TransLash Zine Vol. 4: Migration Stories

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TransLash Zine Vol. 4:



Cover Art Artist: CM Wain Artist Social Media: IG/@cmwainart

TransLash family, While we know that 2021 is now officially the most deadly year for transgender people in history, we also know that many of us are still very much alive -- and looking for some peace with a big side of inspiration. With that in mind, we created the ‘Migration Stories’ issue to celebrate all of our TGNC siblings and their journeys to find community, safety, and love in an often hostile world. Because the #AntiTransHateMachine works 24/7 to destroy our lives (learn more at, many of us have become experts out of necessity at holding space for both joy and grief. What you’ll find in this edition that commemorates Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is a combination of the two: joy; through our art and creativity, and grief; honoring all of our siblings whose lives were taken this year through transphobic violence. Many of us are still looking for a place to call home, and migration for trans people takes many shapes. Cities like New Orleans, New York City, Toronto, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Portland, Berlin, Mexico City, and more experience an influx of TGNC transplants every year, who are seeking a safer place to find community, to transition, access related healthcare, grow professionally, and create new lives. Within these pages, through the stories contained in them, we will cultivate new maps for our lives, and redefine what home is -- together.

So, what are you waiting for? Get to know some of the wonderful artists in the TransLash Community through their words and art, and learn more about what Team TransLash is up to in 2022 and beyond. Share this zine with your friends and loved ones, and be sure to visit to learn more about how to be a contributor, to find free digital versions of past issues, and to order print editions. With Love & Strength, Team TransLash

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TransLash Zine is a collaboration with @POCZineProject: making zines by people of color easy to find, distribute, and share since 2010. Artist bio: CM Wain is a trans/nonbinary artist based in Tkaronto (Toronto). They are an illustrator, mural artist, painter and zine maker. When they are not making art, they are caring for an aging chihuahua and tending to their tomato plants.


‘Finding Home (for now) in Puerto Vallarta’ by Elizabeth Savage


‘From Louisiana to California, thanks to Starbucks: Nicky’s Transition Journey’ by Nicky Cao


‘How Salvador da Bahia liberated this Black trans woman’ by Imara Jones


‘Syncretism Exploration’ & ‘SecondSkin’ by Amir Khadar


‘In the Shadow of the Health-Care City: Historicizing Trans Latinx Immigrant Experiences during the Coronavirus Pandemic’ by Leo Lili Valdes


‘ImFine’ and ‘Proud_to_be_me’ by Denym Aphrodyte


Movement Maker Profile: Jennicet Gutiérrez


‘Cisnes En La Montaña, 2021’ by Alexa Vasquez (She/Her Muxe, Culturally recognized in Oaxaca)


‘On Home’ by Z Bell


‘Down South N Out’ by Darius A. Gerson


Commemorations: Transgender Day of Remembrance 2021


TransLash Community Opportunities




‘Finding Home (for now) in Puerto Vallarta’ GROWING UP BLACK, TRANS, AND SOUTHERN

by Elizabeth Savage

At this stage of my life though, I feel I’ve accomplished a lot, and I’m satisfied with what I’ve done.

I was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1951 to poor, uneducated, Black parents from the South. They were well meaning, extremely religious folks; hard working, and responsible. Unfortunately, they hadn’t a clue when it came to raising a child like me. And despite the fact that I clearly did not fit into the mold they created for me, all my self-expressions and pleadings were ignored. So as a small child, a transsexual girl, I learned to hide myself as much as possible. That only had limited success. I think it was the fact that my parents failed to see me, which caused me to grow up feeling alien to my surroundings and birthed my desire to seek a home outside the US. I tried when I was about 19 to publicly express my truth and I did so for a couple of years, but I had no guidance, no role model, and no information to help me find my way. Consequently, the social pressure forced me to retreat back into myself even deeper, and the budding woman was forgotten as if buried alive. In a few years, I was married, and the parent of four children. So, I raised them, and lived that life for thirtyone years. Eventually my wife died, and I found myself free to explore my subconscious and unearth the real me after several years. I managed this with the help of several therapists and an awful lot of soul searching.

TRANSITIONING: THE BEGINNING I’ve now been on this journey of true self discovery for more than a dozen years, and in the process, I transitioned to my true self. I changed my gender presentation to female, which was a lot of work. I legally changed my name and gender marker, which was much easier than my presentation. I also medically transitioned with HRT and had an orchiectomy. I would have had complete bottom surgery, but I couldn’t find the means to pay for it. PAGE 01

With all of that however, I was still not satisfied with my life -- because I was living in the US and wanted very much to be somewhere else -- a place that wasn’t tied to memories of me being spit on by white kids, because I was Black. I wanted to be someplace different that was not in my mind associated with white cops pointing their guns at me, because I was Black. I wanted to be somewhere that didn’t remind me of all the times I had been bullied, ridiculed, harassed, called a sissy or faggot, because the people around me didn’t understand that I was a transgender female.


And I wanted to be somewhere that I wasn’t afraid that I was going to always be misgendered. That was all from the emotional side of things; from the practical, I needed a place where I could get the proper healthcare, and it had to be affordable. And for my personal aesthetics, I wanted a certain climate, landscape, and beautiful architecture. I know that seems like a lot, but a person is multifaceted, and anyone who truly knows me will say that I’m very complicated. I had gotten a passport in 2010, but that was before I had changed most everything -- so I had to update it with all the new and correct information. I had the necessary supporting legal documents, still I was nervous going to the post office to request a new passport, because I was afraid of how I would be received. To my surprise, the gentleman who handled my application was very professional and nonchalantly went through everything with me, took all my papers and my payment, and informed me as to when I could expect my new passport. And I think with a little bit of a flirt, he told me to take care.

BACK TO THE SOUTH I moved from Chicago to New Orleans in 2015, and in some ways it had been a good move. But it turned out to be more expensive than my meager social security income could comfortably handle. I also encountered more transphobia than I had expected, so I knew I had to continue my search for a home.

A MOMENT IN CANADA With my newly acquired passport, I left for Montreal in 2018. I had read that Quebec was good for transgender people, and I had been in contact with one who was also a refugee from Northern Africa. She had made a home for herself in Montreal, and was going to help me relocate. I flew into Montreal in October 2018, and found the city and it’s people to be very pleasant and welcoming. All things considered, I loved the place but couldn’t see myself living there, due to the frigid, snowy weather, and the fact that my income did not meet their requirements for a retirement visa. So after

two months, filled with disappointment, I returned to the states. I was angry and frustrated that my plans for Montreal hadn’t worked out, especially because I had received such respect from the nurse at the hospital emergency rooms, the one time I went. I had a toothache, and no insurance, so I went to the hospital. During the intake process the nurse asked me if I was taking any medication, and if so what kind. I told her about my estrogen, and she politely asked me if it was for menopause, and I chuckled and said, no, I’m transsexual, and she carried on without hesitation -- as if it was the most common thing in the world. In my mind, that was exactly how she should have responded: with complete nonchalance, and why I wished I could have remained in Montreal in spite of the terrible weather. But this taste of respect and dignity from someone who wasn’t an American made me realize that I was on the right track, and that I couldn’t let this setback deter me. I decided to look elsewhere.

EUROPEAN DREAMS DEFERRED By 2020, I was all set to go to Lisbon, Portugal; I thought it would be a good place to start a year long trek around Southern Europe, but then I got sick and couldn’t travel. Later that same year I tried again, but this time the pandemic got in the way and I was once again grounded. I was feeling angry and desperate, and I had lost a lot of money. I was beginning to despair that I was stuck and would never be able to fulfill my dream. I had left New Orleans and visited my daughter in Southern California for about a week, then gone to stay with a new friend in Texas for a while. I hadn’t given up on my passion, so I kept thinking and searching: where I could go as -- a transgender woman of color with a small income -- and still feel safe, comfortable, and cared for?

