The Pride Issue
San Antonio’s Transgender Community Shows its Pride
Published: July 2, 2014
Despite the common belief that it was transgender activist Sylvia Rivera who sparked the beginning of the modern gay rights movement by flinging her high heel shoe at the cops during a 1969 police raid of the now-famed Stonewall Inn, the transgender community has clung to the letter “T” in the backseat of the “LGB” tour bus of gay history. However, as San Antonio prepares for its annual LGBT Pride celebration, there seems to be a luminous feeling of promise that legislation of late may finally result in real-time recognition and long-awaited social change for gender expression.
Sitting across from me in her mother’s “coffee and magazine room,” which is decorated like a tribute to the early 1890s, Toni Sauceda gracefully circles her wrists as she explains how, inside, she’s always felt that she was a girl.
“There’s always that conflict when people don’t understand,” she begins. Her piercing green eyes widen as she continues. “Just because I don’t have the genitalia doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m not that person. I’m a firm believer in just being who you are.”
Biologically male, Sauceda is a self-initiated 23-year-old transgender person who’s seemingly found her way sans the counsel of the established trans community. In 2009, she came to San Antonio by way of Brownsville and caught a performance of the play Miss America: A Mexicanito Fairy’s Tale which starred the late Erica Andrews. “I didn’t know she was a trans woman. I thought she was a beautiful woman. It was then I thought, ‘I can do this.’”
Since then, Sauceda’s been “full-time dressed” including “day drag,” a term which was explained to her as “when a queen goes out during the day with lighter makeup.”
She’s not offended when referred to as a drag queen, but she does make a distinction. “I’m not impersonating a woman for show,” she says. “I’m sure that there are things we all have in common with night drag queens. We all love makeup. We all love to be beautiful.”
San Antonio holds a special meaning for Sauceda, as the place where she first outed herself, even though she doesn’t fit into conventional labels in such a way strangers at once understand. “You go to the store and it’s almost like you’re speed shopping because you don’t want people to stare long enough to question your gender,” she says.
A self-described “Netflix junkie,” Sauceda keeps up with documentaries on transgender issues, so she’s aware that there are others like her who know “the ugliness of not feeling understood.”
“Deep inside? There are still things that make me a man,” she says candidly. “I like to keep it real. I like identifying as a woman but I don’t plan on getting rid of my penis. Why? Because it’s part of me. I love my penis.” However, body hair is an issue. “It’s hard,” she murmurs with tearful, downcast eyes. “Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and sometimes I’m just a boy with a wig and a dream.”