ayala sat down with the Weekly to talk about Proposition 8, the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, President Barack Obama and the future of gay rights.
OC Weekly: If you don’t normally dress in drag, why did you participate in the pageant?
Frida Marin: More than anything, I was interested in the responsibilities that come with the crown. We are beauty queens who take action, which implies that we are always working for the community. I wanted to be a messenger and a positive influence on our children. . . . I want to help to break the stereotypes that exist out there about gay and transgender people and show that we aren’t vulgar.
Why did you take on the name Frida Marin?
Since the moment I stepped into my heels, I said, “This is who I am tonight: Frida Marin.” Frida Kahlo was a grand woman who lived outside of and beyond her time. There were people who thought she was crazy, like Joan of Arc, whom they burned at the stake. And she wasn’t crazy. She just had an intellect that was much ahead of the times she was living in. And Marin? Marin, Marin. I’ve always loved the last name. The owners of Sebastian products have the last name Marin. And since I always use Sebastian products in my work, I chose that name.
Okay, on to heavier stuff: What do you think about the California Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Prop. 8?
What anyone and everyone looks for—and should look for—is equality under the law. I’m not talking about religion; I’m talking about the law. . . . It would be remarkable if there were marriage equality under the law. I think it will happen soon. I think the hour is here. . . . Gay people have always existed, but this movement is happening now.
When you see what’s happening in other states and other countries, with regard to legalizing gay marriage, what do you think about California’s decision?
It doesn’t surprise me. California has more people. It’s difficult to come to such a decision. They permitted it, and look how many thousands of people got married. I imagine it will happen again, and it will happen soon because they’ve already permitted it once. They took it away, but it’s already been permitted. The state might try to add in certain clauses or requisites, but marriage equality for all of us will happen again.
What do you think about Obama’s stance on gay marriage?
I’m gay. He’s black. I say this with respect because he has experienced discrimination, and many black people experience racism: He should understand a little more what it means to be discriminated against. . . . Equality for his race and for my gay community doesn’t take anything away from anyone. The way he came to be president, we also want to be able to have our milestones, accomplishments and to be accepted. It’s good that he won and became president and that there was change. Why not change for us?
I always say, if Obama won in this moment in time, it’s because good things are coming. There will be many changes. And one of the changes will be [same-sex marriage]. I’m sure I’ll run into him at the mercado one of these days, and we’ll have a chance to chat about it!
What are your thoughts on the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy?
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Again, we’re talking about equality. We should respect one another regardless of sex, religious preference or sexual preference. We need legal equality. That’s what we fight for. If I’m gay, I don’t want you to see me as gay. See me for who I am; look at what I do.
Do you think the fight for gay marriage is superfluous in any way given the realities of hate crimes against the LGBT community?
Look, the first steps have been taken; we are generally accepted by society now. We must go step by step. If people have begun to accept us, then we must keep pushing for complete equality. But there are still people who don’t accept that there are people with different preferences. I have a lot of faith in California. I love California laws, but how many people haven’t committed suicide because they’re gay? How many gay people or black people haven’t been beat up or killed just for being who they are? I’m hopeful, but I’m also nervous. I never thought what happened to me the other day was something that would happen in California. That’s why I left Mexico. But you realize this can happen anywhere to anyone, and you just have to pray that we learn to accept one another.