WELCOME TO PUERTO VALLARTA I had given Mexico a casual look before, but because of that, I knew very little about the country. I realized that Europe was -- for the foreseeable future -- out of reach, so I had to come up with something less grand and closer to home. Maybe Mexico might be the answer. When I renewed my research, I came across



a city called Puerto Vallarta. I had never heard of this place, but I saw that it was on the pacific coast and had beautiful beaches, mountains and forests, warm weather all year, very affordable prices, and was regarded as LGBTQIA+ friendly. I began looking even more closely at this city and watching YouTube videos about it, and I was beginning to fall in love with it, because it was so picturesque. I loved the way the city seemed to rise from the ocean up the mountainsides, which gradually were overcome by lush green forests and jungles. And the city itself was this white stucco red clay tiled jumble of low lying buildings and cobblestone streets -- not everywhere, but in most areas, so that you could easily be carried away with this feeling of old world charm and romance. I decided I had to go and see this place for myself, and to make things even better, it had its own airport. I did have to change planes in Mexico City, but the flight from there was only an hour and a half. In September of 2020, I said goodbye to the US and have not looked back.

AT HOME IN MEXICO I’ve been in Puerto Vallarta for a little more than a year, and have been very happy. I’m an introvert, which doesn’t mean that I’m shy, but rather that I prefer my own company for the most part, so I don’t socialize -- but I can talk to most anyone if they speak enough English. I’m learning Spanish and it’s painfully slow, but I’m making progress. I’m sure most people who haven’t spent any real time in Mexico probably think that because of its proximity to the US that it is probably very similar, but nothing could be further from the truth, especially for a Black transgender woman. I must point out here that I’ve been told that I “pass” very well, so that of course helps, but even with that I’ve been read as transgender some times and that doesn’t bother me, but what does is being misgendered by an unapologetic asshole. That has only happened one time (I’m knocking on wood as I type this), since I’ve been in Mexico, and I have to tell you that helps make for a much more peaceful stress free life. I’m not going to say that most Mexicans don’t know I’m transgender, but what I can say is that Mexicans


seem to be more respectful of other people and they mind their own business. This even applies to the police, who are everywhere in this town. You see them, and as an expat at first, you are a bit unnerved by their presence, because they carry these large assault type rifles and ride on military style vehicles -- but they don’t bother you at all! It’s as if they see you, but don’t see you. This is so refreshing and reassuring as a Black person. I may not socialize, but I don’t stay in the house all the time either. One of my favorite activities is walking, and I’ve spent many hours doing that here. I walk for exercise, to be outdoors, to get familiar with my surroundings, and to take in the beauty of the landscape. I go to all the different markets and shops I want, and since this is a beach community, I go to the beach when I feel like it. Something else that makes being transsexual in Mexico easier then in the states, is that if you’re on hormones, you don’t need a prescription to get them. All you have to do is go to the pharmacy and ask, and they sell them right over the counter. I’ve found the people to be very helpful, just because they want to help without being asked. I have not faced any barriers when apartment hunting -- except my own income, of course. So, from my experience, I feel I can safely say Puerto Vallarta is a good place to be transgender. One other thing, I haven’t dated yet -- but not because I haven’t had the opportunity, but rather because I haven’t wanted to. I’ll say this: men are the same here as they are everywhere, so I think you know what I mean.

TRAVEL TIPS Learn Spanish before coming to Mexico. You can get by in the more touristy areas with little or no Spanish, because most people will speak some English, but if you want to stay, you will do them and yourself a favor by learning the language. It is not just helpful, but respectful on your part, and they will appreciate it. I stumble through with my little Spanish and I also use google translate which helps a lot, so have that on your phone if you don’t speak the language and it will definitely come in handy.


And I would tell anyone who is trans and planning to travel by air, if you haven’t already done so, please make sure your identification matches your gender presentation; that will save you a lot of embarrassment, hassle, and inconvenience. With all the hassle of flying as it is, you don’t want to make the process more stressful if you can avoid it. Another thing to consider is changing money. Don’t bother with getting pesos in the states, as ATMs are plentiful in Puerto Vallarta -- but to avoid paying more than you need to in transaction fees and the other fees, I would suggest getting enough cash to cover a week of expenses. If you’re going to be here for that long or longer, keep in mind many places only take cash. I found my first apartment on Airbnb which is a pretty good starting place, because they list both short and long term rentals and they always come fully furnished. Also Facebook marketplace can be a good place to search for rentals. For me, I never stayed in the mainly tourist focused areas, because I wanted to keep my costs down, and I wanted to start to get the feel of being in another country as quickly as possible. Mexico is a fairly easy place to begin an international journey as a trans person, but think about this, it’s also fairly conservative -- so you might want to think about how you dress if you’re concerned with standing out. Also as a Black person, technically brown, that helps me to blend in more with the locals, especially when I wear a black long hair wig. If you’re white on the other hand, you’re going to tend to stick out more like a sore thumb; but don’t feel bad, because my height makes me stick out too. Sometimes I feel like a giant here.

Since the pandemic is still a threat, mask-wearing indoors is still required, but not outside. And hand sanitizer is available at the door of most businesses. Some still check your temperature.

There are a number of gay establishments in the Romantic Zone, if you go for that sort of thing, but I would suggest if you’re going to drink make sure you get an Uber home and not walk; tourists have been known to get mugged walking home late at night, and being trans and drunk might put a target on your back.

If you don’t know this, you can’t drink the tap water. Buy bottled water to drink and cook. You can bathe and wash with tap water, but you shouldn’t brush your teeth with it either, or get it in your nose. Also, from what I’ve been told, you don’t have to worry about the water served at restaurants, as it comes from bottles as well.



When you rent an apartment, it will have a contraption to put these big 20 liter bottles that you can buy. If your stay is short term, your host or landlord will undoubtedly be furnishing you with drinking water, but check to be sure. If you do your own cooking, always thoroughly wash the fruit and vegetables.

Know what your transition means to you, it’s different for everyone. Do as much or as little as you need to do, and keep in mind that transgender is an umbrella term and it might not fit you. It doesn’t really fit me, because it is an umbrella term, and that’s why I refine it by using the term transsexual.

In all my time here in Mexico I have not once felt unsafe walking the streets, and I’m always alone, but I don’t go out at night not out of fear, but rather because I’m not a nighttime person.

I’m sure you’re already aware of this, as it’s widely talked about, but if you have children, there is no guarantee that they will accept the new you with open arms. Be prepared for that, and the possibility that they may never come around. It will be very painful to think that someone you’ve given your life for can turn their back on you, but it does happen.

I’ve truly enjoyed my time in Mexico. Another thing that’s great about this country is that it has a very generous tourist visa policy. You, as a US citizen with a valid passport, are given 180 days on arrival -- and you can renew that almost indefinitely simply by leaving the country for a short time and then returning. I’ve done it twice already, but the bad thing for me is that I don’t earn enough to qualify for a temporary residency visa. The amount is at least $1500 USD a month, so I’m going to be leaving Mexico at some point to continue my search for a home, but that’s okay. I’ve made peace with this type of thing and I have a pretty good handle on how to deal with it.

TRANSITIONING AFTER 40 Oh my goodness, what can I say? Personally, if things had been ideal, I would have transitioned at a much younger age, because it would have been much less complicated. But there are some advantages in doing it later in life, because you will know yourself so much better. Also, you may have some type of financial safety net to rely on and the ability to pay for any surgeries you feel you need. Transitioning after forty likely means that you will have been socialized one way, and that will undoubtedly be in conflict with your stepping fully into your new life. So there will be a lot to unlearn and then learn in a new way, and this will take time and patience. You will have to give yourself this time, and give yourself the love you need to get through this. There may not be anyone you can turn to for support, and I would suggest finding a good therapist to help you. Also, there are a lot of online groups that may be able to lend a hand. Reach out to the ones that are a good fit. PAGE 05

I can’t really speak to getting gender affirming surgeries, except to say that Thailand has for a very long time been an excellent place for those at comparably reasonable costs, and there are other excellent surgeons in other countries -- including the US -- who can take care of you. Those tend to be more expensive, but all of this is available online. Interestingly, I found some years ago that Spain was a good place for this, but I haven’t researched this lately, so you’d want to look into what it has to offer. Your transition will probably be the most important thing you will ever do, and the most difficult to give the attention it deserves. I think you will get as much out of it as you put in.

