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The Pride Issue

sa_20140702_cover

San Antonio’s Transgender Community Shows its Pride

Photo: Julian P. Ledezma, License: N/A

Julian P. Ledezma

Toni Sauceda in character as Janie la Transie for the play 'Jotos del Barrio'


••••••••••

Angela Weddle is a 31-year-old trans/queer activist who uses her legal name in everyday life but prefers to be called Alex. He feels he’s both male and female and identifies with the Native American concept of two-spirits. “I feel that trans is a modern, Western concept, and while there is no one way to be trans, I think when you say you are transgender, which I do, the first thing people think of is sex change, and not gender fluid,” he says via Facebook message. Weddle is comfortable with both feminine and masculine pronouns to describe herself.

Weddle has wrestled with depression since early childhood and, as a biracial gay person, has endured physical and verbal bullying. After two suicide attempts over the last two years, he is convinced that he’s “supposed to be here” after he recently jumped off an I-35 overpass and landed, fully conscious. Weddle is sadly not alone in attempted suicides; a broad 2011 study found that 41 percent of the transgender respondents had tried to kill themselves. In 2014, researchers from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute at University of California—Los Angeles School of Law confirmed that transgender community members are at “exceptionally high risk” for suicide.

Unlike Sauceda, Weddle would like to one day have her female breasts removed if insurance would cover it. It so happens that in a landmark decision in May, the Department of Health and Human Services overturned a longstanding rule that prevented Medicare from covering the costs of gender reassignment surgery. “I have hated my breasts since I developed at age 10. I tried binding. But with a 40 D cup, it was very painful. I felt it wasn’t healthy to do long term.”

Weddle feels he owes a bit of gratitude to Chaz Bono’s appearance on Dancing with the Stars. “[The show] allowed me to open up the dialogue with my 70-year-old black mom,” he says. “She doesn’t fully understand, but she tries to call me Alex and she buys me men’s clothes sometimes.” Philosophically, Weddle embraces what makes him different.

“I feel the LGBT community is a community of incredibly gifted, sensitive people, which is why hate is directed towards us,” he says. “Historically, I’ve read that we, and the trans community in particular, were looked to as shamans and people of wisdom in some societies [and had] the ability to walk between two worlds.”

••••••••••

If a matriarchal symbol of the local transgender family exists, it could be Lauryn Farris, former president of SAGA, the San Antonio Gender Association. I’m sitting across from her at Local Coffee at the Pearl Brewery. When she leans in toward me and says, “‘gender non-conforming’ is the term I prefer,” I notice that she’s dressed in the same shade of pale blue that matches her eyes. Farris prefers feminine pronouns, unlike Weddle. She identifies as trans, and in the past, bisexual—but “never gay.”

The Pride Issue 2014
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