Culture

I Chose The Name Leia When I Transitioned And Meeting Carrie Fisher Is A Moment I Will Never Forget

It happened in a galaxy not too far away, meeting interstellar royalty. I was a cashier in a well-known beauty retailer based in the heart of Beverly Hills, California. What started as a trivial shift of organizing lipsticks and rechecking rollerballs became one of the most memorable moments in my life.

I was busy trying to solve the ever-constant mystery of lost pens. Fair to say I wasn’t completely focused on my jobs at hand as I did the meticulous work. I was rather new to Los Angeles and the beauty retail world still learning the ropes.

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It was that in moment a chocolate French bulldog lapped his extra long tongue on my shoes. I bent down laughing, petting him while his tongue spiraled up in between heavy pants. This wasn’t just any pampered pooch off Rodeo Drive, this dog in question was Gary Fisher, the one and only Carrie Fisher’s dog.

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This would be a good moment to clear up any confusion. My name is Leia, Carrie Fisher plays a character in the film series, Star Wars, Princess Leia, and Gary Fisher is obviously the full/accepted name of her dog. I wasn’t always named Leia. Up until I was 22, I was Jacob. I’m transgender. Fisher’s Star Wars character Princess Leia was always someone I looked up to. Her strength and fighting spirit are things I could relate to and I wanted to keep her strength with me. My name was now Leia and I was intentionally channeling that strength to guide me.

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So when I looked up to see Carrie Fisher with hundreds of dollars of sheet masks I was speechless. As a kid, I watched this woman run through the Death Star, dodging Stormtroopers braless! These are some of the most vivid memories I have from my childhood. Now it’s key to note, working in Beverly Hills, the easiest way to get fired is by making celebrities feel awkward. Oscar-nominated bad business is frowned upon. While I rang her up all I could mumble about was that her last-minute gold nail polish purchase was the “same shade as C-3PO,” and we smiled. I then saw Carrie’s eyes lock with my name tag and heard her, “Oh my God! Your name!” I nodded. She nodded. We shared a moment of clarity. I was finally acknowledged by Alderaan. Gary, Carrie, and there was I, Leia. It was the same year she passed away, but that particular day two Leia’s met in the middle. The original Princess Leia who inspired my name and taught me what it meant to be a woman had found me, accepted me, and welcomed me into her tribe. You could say it was a little luck or the Force but it’s something I’ll have a long, long time no matter how brief.

Credit: leiacheyanne92 / Instagram

I still work in the beauty industry and getting clients to remember my name comes down to one simple sentence, “Oh, and I’m Leia… like Star Wars.” The whole concept of naming oneself during a transition of gender is daunting. Many transgender/nonbinary identifying people change their name multiple times. My distinction didn’t take much thought. It was my first day in Los Angeles ordering coffee and being asked for my name, “I’m Leia… like Star Wars.” It was easily understood by the majority of the population and thus I became a part of a smile, of a sci-fi connection, of a Carrie Fisher stand up or book prologue. I was suddenly surrounded by the image of a side bunned, hard ass, space princess and if I could leave that in my wake then I knew I could be that much more memorable. Plus, my closest friends already addressed me as Leia at the beginning of my transition so it just made sense. I remember my encounter with Carrie Fisher fondly every year when May The 4th comes around and the power of that moment continues to impact my life.

READ: Why This Transgender Mexicana Picked This Biblical Name

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Recognizing Its Diversity Issue, Argentina Is Working To Add More Transgender Workers To Its Labor Force

Things That Matter

Recognizing Its Diversity Issue, Argentina Is Working To Add More Transgender Workers To Its Labor Force

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Argentina has long been a progressive bastion in Latin America. It was one of the first countries in the region to allow same-sex marriage and also has anti-discrimination laws in many cities. It’s also been a beacon of hope for the transgender community, with the government long allowing individuals to choose their self-perceived identity regardless of their biological sex.

However, transgender workers still face immense discrimination and that has left a reported 95% of the community without formal employment. To help try and address this issue, the nation’s leaders have instituted a program to ensure that at least 1% of the workforce is made up of trans workers. It’s an ambitious task but the government is already making progress.

Argentina launched a program to ensure better transgender representation in the workforce.

Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández signed a decree in September establishing a 1 percent employment quota for transgender people in the public sector. The law went into effect on January 1 and its aim is to bring more trans workers into the formal economy.

According to Argentina’s LGBTQ community, 95 percent of transgender people do not have formal employment, with many forced to work in the sex industry where they face violence.

“If all the institutions implemented the trans quota, it would change a lot for many of my colleagues. It would change the quality of their lives and they would not die at 34, or 40, which is their life expectancy today,” Angeles Rojas, who recently landed a job at a national bank, told NBC News.

There are no official figures on the size of the transgender community in Argentina, since it was not included in the last 2010 census. But LGBTQ organizations estimate there are 12,000 to 13,000 transgender adults in Argentina, which has a population topping 44 million.

Few countries in the world are stepping up to help trans workers quite like Argentina.

Argentina has long prided itself on its progressive policies. The nation was one of the first in the Americas to recognize same-sex unions and several cities have anti-discrimination laws aimed at protecting the LGBTQ community.