Author Bio: Elizabeth Savage defines herself as “retired, 70 years of age, an African American transsexual woman who has always known that she was different, but couldn’t articulate that as a child, she knew she wasn’t a boy like everyone told her, then I started living my truth in 2011, that I’ve never felt like I belong in the US and am finally searching for a home. I don’t know if sharing my journey with other trans people can be of benefit and I’m always concerned about my personal safety, but I’m willing to put this out there.”



by: Nicky Cao

My name is Nicky Cao and I am a 23-years-young Vietnamese-American, transgender womyn, born and raised in New Orleans. I came out as transgender when I was 16, but started my hormone replacement therapy at 18. From the very beginning of my transition, I always felt insecure and unhappy with my self-image. Parts of it came from body dysmorphia, but most of it came from gender dysphoria. I remembered always comparing myself to the other trans girls I knew, or always comparing myself to women I saw on my social media feed. At 18, I already knew what surgeries I wanted to feel secure, happy, and beautiful as a transgender woman. Living in the South, I had to accept that my state insurance and medicaid will not pay for my gender affirming surgeries. Furthermore, I realized that due to the little visibility of transgender people in the South, my plastic surgeon would not be here in the South. It took me accepting both of these truths to realize I can either work hard or I can work smart. I tried working over 40 hours a week, working two jobs while doing school full time, but no matter how much I saved it seemed impossible to hit $5K -- let alone $50K -- for the intense surgeries I wanted. I applied for grants like Point of Pride, random ones my friends all sent me, and I was never selected. This was when I decided I would get my first breast augmentation at the age of 20 with my student loan money, but was given advice from a friend to save my money and either move to California or New York, where their insurance plans include and embrace transgender residents.

I decided that after I graduated from college I would move to either city, but then the coronavirus pandemic started. But just as I was going to give up my hopes and dreams of getting surgery, someone I met through Instagram’s hashtag #GirlsLikeUs, told me about how both Apple and Starbucks insurance pay for their transgender employees' surgeries. It was then that I decided to apply for both jobs. I got shot down by Apple, but Starbucks welcomed me with open arms. Working at Starbucks for $10/hr was really rough in the beginning. I honestly could not afford to pay my rent, car insurance, and other living expenses. I ended up spending the money I saved for surgery on bills. About six months into the job, I was mailed information about qualifying for insurance. It was from this moment that I learned that Starbucks really pays for their transgender employees gender-affirming surgeries. I remember calling the Partner Resource Center asking for help choosing insurance, and they gave me my own transgender advocate who took the time to explain how Starbucks itself paid for the surgery, not the insurance.



I remember crying tears of joy, just hearing the confirmation from my advocate. Once I enrolled for insurance, my advocate told me about the surgeries Starbucks covered, and even told me the doctor choices I had available. ALL of the doctor choices were top choice, well known, celebrity doctors who had years of experience on transgender patients. Fast forward to a year and three weeks after working at Starbucks: I finally did it. I got my facial feminization surgery and breast augmentation surgery in Beverly Hills -- by the same doctor who did Caitlyn Jenner’s face.

My biggest advice to transgender people wanting surgery is to give hormones a few years before you go through with surgery. The surgeries I thought I “needed” and “wanted” when I first started my transition are not the same surgeries I ended getting, because hormones to some degree did help. Being on hormones for a few years gave me an idea on what exact things gave me dysphoria. Be sure to do research on the surgeries you want done, and the method you want used to achieve surgery results as well. If it wasn’t for the transgender community I networked with through Instagram, I would have never learned about the difference between silicone or saline boobs, and the different ways they can be put in.

Although insurance paid for surgery, I was still stuck with paying for flight and lodging of surgery. I paid over $5K alone just on flights and hotels! This didn’t even include me having to Uber back and forth between places, food, or paying for a caretaker.

Another major thing to think about before getting surgery with a doctor, is making sure the doctor has experience with trans folks who share your race or similar features! I’ve seen doctors who performed surgery on some people where the results didn’t look as stunning, because they were used to doing one specific race.

My advice for transgender people traveling out of their state is to network with queer and trans people in the area to see if they can help set you up with affordable housing. Ask a friend or family member to take care of you, and you’ll probably even save money renting a car with them instead of ubering around.

If you end up wanting to do a different route, I would also encourage you to look into getting plastic surgery out of the country! I’ve seen so many beautiful transformations of transgender girls who got surgery done in countries like Korea or Thailand, and the surgery prices were more affordable and better in terms of results!



Author Bio: Nicky Cao is a second generation, queer, transgender, Vietnamese-American born and raised in a little village known as Versai, in New Orleans East, Louisiana. Her parents are both refugees of the Viêt Nam war which has greatly impacted her experience of living in the United States. Being the 14th child out of 15, Nicky was the first out queer/trans sibling in her family to have came out. In the beginning of her coming out story, Nicky thought she was simply a cis-gay man, but after her first Gay-Straight alliance meeting at her high school, she learned about the difference between gender and sexuality. It was then that she self-identified herself as gender-fluid at 16. It wasn’t until she moved out at 16, did she truly learn how to express herself through clothing and gender. Thanks to her freedom from family at 16, she realized she really identified as a transgender-woMYN. She officially went mainly by she/her pronouns when she embarked on her medical and physical transition her freshmen year of college at the University of New Orleans. Nicky graduated from the University of New Orleans with a bachelors degree in sociology in 2020. Nicky’s hobby include watching Disney movies, cuddling, playing League of Legends and exchanging wisdom/knowledge with community.



How Salvador da Bahia liberated this Black trans woman

by: Imara Jones

Originally published on (2019)

It turns out that my womanhood was affirmed there in ways unmatched by any other place I have ever visited. This fact affirmed for me a simple truth: ...sometimes

going home means finding acceptance. Though I was not born in Brazil, I have been to Salvador more times than I can remember since my first visit in 2003. Nestled on bluff in a region that is the closest point in the Americas to Africa, Salvador is the capital of Afro-Brazil. And since Brazil was the single largest destination for enslaved people from Africa, Salvador is one of the most important cities in the entire African diaspora. Understandably, AfroPunk just announced dates for the latest franchise of its music festival there.

The holidays are a time of return for so many of us. It’s that time of year when we go back to the people and places that have shaped us. Many will be confronted with the normal anxieties that returning home (either the ones we were born into or have chosen) can bring, but it is far higher for those of us who identify as trans. One of the places which I call home is Salvador da Bahia in Brazil. Just last week I returned from my first trip there in six years. Between 2013 and now, I transitioned. I was nervous about returning and didn’t know what to expect. But it turns out that my trepidation was totally unwarranted. PAGE 09

Aided by my fluency in Portuguese, the richness of Blackness in Bahia has molded me culturally and spiritually. It affirmed my deep and abiding connection to other Black people from around the world who had always been there but were not as tangible until I set foot in Salvador. It got me to see the Africaness of the foods I ate growing up in Atlanta, the rhythms of the music I listened to, and even the side-eye glances intrinsic of my great grandmother. Protected by its shores, it literally served as my actual home in 2009 as I rode out the worst of the financial crisis in the States. It also opened my eyes to the African spiritual practices grounded in Orixas, which ties the spiritual world with the real one and form the basis of modern-day Afro-Christianity in the U.S. So, with all of these gifts, why did I have so much trepidation about returning?


I realized that since my last trip, I had changed. Assigned a male gender at birth, I transitioned to become the woman that I was always meant to be. And despite its openness, Brazil can be a harsh place for trans women. The country actually has the highest number of trans murders in the world, followed by Mexico and the United States. Just this week a Brazilian man was arrested for shooting and choking Marcelle Brandina, a trans woman, to death. My nervousness was not a figment of my imagination but grounded in observable realities. And yet, my actual experience in Salvador was totally different than these facts would suggest.

It got me thinking, what do Salvador and Atlanta have in common?

