Talking to a Beauty Queen (No, Not That One) About Gay Marriage

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 yearNs 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 heNs 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 heNs gay and had only dressed in drag once in his life before this yearNs 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 hasnNt 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. militaryNs “donNt ask, donNt tell” policy, President Barack Obama and the future of gay rights.

OC Weekly: If you donNt 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 arenNt 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 wasnNt crazy. She just had an intellect that was much ahead of the times she was living in. And Marin? Marin, Marin. INve 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 CourtNs decision to uphold Prop. 8?

What anyone and everyone looks for—and should look for—is equality under the law. INm not talking about religion; INm 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 whatNs happening in other states and other countries, with regard to legalizing gay marriage, what do you think about CaliforniaNs decision?

It doesnNt surprise me. California has more people. ItNs 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 theyNve already permitted it once. They took it away, but itNs 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 ObamaNs stance on gay marriage?

INm gay. HeNs 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 doesnNt 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. ItNs 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, itNs because good things are coming. There will be many changes. And one of the changes will be [same-sex marriage]. INm sure INll run into him at the mercado one of these days, and weNll have a chance to chat about it!

What are your thoughts on the U.S. militaryNs “donNt ask, donNt tell” policy?

Again, weNre talking about equality. We should respect one another regardless of sex, religious preference or sexual preference. We need legal equality. ThatNs what we fight for. If INm gay, I donNt 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 donNt accept that there are people with different preferences. I have a lot of faith in California. I love California laws, but how many people havenNt committed suicide because theyNre gay? How many gay people or black people havenNt been beat up or killed just for being who they are? INm hopeful, but INm also nervous. I never thought what happened to me the other day was something that would happen in California. ThatNs 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.


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