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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'


She’s schooling me on the non-word ‘transgendered.’ “It’s not past tense,” she says warmly, although with no expression on her face. “It’s not a verb. ‘Transgender’ is an adjective. It modifies a noun. [Transgendered] is not a word.”

This month, she and her partner Kerry will celebrate 32 years of marriage. “Kerry knew that I was trans before we were married,” she says. “She thought that I’d change.”

Farris, who’s open about almost everything but her age, affirms that the word “tranny” is considered a slur and is “used and abused by some people like RuPaul” who, with unapologetic hauteur, intend it that way. “The pronoun for RuPaul is ‘he,’” Farris says with a glint of steel in her eye. “He doesn’t identify at all as female. He’s a gay man.”

She cautions that drag entertainers share similar issues. “When [drag performers] leave that club at three ‘o clock in the morning, if someone pursues them as gender non-conforming, they’re under the same risk I’m at everyday,” she says, noting that often hate crimes committed against the LGBT community have less to do with sexual expression than gender expression. “Maybe it’s safer for me ‘cause I’m out in the light of day. Every gay issue is a trans issue.”

Farris touts that President Barack Obama has done more for the trans community than any other president and has a passport to prove it. “I have employment protections under gender that have never been recognized before, because of President Obama,” she says referencing the 2012 expanded protection implemented by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to transgender status and gender identity by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Unsurprisingly, it’s difficult to not take the anti-trans rhetoric personally. “I used to say that I was an activist ... but activists are bulletproof,” she says. “I’m not.” These days, she calls herself “merely an advocate.”

For a long time, Farris admits she blamed God. “‘Why did you have to make me like this? Different?’” she spits out in a whisper. “When I came to grips with the fact that God loved me just the way I am ... it was the first day of the rest of my life.”

My inquiry as to what makes her feel beautiful is met with genuine surprise. “I’ve never been asked that question,” she utters. “Well, a lot of trans people have a real need to ‘pass.’ We need to get rid of the concept of passing and find the beauty within.”

When asked what the trans community looks like in 2064, her vision is clear. “It ... doesn’t ... exist,” she says in measured tones. “There’s not really a need for it anymore. I think the whole concept of gender differentiation becomes much more blurred. But ... one of the biggest things that will prevent that is war. War perpetuates machismo.”

Farris believes that if she can make a difference in the life of just one young person, all of her advocacy will have been worth the pain and struggle. “I used to want to change the world,” she says. Her eyes begin to water and her voice becomes almost inaudible. “Now, I’m content with changing just one piece at a time.”

She looks out the window and says, “We are far from there.” Then, Farris turns to me and smiles. “But, yeah, we have a lot to celebrate.”

The Pride Issue 2014
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