I realized that both places are where Blackness is centered and consequently the importance of Black womanhood. The idea of Black womanhood, not only emphasizes our beauty and role as nurturers, but also our power and fulsomeness. In Salvador, the cultural ideal of a Black woman is captured in the word “negona.” A negona’s strength and desirability comes from her dark skin, full lips, thick hips, and broad facial features. She is attractive because of what she has versus what she does not. This contrasts with traditional ideas of White womanhood which, through the beauty industry and mass media, became the global idea of womanhood overall. White womanhood emphasizes fragility, smallness, and deference —the very lack of agency— to support patriarchy. Therefore in Salvador, and other cities like it, where there is cultural space for Black womanhood, my femininity is accepted, embraced and celebrated. This is how Salvador gave me peace and freedom to be who I am as a Black trans woman. As I gather together over the next few weeks with friends and family, my hope for the world is that more places will give the gift of opening spaces for ourselves so that we can open spaces for others. Against the backdrop of reinvigorated white supremacy, it’s the only way to move forward into this new decade.

In existing in and moving about within the city, I felt totally free in my Blackness and in my womanhood. Not once while entering a cab, going into a shop, drinking at the club, or resting by the beach was I misgendered. Not one time. The only other place that has ever come close to mirroring this experience for me, one that all people are entitled to, is my native Atlanta.

Author Bio: Imara Jones is the Founder of TransLash Media. She is fluent in Portuguese and lived in Brazil. Learn more about her at, and follow her at @imarajones and @imara_jones_ on Instagram.


‘Syncretism Exploration’ and ‘SecondSkin’ SYNCRETISM EXPLORATION: These are a series of fashion-based experiments that came out of a research project on adornment traditions from throughout the African Diaspora from beauty store earrings to beaded Yoruba headdresses. These adornment traditions had a major impact on my understanding of femininity and gender expression, and I used this project to examine them from a queer/trans perspective. I studied how ideas moved from the continent to other places and still carried the same information. While researching I generated objects using techniques like braiding, beading, dye work, jewelry techniques, and fabric wrapping. To conclude the project, I used my body as a site for installation/ adornment and conducted a photoshoot.


by Amir Khadar

SECOND SKIN: I grew up going to Sierra Leonean Independence Day celebrations. I remember watching all my loved ones in our cultural wear and costumes dancing and performing. I had a strong desire to wear the clothes given to women but didn’t have the space or language to enact this desire. There was a constant compromise between culture and gender that I had to navigate, and it prohibited me from being authentically myself anywhere. This costume was made as a combination of my idealized gender and cultural presentations.

Artist Bio: Amir Khadar (They/Them) is a Sierra Leonean-American artist, designer, and educator from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their main mediums are poetry, fibers, and digital art. They are actively experimenting and growing as an artist through establishing relationships to ways of making, but their practice has always been grounded through afrofuturism, gender theory, beauty, and ancestral practices. They have done extensive art/design work with Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Parenting for liberation, Wakanda Dream Lab, Forward Together, and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice.

Artist Social Media: IG/ @amir.khadar, Website:


In the Shadow of the Health-Care City:

Historicizing Trans Latinx Immigrant Experiences during the Coronavirus Pandemic

By Leo Lili Valdes

TransLash Media is featuring an excerpt of this piece with the author’s permission. For access to the full article, visit To support Lissa Mendez, one of the trans women profiled, visit her GoFundMe:

When Mercedes Martínez lay in bed, alone, fighting the wretched symptoms of COVID-19 merely blocks away from the renowned Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey, she began seeing “demons,” as she described her hallucinations: Yo en las noches, yo de la fiebre tan alta que tenía, yo miraba demonios. Mi- raba cosas muy raras. Yo lloraba, yo lloraba, muy, muy fuerte... Yo pensé que me iba a morir. (During the nights, from the very high fever that I had, I began seeing demons. I saw very strange things. I cried, I cried, very, very hard...I thought I was going to die.) Martínez is an undocumented Mexican trans woman living in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Her adopted home is known as the “Health-Care City,” home to five nationally recognized hospitals, global biotechnology, and internationally recognized medical research institutes. Martínez, however, cannot access any of these facilities without risking possible detention and deportation. Moreover, her expired Mexican documents do not reflect her chosen name but the masculine name her parents gave her at birth. Instead of going to the doctor in her own city, she travels to an LGBTQ clinic in Queens, New York, for her medical needs. But traveling to Queens proved impossible during the first wave of the pandemic when Martínez fell ill. In her small apartment she relied on homemade teas of cinnamon, mint, chamomile, and ginger, and food drop-offs from her friends to survive the disease.


Like most of the Mexican, Central American, and broader Latinx immigrant community in New Brunswick, Martínez lives in the shadow of the Health-Care City, only steps away from cuttingedge research and medical facilities but largely unable to access that care. This article shares their experiences using interviews from the Voces of a Pandemic project initiated by the Voces Oral History Center at the University of Texas at Austin in collaboration with the Latino New Jersey Oral History Project of Rutgers University. Centered on interviews with an undocumented Mexican trans woman, Mercedes Martínez, and a formerly undocumented Guatemalan trans woman, Lissa Méndez, this study examines how the coronavirus pandemic impacted trans immigrants in the city of New Brunswick. Trans immigrants face the same economic and racial marginalization as their cis counterparts, in addition to suffering injustices at the hands of those peers. Anti-trans violence pervades USbased Latinx communities, fueled in part by the idea that the undocumented, immigrant, or Latinx community might be more acceptable to the nation-state if it displayed signs of “respectability,” heteronormativity, and traditional mainstream behaviors. Trans workers thus face a unique type of economic vulnerability shaped by race and gender nonconformity that intensifies the disposability of their labor, rendering them a type of “industrial reserve.” Nevertheless, trans immigrants forge their own methods of survival to create the kinds of living conditions that enable them to thrive. Trans individuals often rely on makeshift support networks to supplant an estranged biological family.


The coronavirus pandemic has halted many of the forms of mutual aid that kept trans immigrants connected. Moreover, for undocumented trans individuals, the fear of deportation and lack of health insurance often prevents them from accessing critical health care, a reality that was exacerbated as COVID-19 began to rapidly spread. During one of the worst pandemics in recent history, trans immigrants were cut off from gender-affirming care, which risked deepening the existing mental health crisis in the population and prevented them from access- ing one of the most viable ways to minimize the violent retributive responses to visible gender nonconformity trans people often face.

to consider the value of individual voices in their approach to studying the coronavirus pandemic.

Trans immigrants in New Brunswick value their privacy and safety. Though often willing to share their experiences, they do not want to draw attention to themselves. Exact estimates of the size of the community would require a “long haul” research study. Furthermore, the term community may imply more stability among a group of people who may actually be quite mobile, forced to move between different cities and towns in the United States and across international borders. Rather than drawing generalized conclusions about trans immigrants in New Brunswick, both my execution and my analysis of these oral histories urge scholars

Mercedes fled as a teenager from Chiapas, Mexico, arriving in New Brunswick in the 1990s. New Brunswick’s trans immigrant community developed, in part, through its connection to the late Lorena Borjas, a Mexican transgender woman and activist who lived in Jackson Heights, Queens, from 1980 until her pass- ing from COVID-19 in March 2020. As a friend of Mercedes Martínez, Borjas helped connect her with transition-related resources in New York City and provided a model for the kind of support Martínez would offer the trans community in New Brunswick prior to the pandemic.

Oral histories with trans immigrants serve as a type of testimonio, or testimony, in which subjects become active social agents in the production of knowledge. The archiving of these stories on the Voces Oral History Center YouTube page invites researchers of the pandemic to consider the emotional impact of this historic event, inc`apable of being captured by statistics alone.




For example: Antes de la pandemia nosotras hacíamos eventos para ayudarnos como chicas trans. Hacíamos shows. Hacíamos bailes para recaudar fondos y tener fondos para que, supongamos una persona estuviera enferma, se la apoyaba. O si desgraciadamente una persona trans moría, podríamos tener los fondos para poder ayudar a la familia o trasladar al cuerpo para el país de origen. Porque en estos aspectos no hay apoyo de ninguna manera para nosotras. Entonces nosotras buscamos la manera de ayudarnos. (Before the pandemic, we organized events to help each other as trans women. We organized events. We organized dances to collect funds and to have funds to, let’s say someone was sick, we could support her. Or if, unfortunately, a trans person died, we could have the funds to help her family or send her body back to her home country. Because in this respect, there is no support, by any means, for us girls. So instead, we look for ways to support each other.) Martínez and her friends organized shows open to the public, helping to form bonds between cis and trans immigrants. The broader immigrant community often admired and complimented Martínez for the way she portrayed Paulina Rubio, Thalía, Alejandra Guzmán, Diana Reyes, and other popular Latin American artists, something she enjoyed: Yo me sentía muy feliz. Muy contenta. Me gustaba, y aparte, yo podía ayudar a otras personas hacerlas sentir feliz en ese momento, pasar un momento agradable y también porque me pagaban para hacerlo. Ayudaba económi- camente a las personas que lo necesitaban.