In 2012, Argentina adopted an unprecedented gender identity law allowing transgender people to choose their self-perceived identity regardless of their biological sex. The law also guarantees free access to sex-reassignment surgeries and hormonal treatments without prior legal or medical consent.

Worldwide, only neighboring Uruguay has a comparable quota law promoting the labor inclusion of transgender people. And a law such as this one has the potential to greatly impact the lives of transgendered Argentinians.

Despite the program, transgender people still face enormous challenges in Argentina.

A recent report by the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Trans People published in December said “the vast majority of trans women in the region have sex work as their sole economic and subsistence livelihood.”

It goes on to say: In Latin America and the Caribbean transgender people have their right to work violated along with all their human rights, and this takes place “in a context of extreme violence.”

Despite legal protections, Argentina’s trans community remains at risk. Many of the country’s trans citizens live in the Gondolín, a building in the Buenos Aires’ Palermo neighborhood, for protection and strength in numbers.

There have been advances in Argentina. This year, Diana Zurco became the first transgender presenter of Argentine television news, Mara Gómez was authorized by the Argentine Football Association to play in the professional women’s league and soprano María Castillo de Lima was the first transgender artist to go on stage at Teatro Colón.

However, the gap between the equality established by law and the real one remains large, warned Ese Montenegro, a male transgender activist hired as an adviser to the Chamber of Deputies’ women’s and diversity commission.

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The Definitive List of Latinos in the ‘Star Wars’ Universe

Entertainment

The Definitive List of Latinos in the ‘Star Wars’ Universe

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Recently, news broke that beloved Mexican-American director Robert Rodriguez is set to executive producer Disney+’s new Star Wars series, The Book of Boba Fett. This news broke at the same event that Disney announced that Rosario Dawson will be getting her own Star Wars series on Disney+, a Mandalorian spinoff entitled Ahsoka.

Pair these events with Pedro Pascal headlining The Mandalorian, and it appears that Disney is making some real and concerted effort to hire Latino talent.

And the pattern didn’t just start this year. Since the franchise’s reboot in 2015, Disney has consistently hired Latinos to take part in Star Wars Universe in front of and behind the camera.

In light of this, we’ve compiled a definitive list of all of the Latinos that have been involved in the Star Wars Universe. Take a look below!

1. Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron

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Guatemalan-American actor Oscar Isaac was one of the first Latinos to set off Disney’s streak of hiring Latino talent for the Star Wars franchise. Isaac (nee Óscar Isaac Hernández Estrada) played Poe Dameron, a fighter pilot who rose in the ranks to become General of the Resistance. He appeared in all three movies of the Star Wars reboot trilogy: The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker.

2. Pedro Pascal as Mando

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Chilean-American actor Pedro Pascal plays the titular character in The Mandalorian (his true name is a spoiler), a solitary bounty hunter who travels to the “outer reaches” of the galaxy in order to protect Baby Yoda.

3. Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano

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This season, Rosario Dawson played Ahsoka Tano in The Mandolorian–an alien of the Togruta race who is also a Jedi knight and army commander. It was also recently announced that the actress of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent would be headlining a spinoff series on Disney+ entitled Ahsoka.

4. Diego Luna as Cassian Andor

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Mexican actor Diego Luna played Rebel Alliance soldier Cassian Andor in 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Luna will also star in his own standalone series revolving around Cassian Andor on Disney+ called Andor.

5. Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata

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Mexican-born actress Lupita Nyong’o played alien pirate queen Maz Kanata via motion capture in all three of the Star Wars reboot trilogy: The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker.

6. Benicio Del Toro as DJ

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Boricua actor Benicio Del Toro played the villainous hacker DJ in The Last Jedi.

7. Jimmy Smits as Senator Bail Organa

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Brooklyn-born Boricua actor Jimmy Smits played Bail Organa in two of the Star Wars prequel movies, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith as well as reprising his role in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

8. Horatio Sanz as Mythrol

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Although you might not recognize him through such heavy character makeup, Chilean-America comedian Horatio Sanz played Mythrol, a wanted fugitive that was carbon-frozen by Pascal’s character in the first episode of The Mandolorian.

9. John Leguizamo as Gor Koresh

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Again, you’d be hard-pressed to recognize John Leguizamo amidst all the heavy alien makeup, but the Colombian-American actor played the character Gor Koresh in The Mandolorian–boastful forager of the Abyssin alien race.

10. Robert Rodriguez

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As we reported above, Robert Rodriguez is a legendary Mexican-American director who helmed a popular episode of The Mandolorian entitled “The Tragedy”. He is now set to executive produce a new Disney+ Star Wars series called The Book of Boba Fett.

11. Adria Arjona

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Puerto Rican actress Adria Arjona has not officially appeared in any Star Wars properties yet, but it was recently announced that she will be appearing in Diego Luna’s Star Wars spinoff series Andor as a yet-to-be-named character.

12. Pablo Hidalgo

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Pablo Hidalgo is the definition of behind-the-scenes talent. The Chilean-Canadian LucasFilm creative executive is in charge of keeping narrative and creative cohesion between all of the stories within the Star Wars Universe. In essence, he is the definitive Star Wars expert.

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