(I felt really happy. Really pleased. I liked it and, besides, I could help other people... make them feel happy in that moment, have a good time and also, they paid me to give performances. So, I helped financially the people who needed it.) Martínez participated actively as an entertainer but she also occupied a sort of mother role in the community. Although organizing was a team effort, when funds were collected at the end of the event, Martínez took charge of distribution. Each per- son contributed monies for drinks, food, and trinkets so they could sell items, charge for performances, and raise funds. In the two years leading up to the pandemic, they organized five successful events. A trusted member of the community, Martínez took care of event expenses, after which she distributed remaining funds to trans women in need. For example: Un ejemplo. Si tú no tienes para tu comida pues te daban una despensa. Si tú no tienes para comprarte unos zapatos, pues te ayudamos uno con eso. Cositas pequeñas, pero siempre había algo, un detalle Cuando una chica estuvo... enferma de los riñones, la apoyamos con su renta, con su comida. Cuando otra persona desgraciadamente falleció pues la ayudamos con la familia. Son cosas que son dolorosas, pero pusimos nuestro granito de arena. (An example. If you don’t have enough for food, well, we give you some food. If you don’t have enough to buy shoes, well, we help you with that. They are small things, but it’s always something. A small detail. When a woman became sick from her kidneys, we helped her with rent, with food. When another person unfortunately died, we helped her family. These are very painful things, but we did our bit, we added our little grain of sand.) As her story shows, trans women in New Brunswick found creative ways to thrive under difficult conditions.



The creativity extends to the realm of health and hormones as well. When another Mexican trans woman, Diana Gonzales, lived in New Brunswick, for instance, she purchased hormones to facilitate her vision for her womanhood in the small tienditas, or bodegas, that pepper the streets of the Mexican side of the city. In nearby Newark, Jenesys Alicea, a Puerto Rican trans woman, began her hormone therapy through a network of “traveling trans clinics” organized by Ceyenne Doroshow, a Black Trinidadian trans movement leader based in New York City. Although trans immigrants display innovation and self-determination, they ultimately remain beholden to a city infrastructure largely neglectful of their needs. For Méndez, access to trans health care in the Health-Care City is either nonex- istent or prohibitively expensive. She said: New Jersey a mí no me ha apoyado nada. Te voy a decir por qué. Porque casi la mayoría de mi apoyo hacia mi sexualidad, lo que es medicina... psicológica- mente todo eso me ha apoyado lo que es Filadelfia... New Jersey es como más complicado... no hay muchos centros aquí... Las inyecciones inyectables en Pensilvania, en Filadelfia, varían mucho. Por ejemplo, allá te pueden salir como en 100 dólares y aquí me sale casi 300 dólares... La medicina en New Jersey es carísima. (New Jersey doesn’t support me at all. I’ll tell you why. Because the main support for my sexuality, what is medicine... psychologically, in every way I’m supported by Philadelphia... New Jersey is more complicated... there aren’t many centers here... In Penn- sylvania, in Philadelphia, injection prices vary a lot. For example, over there they can run you $100, whereas here they cost me almost $300... Medicine in New Jersey is extremely expensive.)

Author Bio: Leo Lili Valdes (they/she/he) is a social historian getting their PhD at Rutgers University. She studies twentieth century U.S. history and is working on a social and political history of trans liberation that centers Black American and migrant trans people. He is trans, nonbinary, deaf/hard of hearing and uses two names (Leo and Lili).

Author Social Media: TWT/ @historiadoryleo IG/ @leonardodiqueer To read more, visit Explore our TGNC Latinx Resource Guide US Latina & Latino Oral History Journal, Vol. 5, 2021 © 2021 by the University of Texas Press published by the University of Texas Press on behalf of the Center for Mexican American Studies and the Latino Research Initiative DOI: 10.7560/OHJ503 PAGE 16

‘ImFine’ and ‘Proud_to_be_me’

by Denym Aphrodyte

ImFine: This piece is based off of a painting I did turned digital. I wanted to highlight the very bare minimum of my body and just being filled with happiness to be able to be here in this world. As a non-binary person who is medically transitioning in some ways my journey is never ending and I am so excited to reflect back and see how my life has progressed. (Adjacent page) Proud_to_ be_me: Collage piece made out of magazines that have been scanned in to be a digital piece. The piece includes all the colors of the pride flag with the trans flag colors in the center with the bold statement “Proud to be me”. We as a community have so much to be proud of. Stepping outside the door everyday is an act of resistance. Artist Bio: Denym is a multi media artist based in Denver who is non-binary and uses they/them/their pronouns. Most of their work is centered around showing trans pride and joy.

Author Social Media: IG/ amir.khadar Website:



Originally published on Move to End Violence website:

Movement Maker Profiles:

Jennicet Gutiérrez still dream of being a dancer, being a choreographer, making art, but the injustices that I lived when I identified myself as a trans woman, since I was three years old, prevented this. Now, with the attacks against the trans community, especially the young people who want to dictate their own access to health. I ask myself, how is it fair that a person knows more than you, who you are? These injustices are what made me join the movement, I joined a movement of resistance, of power, and here we are to continue fighting.


JENNICET GUTIÉRREZ is a transgender immigrant Latina from Tuxpan, Jalisco. She is a National Organizer with Familia: Trans Queer Liberation (TQLM) Movement – a national trans and queer Latinx and immigrant grassroots organization organizing at the intersections of trans and queer rights, and migrant and racial justice.

WHO ARE YOUR PEOPLE? My people are the LGBTQ Latinx community, my immigrant trans sisters, the non-conforming and transgender community. In general, a community that is organizing, that is speaking out more often than ever. Being part of this very strong community, despite all the challenges, is what I feel connected to.

WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THIS MOVEMENT? What brought me to this movement were the personal injustices that I was living through, systemic and inhumane injustices. I dreamed and PAGE 19

It is obviously a complex, difficult job that requires a lot of dedication, a lot of passion and what brings me joy is to know that in the last six years the community is organizing. It gives me joy to see my colleagues, specifically trans immigrant women who come from Central America, from Mexico, and from other countries, raising their voices. They are finding organizations and support that perhaps did not exist before. That gives me joy, to see the visibility of new faces, new voices, new leaders. Also to know that as part of Familia:TQLM we have taken on very complicated cases, where they challenge the narrative that dominates the immigration debate, that have to have everything right, impeccable, which is difficult for a human being or that if you have a criminal record, no, you are deported. Familia has taken on these very complex cases and in particular two. Cristina and Valeria, who both had a record, made mistakes and had to pay for it. Fighting for their cases and that both were won, that they were released and now they are fighting for their dreams, to reach their goals, that makes me happy and also to know that other asylum cases are being tried, that the judges are already listening to all the human rights violations that are happening.


Not only in our countries of origin, but also in detention centers and, because of all that work, because of all that advocacy, cases are being won, we are seeing more women being granted asylum. That also makes me happy.

WHAT MOVES ARE YOU MAKING TO END THE VIOLENCE? Aside from the work I’ve been doing, to end gender-specific violence, we are focusing on trans immigrant women who are gender non-conforming in detention centers, because we’ve heard their testimonies. They have spoken in front of elected officials at the local level, even at the national level, in front of Mayorkas during the Obama administration in 2016.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR LEADERSHIP STRENGTHS? I think one of my strengths is that I am discovering new things every day. I’ve had a lot of patience in my personal case of my immigration status, I’ve had a lot of patience in my transition as a trans immigrant woman. I believe that having patience, having compassion, these are qualities in which my leadership strengthens me and also learning from my ancestors, from those who have put everything and have struggled in other times. I believe that this is a factor that has helped me and that I continue with a vision of liberation, where we can have an influence on new generations so that they can continue with this commitment to move forward for a more dignified future.

Women confronted and told them through their testimonies the pain they experienced in detention centers, including nonverbal violence, physical violence, sexual violence.


Continuing to elevate this issue, we have the campaign to end trans detention. I believe that we are fighting for this campaign, so that we are treated with dignity, that we are seen with respect and above all, one of the keys of this campaign is to end the violence that our community experiences.

What helps me to stay in this movement is to know that I no longer have to hide from anyone, to know that I can now live my life openly, to have stability. Since I made my transition, I left my family, I have been navigating and finding my place. Now I have found it.

Inside the detention centers, there is systemic violence and also violence in society. The murders of trans women, specifically Black trans women, trans women of color are the ones who suffer the most violence and sadly there is the evidence that over the last few years has documented this epidemic of violence that is happening.

Having the support of my family, having the support of my community, having a circle of friends that I appreciate very much, where we can be vulnerable, where we can tell each other things that are not easy sometimes, to talk or share. That sustains me, that gives me a lot of hope.

Focusing on the campaign to end trans arrests, coming together in solidarity with our fellow Black trans women, supporting where we can, demonstrating in the streets, collaborating where we can. I think that’s one of the ways in which we’re organizing to put an end to the violence.

Knowing that we have to keep fighting for what we want in this world. I have the joy that my mother is still alive, she is 84 years old, she has all her trauma that she lived through, all that she could not heal in one way, but the fact that she’s alive, that she supports me, I think it is her mother’s love, her blessings, and all the values that she instilled in me, that sustains me, that gives me the strength to keep going forward. I want to keep learning, I want to keep seeing what other opportunities there are and how collectively we can make the change we really want to make. PAGE 20

Cisnes En La Montaña, 2021

by Alexa Vasquez Artist Social Media: IG/ @ilovealexabow IG/ @alexa_lapintora

Image Description: Acrylic on Canvas, 36x36in. A trans woman with broad shoulders looks out from the top of Hierve El Agua into the green valles of Oaxaca. Her hair is braided with thick orange satin ribbons which sit like a crown on her head. Her dress is made of the same blue floral print her grandmother once wore in a picture. A Cisne (swan) is at her side. This painting came to be from sorrow and grief. My grandmother Ricarda Lopez Santiago will no longer be waiting for me when I finally get to go back home to Oaxaca. The United States of America is a Jaula de Oro, like the Tigres del Norte have expressed in their song. PAGE 21

This fucked up broken immigration system has caged me for 30 years. My grandmother will never physically embrace her Muxe granddaughter. Through this painting I honor a final homecoming. Artist Bio: Alexa Vasquez is a migrant muxe by way of Oaxaca and California. Her artworks and writings are an expression of her experiences as an immigrant trans woman surviving, living and loving in the United States. She currently resides in Corona, California with her husband Ismael and their four cats: Max, Mushu, Sully and Melon.

‘On Home’ as land how land is sacred because it absorbs our weight, and creates gems to reflect and filter light the pressure between mud and skin is so bold that it squeezes earthglow from the torrid core

as truth i. coming home to grandma in her chair, and the news is loud on tv mom is asleep if it’s a dialysis day, so don’t wake her up unless it’s important, and ( even ) then …

and climbing up through the dirt and clay, my feet against the heat, pulling planet up into my spirit

my stress nap, and soon dinner fumes like oxtail at the beginning of the month and pasta at the end, when money is low

this way the land lets me know i am held and needed: the gentle pleading to

because gram loves her island food, and mom learned red sauce from an old italian woman

pray downward, too honor the earth, and all your energy will be returned to you

i tell about my private school day and feel guilty with no words for the distance, but mom + gram meant it when they listened

as body if you find a home in your body leave to me all the pieces that couldn’t fit they will not go to waste : my temple will be beautiful, too and when i build it i will glow all within the bright current of my pulsing heart will open my rooms and valves with light and drawn in i will come home to myself

by Z Bell as future because i am inhabited by hurt i have decided to create a new world

ii. home is a memory place, so now the feeling lives in prayers and in dreams the longing and pointed aching threatening my bounded seams and flooding all within me iii. i can’t remember the last time i felt at home no really it’s been a little over a year since mom died can you tell i don’t know where to be anymore – ?


‘ON HOME’ by Z Bell

Artist Bio: Z Bell (gender pronouns : they/them & he/him) is Bright and Lovely and does not give all the credit to the sun. Their writing invites a collective witnessing of experiences that hurt so much, they demand growth in spirit and in heart. The promise of rhythm and lyric in Z’s poetry gives readers permission to believe in alchemy, too. Their music tells a story about a Black, transMasculine, disabled, queer femmeBoi who sometimes gives himself space to admit his own magic. Z has written, designed and self-published four zine-length collections of poetry : Drop The Beat – We Gettin Free, HeartRot, CloudLight and Pull. They perform hip-hop and acoustic guitar sets in which they rap about being a Sad Boi and sing about having a pendulum-heart. Being in the dead-parents-club gives Z charge for celebrating their deep resilient power and for curating an intentional love legacy. Complex trauma, unapologetic play, divine pleasure and dimensional healing are all ingredients in Z’s work that look like prayer and wisdom on the page and a firecracker of vulnerable self-determination on the stage. Photo credit: RACHEL LIU PHOTOGRAPHY

Artist Statement: BELOVED HOME is a subject I spend a lot of time with in my brain and in my heart. The page is a place where healing happens - it’s so important to prioritize the process. I was 23 when my Mother died. My Grandmother died 3 years later in 2019. In the past 5 years since my first parent’s passing, not a day has gone by that I haven’t intentionally fought to find a sense of belonging. Some people go their whole lives without ever having to consider if they are where they’re supposed to be or if they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing, etc. My parents’ passing wasn’t, by any means, the first time I’ve carried these heavy questions. My entire life as a Black, non-binary transMan, who is currently experiencing homelessness, who stole toilet paper from his private school to take back to a poor home, whose Mother skipped dialysis to attend his college graduation, who founded a nonprofit only to be kicked and deleted from the project because he was “too sad” and “too radical”... for all of the reasons I’ve seen glimpses of greatness & love that have been taken, lost or faded too fast, too soon... For all these reasons and pages more: my poetry asks : Where do I belong? Where is home? “On Home,” explores themes of trauma, land and body as elements of belonging. PAGE 23

Z’s most potent career background is rooted in radical political education, curriculum-design and facilitation for folx who love and struggle in the marginal intersections of race, gender, sexuality and class. They have worked with several local and national grassroots organizations including but not limited to Race Forward (national), The Thinkubator (NY), Common Ground High School, Urban Farm and Environmental Education Center (CT), Black Youth Project 100 (national), Audre Lorde Project (NY), CTCORE (CT), CEIO (CT), The National LGBTQ Task Force (national) and Brooklyn Movement Center (NY), etc.

Artist Social Media: IG/ @queerchaosbear Website:


Down South N Out

by Darius A. Gerson

Author Bio: Darius (He/Him) lives in the Nashville Metro area. He's a boyfriend to his lovely partner Noelia, and a daddy to two little boy shih tzus, Grandpaw and Jax Gryff. He works as a beatmaker/dj producer part time, and dog groomer to the stars full-time (Young Buck’s pitbull and Pittsburgh Steelers Guard Ramon Foster’s rottie). Darius enjoys making beats and mixes, videography, urbex, catch and release fishing, thrifting/antiquing, spooky stuff, "conspiracy" theories, and retro 80s stuff. You can follow him at @djnazzd on instagram. After writing this piece, Darius’ fur baby Jax Gryff passed over the rainbow bridge to be with other pup angels. This piece is dedicated to him.

You wouldn’t guess it, but moving is really hard for me. As a free spirited Sagittarius, I love to travel, but moving is a lot more drastic. It feels more permanent, and before you know it, longer periods of time escape you without seeing your friends and family. Limited time and money sometimes means you never end up seeing your friends again; they either moved, or are out of town, or maybe passed on while you were away. For me, moving is always more sad than it is exciting -- at least ‘til I’ve put in enough miles and I’m far enough away. Once an unfamiliar landscape starts to emerge, that’s when I start getting excited. To be honest, in some ways I didn’t wanna move back down South, at least to my hometown. But I moved back anyway, mostly because I missed my family. Don’t get me wrong, I really missed the food ... like, a lot. Not to mention the regional culture and hospitality. I definitely didn’t miss the religious fervor and the subtle (and not so subtle) displays of conservative extremism. But as things go, nowhere is utopia, so you have to pick your priorities. I chose family.

PHILLY TO NASHVILLE: A LIFE-SAVING MOVE Moving back to the Nashville area helped solve several problems for me. All in all, my life in Philadelphia had all but crumbled completely: no job prospects, lost some friends, little money, and bad mental health. Life had begun to become insanely hard. I felt as though I was banging my head against a brick wall and it was only a matter of time before I broke. I knew I couldn’t stay. I had gotten to the point where my mental health would barely let me take care of myself. I was fighting to get out of bed and go to work. I was doing 12 plus

hour grueling barback shifts with almost nothing to show for it. I lost one job because I didn’t show up, and I was teetering with losing another because of my depressed mental state. The only realistic option I had was to move back with my family. I would miss my friends and community I had built over five years, but I took it as a sign that timing was right. So I stayed in Philly until my top surgery was complete, and then planned to leave a few days after Halloween. I also spent some quality time with my love, who was (at the time) my exgirlfriend. I had always planned to come back and live near my aunt and mom when they got older, and I had a nine-year-old niece and eight-year-old nephew I hadn’t even met! How did I get to this place? Let me rewind a bit.

DARIUS G: THE EARLY YEARS You know the typical story: the weirdo kid that didn’t fit in; the wallflower at parties; the ghost in high school who most people didn’t notice. I always knew I was different... whatever that means. But in many ways, I was like any other typical kid. I wanted to be a veterinarian. And then a firefighter, then a doctor, and then an artist. It changed a few more times, but many of those interests remained even though I didn’t pursue all of them as a career path. I grew up as a closeted trans kid in the Bible Belt outside of Nashville, Tennessee in a somewhat typical suburban household. One of the main atypical differences is that my mom, my sister, and I also lived with my grandparents until I became an adult. My dad lived with us ‘til I was around four years old. I have some memories of him, but only a few, because I was so young when my parents got divorced. At first, I lived next door


DOWN SOUTH N OUT by Darius A. Gerson

to my grandparents, and my aunt lived behind us. But my grandparents ended up selling their place and moving in with us next door after the divorce. My grandmother and her side of the family were from California, and my grandfather, grandmother, mom, and aunt had lived out in Long Beach, California, before moving to the Nashville area. The family moved back to the South to be around my grandfather’s family when my mom and aunt were teenagers. I had a good childhood overall, but I have a mixed bag of memories growing up queer and trans in the South. There were many issues I faced around religion and isolation due to being different. I always questioned God and the nature of reality as a small kid: the business of religion, and the people who worship at its altar (and who don’t like questions very much). Folks down here also hold tradition in high esteem. That can be good or bad depending on your views on the specific tradition. Christianity down here is very community-oriented, and very much a part of the tradition and culture. So if you don’t have a church, you don’t have a community. I had some issues being a lone wolf, but it was for the best. I knew at a young age not to waste my time building community with people who wouldn’t get me. I dealt with “friends” who would outwardly or secretly judge me -- friends who didn’t share my values. Flying solo wasn’t always a preference, but it wasn’t all bad either. I wanted friends and community, but I knew I’d rather have no friends than ones who didn’t share at least some of my views and interests.

LOSING MY RELIGION (AND FINDING MYSELF) I stopped believing in God when I was around 9 years old. A lot of my interests were “weird” and didn’t fit what was being taught at church. Other kids annoyed me. As a teenager, I used to sit in my room and think about the mysteries of the universe, and listen to weird electronic and rock music. I was obsessed with death, spooky stuff, the afterlife,


Halloween, comparative religion, philosophy, graffitti, and music. None of that would surprise anyone that knows me today. I really never got discriminated against growing up, besides a few guys yelling gay slurs at me in a truck once or twice. I don’t know if that’s typical for the Nashville area in the 2000s, but I would say I was lucky either way. What I lacked in outward discrimination, I paid for internally: feeling like a coward for not dressing like (and disclosing) my true authentic self. I probably struggled harder than the average kid. But all in all, as I got older, it made me really mentally tough. Today, I couldn’t give a flying frick about anyone else’s opinions about me. Ha!

TENNESSEE LIVING IN 2021 Today, I’m generally living my best adulting life so far. I’ve gained a good career, I make more money these days, my partner and I bought a car and a house, and we adopted some dogs. Most importantly, I’ve had the support I needed from my family to get my mind right. I sometimes miss my old wild days, but I’m discovering some hidden gems in this area that have helped me to acclimate back to Nashville living. I did make the decision to move back to my hometown for my family, but to be honest, I may not have moved back to the area otherwise. As a progressive anarchist leaning person, I would have chosen New Orleans, Savannah, or Atlanta; an area with a bigger independent music scene and film industry. The Nashville metro area has changed a lot due to transplants, large industries, and corporations. That is both good and bad: more housing and industries means less nature, wildlife relocation, and pollution -- but it also paves the way for more people, which usually means more diversity in population and politics. Some pros: The state of Tennessee has no state tax. It is one of my favorite states with tons of natural beauty: lots of forests and old architecture. There are plenty of good places to go on photo shoots and urban exploring, and to enjoy random day trips on country winding roads.

DOWN SOUTH N OUT by Darius A. Gerson

The South also feels more free in terms of less restrictions and laws. You can have land, less restrictions on guns, cheaper costs generally, good climate, soil, and space to garden. Nashville is also (comparatively) cheaper to live in than many other cities, but growing exponentially -- so investing in a business or home here is a smart decision if you are in the place to afford that. Housing is more expensive here than the national average, but every other cost is on par or less. Some cons: social services are hard to get -- and restrictive. Women and LGBTQIA rights are not as progressive as a blue state. Politically, people don’t stand up to injustice as much around here -- with exceptions of the larger cities. Protests and direct action aren’t as frequent and as big here, typically. Nashville is in a red state, but the city always goes blue come voting season, so that makes me a little more comfortable living here.

Everyone has to figure out what’s most important to them, because no place is gonna fit all their needs exactly. For me, the Nashville area is a good place to be. The longer I live here, the more I realize I made a great decision moving back down South. It was good for me. The LGBTQIA community is smaller, but more accepting. The smaller communities stick together a lot more down here, and have tighter bonds. Nashville is also an awesome city for live music. It’s also a good place to have a family (if you are into that kinda thing). I think I will stay for a while and make my hometown a better place, so that the next generation won’t feel as isolated. Remember, as they said in The Craft: we are the weirdos, mister.

Noelia and Darius | June 2021 Legendary Beale Street Memphis, Tennessee


COMMEMORATIONS On November 9, 2021, our friends at The19th*, a nonprofit newsroom, reported that 2021 has shattered the record of transgender homicides in a year with 45 to date — most of them Black or Latinx. Last year held the previous record with 44 trans murders. By the time you read this, the media will be reporting on several more deaths in the United States that we already knew about, but that mainstream outlets hadn’t yet confirmed. Tracking trans deaths is always somber work for Team TransLash, but doing this during a pandemic has been especially overwhelming. Over the past two years, TransLash Zine EIC Dani Capistrano has been notifying commemorations illustrator Wriply M. Bennet on seemingly a weekly basis about confirmed deaths, as well as developing cases. Several of our missing trans siblings still haven’t been found, or details haven’t yet been confirmed, and so we’re left in a holding pattern; unable to properly grieve. Some of these deaths have been very personal: a few of our team members knew a victim, and considered them chosen family. And for every news organization that has deadnamed our TGNC siblings in their reporting, or used biased and transphobic language to publish details about their lives, we have been there to counter falsehoods and slander with truth and beauty.

TAKE ACTION Explore the Trans Agenda for Liberation: Read ‘Invest In Black Trans Power’ by Raquel Willis: Listen to our limited series podcast, #AntiTransHateMachine. This four-part program takes you behind the curtain of the dark money, right wing organizations, radical figures, and extreme ideology driving the anti-trans backlash across the country: Support Chase Strangio and his colleagues at ACLU in their fight for trans rights! Follow Chase on Twitter for updates at @chasestrangio. Support Trans Lifeline, a mental health resource for our siblings in crisis: Follow @translashmedia on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to stay informed.

With these 46 commemorations, Wriply and Team TransLash have done our best to capture the vibrant spirit of each of the lives we have lost to anti-trans violence, fueled by an #AntiTransHateMachine. We have been sharing these commemorations across @translashmedia social channels, and we will continue to do so. You can find a photo album on our Facebook page called #TransLivesMatter. Because as long as transphobic people with violent agendas continue to harm and murder our TGNC siblings, we will stay vigilant. We are always watching, and we will not be silenced.

Commemorations Artist: Wriply M. Bennet Artist Social Media: IG/@wriply


Kendall “Bonaire” Sawyers 18 years old 12/31/20 Atlanta, GA

COMMEMORATIONS: Transgender Day of Remembrance 2021

Tyianna Alexander 28 years old 1/6/21 Chicago, IL

Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín 21 years old 1/9/21 Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico

Bianca “Muffin” Bankz 31 years old 1/17/21 Atlanta, GA

Dominique Jackson 30 years old 1/25/21 Jackson, MS

Fifty Bandz 21 years old 1/28/21 Baton Rouge, LA

Alexus Braxton AKA Kimmy Icon Braxton 45 years old 2/4/21 Miami, FL

Chyna Carrillo 24 years old 2/18/21 New Wilmington, PA

Jeffrey ‘JJ’ Bright 16 years old 2/22/21 Ambridge, Beaver County, PA

Jasmine Cannady 22 years old 2/22/21 Ambridge, PA


COMMEMORATIONS: Transgender Day of Remembrance 2021

Jenna Franks 34 years old 2/24/21 Jacksonville, NC

Kim Tova Wirtz 43 years old 2/25/21 Baltimore, MD

Diamond Kyree Sanders 23 years old 3/3/2021 Cincinnati, OH

Rayanna Pardo 26 years old 3/17/21 East Los Angeles, CA

Aidelen Evans 24 years old 3/18/21 Port Arthur, TX

Jaida Peterson 29 years old 4/4/21 Charlotte, NC

Dominique Lucious 26 years old 4/8/21 Springfield, MO

Remy Fennell 28 years old 4/15/21 Charlotte, NC

Tiara Banks 24 years old 4/21/21 Chicago, IL


COMMEMORATIONS: Transgender Day of Remembrance 2021

Iris Santos 22 years old 4/23/21 Houston, TX

Xeonte Brown (Natalia Smüt Lopez) 24 years old 4/23/21 Houston, TX

Tiffany Thomas 38 years old 4/24/21 Dallas, TX

Keri Washington 49 years old 5/1/21 Clearwater, FL

Jahaira DeAlto 42 years old 5/2/21 Boston, MS

Thomas Hardin 35 years old 5/2/21 York, SC

Whispering Wind Bear Spirit 41 years old 5/3/21 York, PA

Sophie Vásquez 36 years old 5/4/21 Brookhaven, GA

Danika “Danny” Henson 31 years old 5/4/21 Baltimore, MD


COMMEMORATIONS: Transgender Day of Remembrance 2021

Serenity Hollis 24 years old 5/8/21 Albany, GA

Poe Black 21 years old 5/11/21 Niland, CA

Nona Moselle Conner 37 years old 5/13/21 Washington D.C.

Oliver “Ollie” Taylor 17 years old 5/19/21 Gervais, OR

Haven A Bailey 25 years old 5/25/21 Villa Park, IL

Chloe Vivian Kreutzer 15 years old May / June 2021 Claremont, CA

Tierramarie Lewis 36 years old 6/12/21 Cleveland, OH

EJ Boykin (Novaa Watson) 23 years old 6/14/21 Lynchburg, VA

Taya Ashton 20 years old 7/17/21 Suitland, MD


COMMEMORATIONS: Transgender Day of Remembrance 2021

Shai Vanderpump 23 years old 7/30/21 Trenton, NJ

Miss CoCo (CoCo Chanel Wortham) 44 years old 8/7/21 Dallas, TX

Pooh Johnson 25 years old 8/23/21 Shreveport, LA

Zoella “Zoey” Rose Martinez 20 years old 8/31/21 Maple Valley, WA

D’isaya Monaee Smith 32 years old 09/06/21 Chicago, IL

Briana Hamilton 25 years old 09/17/21 Chicago, IL

Kiér Laprí Kartier 21 years old 09/30/21 Dallas, TX

Royal Poetical Starz 26 years old 10/2/21 Miami Gardens, FL

Mel Roberts Groves 25 years old 10/11/21 Jackson, MS


TRANSLASH COMMUNITY OPPORTUNITIES TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives. Want to get involved? Here are a few ways to collaborate with us: Submit your writing, art, and photography to be featured in the next issue of TransLash Zine: (an opportunity for trans/non-binary/ intersex/two-spirit/TGNC people specifically). Be a contributing writer for! Subscribe to our newsletter to be among the first to receive compensated opportunity alerts: Send us your story ideas for TransLash Podcast with Imara Jones: Follow TransLash Podcast on Spotify, and share your TransLash Podcast reviews on Apple Podcasts! Every positive review helps us to reach more folks in our community. We SO appreciate your support, thank you. Post about TransLash Podcast on your own social media! It helps us to reach a wider audience. Make sure to tag @translashmedia so we can reshare. Help us beat Facebook’s algorithm for FB and IG: Like, Comment, and Share our FB and IG content as often as you can so we can stay in your feed.


Send us a message at or DM us on Twitter/IG/Facebook: @translashmedia


Discover more trans-affirming content and resources:


TRANSLASH ZINE Vol. 4: migration stories ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Team TransLash would like to thank all of the contributors to this issue, as well as all of those who responded to our call for submissions with their art, poetry, and photography. Our team had such a difficult time making final selections; we appreciate everyone who shared their creativity with us! As with every issue, we made it a point to pay each contributor because we believe in paying TGNC creators for their labor. TransLash Zine would not be possible without the support of many people. Team TransLash thanks @POCZineProject & POCZP founder Daniela “Dani” Capistrano for helping us launch our zine in 2019, and for being interim editor-in-chief. We also want to thank Resistance Communications for helping us -- for the second year in a row -- through their design talents, collaborating to bring Migration Stories to life. TransLash appreciates both the Move to End Violence and The Grio for permission to reprint important pieces. Contributing writers: Elizabeth Savage, Nicky Cao, Imara Jones, Leo Lili Valdes, Z Bell, Darius A. Gerson, and Daniela “Dani” Capistrano Contributing artists and photographers: Amir Khadar, Denym Aphrodyte, and Alexa Vasquez TransLash Commemorations Artist: Wriply M. Bennet Cover art by: CM Wain

Special thanks to Meredith Hutchison and Jennicet Gutiérrez. Design for this issue by Resistance Communications: TransLash Media, publisher of TransLash Zine, is supported by the Ford Foundation, Heising-Simons Foundation, anonymous donors, and members of our community like you:


GIVES TRANS PEOPLE THEIR FLOWERS WHILE THEY ARE STILL HERE. ‘MIGRATION STORIES’, RELEASED ON TRANSGENDER DAY OF REMEMBRANCE (TDOR), IS DEDICATED TO ALL THE TGNC SIBLINGS WE LOST IN 2021 TO ANTI-TRANS VIOLENCE. We hope you enjoyed this special issue of TransLash Zine, in collaboration with POC Zine Project. To learn more about how to access print editions of this issue and past issues, visit

Copyright © 2021 TransLash Media. All rights reserved. This zine or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever for commercial use without the express written permission of the publisher, TransLash Media. Learn more:


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