Fierce

This Trans Puerto Rican Voguing Master Is So Iconic That Even Beyonce Imitated Her Dance Moves

@wond3rwoman1 / Instagram

Leiomy Maldonado has been on the Voguing/Ballroom scene for a while and she is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in that world. Her moves have inspired the choreography of some of music’s biggest stars, including Beyoncé. Yet, she didn’t join the scene to make it big. This trans puertorriqueña from the Bronx found an escape and stress reliever in dance. It was later in her career that she realized that it was what she was called to do. Maldonado spoke to mitú about dance, life, and inspiring major music stars.

Leiomy Maldonado is a dance icon but it wasn’t always that way.


Maldonado was first introduced to voguing when she was only about 14 or 15 years old. She was at the Boys and Girls Club in the Bronx when a chance encounter with a stranger introduced her, via VHS, to the world of voguing.

Maldonado admits that she was immediately fascinated by voguing and wanted to know more. Before she knew it, it became her stress reliever.


“From the beginning, I really didn’t think that I’d be making a career or that I would have grown this passionate about dance,” Maldonado told mitú. “For me, in the beginning, I just fell in love with that style and me going through the transition in my life, I didn’t know how to express that and I used voguing to do that. With using voguing as a stress reliever, I fell in love with the style and fell in love with just the dance overall and from there, people started seeing me and people started telling me that I was going to be something and that I had something special.”

Maldonado said that she always felt supported by her family in her dance career.

My Dad ^__^

A post shared by Leiomy Maldonado (@wond3rwoman1) on


“They [my family] always did [support my ambitions]. For me, I’ve always been the person to go for what I like and what I believe in and things like that,” Maldonado told mitú. “I didn’t really rely on support from my family even though they were supportive. It was just something that I was like, “This is what I’m going to do and I really don’t care who has anything to say about it or who thinks anything about whatever. I’m just doing it because I want to.’”

But it wasn’t until “America’s Best Dance Crew” that Maldonado’s family truly understood what their daughter meant by transitioning and pursuing a serious career in dance.

“It wasn’t until I was on “America’s Best Dance Crew” that they kind of started to understand more because I was able to express myself through TV and explain a little bit of my story and they were able to see that themselves and see why I wasn’t around,” Maldonado told mitú about a moment she realized dance was what she was supposed to be doing. “After that, they understood my career; they understood the woman that I’ve always been and that I’ve grown into. You know, just being confident.”

Maldonado also said it helped her family learn about her transition. “When I began my transition, my family didn’t quite understand what it was because, back then, people weren’t really educated on what being trans was. You either were gay or a lesbian. Like, if you were born a male and showed signs for femininity they would just automatically label you as being gay.” She continued saying, “It wasn’t until I was on “America’s Best Dance Crew” that they kind of started to understand more because I was able to express myself through TV and explain a little bit of my story and they were able to see that themselves and see why I wasn’t around. After that, they understood my career; they understood the woman that I’ve always been and that I’ve grown into. You know, just being confident.”

As her dance career grew, so did the number of people imitating her style until it reached peak mainstream culture a la Beyoncé.

Have a beautiful and blessed day everyone ???

A post shared by Leiomy Maldonado (@wond3rwoman1) on


At first, Maldonado says that she was excited and a little flattered that big stars were using her dance moves but after a while, she realized that people weren’t giving her any credit and only people who knew her knew that she created the moves.

So, she did what any dance icon does (not really). She started her own ballroom house, The House Of Amazon.

The House of Amazon is not about walking balls and being “fab”. I created my house to help my kids grown individually in…

Posted by Leiomy Maldonado on Tuesday, February 23, 2016


“I’ve been a part of a few houses. Actually last year, I introduced my house, which was the house that I opened, the House of Amazon, I introduced to the ballroom scene. We’ve been open for about two years now,” Maldonado told mitú. “Houses are like families so that all depends on what kind of people you want to be around. Every family has their own style their own kind of surroundings or people who they deal with or things that they do and it all depends.”

If there is anything Maldonado would tell other LGBTQ Latinx about thriving it’s to build confidence in who you are.

Feeling myself after class tonight ^__^

A post shared by Leiomy Maldonado (@wond3rwoman1) on


“I would like to share that I was an underdog in the beginning. I feel like it took a lot of struggles and things for me to go through that I went through within the ballroom for me to become as strong and confident as I am now,” Maldonado tells LGBTQ youths. “I feel like a lot of people look for confidence and they look for acceptance in other people but they don’t accept themselves yet and I feel like that’s very important. You have to love yourself and accept yourself before you can grow and be part of other people.”


READ: After Trump’s Anti-Trans Order, Carmen Carrera Has Some Words For Him

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Amelio Robles Ávila Was Mexico’s First Trans Soldier And A Revolutionary Hero, More Than 100 Years Ago

Culture

Amelio Robles Ávila Was Mexico’s First Trans Soldier And A Revolutionary Hero, More Than 100 Years Ago

Today is Mexico’s Independence Day! After a war that lasted over 11 years, Mexico achieved independence from Spanish rule and would begin a path toward self-determination. On September 16, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest, launched the Mexican War of Independence. Yes, decolonize! 

To celebrate Mexican history, we’ll be focusing on one hero today, not of the Mexican War of Independence but of the Mexican Revolution. Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila is recognized as the first trans soldier in the Mexican military’s history. A decorated colonel, Ávila lived as a man from the age of roughly 22 or 24 until the day he died at 95 years old. 

While some believe it was Ávila’s wealthy family that allowed him to live life as his truest self, it certainly may have helped, but his courage in battle and in life must be honored and celebrated. Ávila’s identity was not always met with kindness, but the soldier was well-equipped to deal with challenges to his gender. The pistol-whipping colonel was a ladies man, skilled marksmen, and hero. This is the story of Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila. 

Amelio Robles Ávila

Amelio Robles Ávila was born to a wealthy family on November 3, 1889, in Xochipala, Guerrero. In his youth, Ávila attended a Catholic school for little girls where he was taught to cook, clean, and sew. However, at a young age, he began to express his gender identity. He showed an aptitude for things that were, at the time perceived to be, masculine like handling weapons, taming horses, and marksmanship. 

Perhaps, it was a natural response, if not the only response, to being pressured to conform to a gender identity that isn’t yours —  Ávila was perceived as stubborn, rebellious, and too much to handle for the school nuns. But it would be his tenacity and obstinance that served him in the long run. 

In 1911, when Ávila was arranged to be married to a man, he enlisted as a revolutionary instead. 

Not a woman dressed as a man, just a man.

To force the resignation of President Porfirio Dîaz and later, to ensure a social justice-centered government, Mexico needed to engage much of its population in warfare. This meant that eventually women were welcomed with many limitations. Soldaderas were able to tend to wounded soldiers or provide food for the militia but were prohibited from combat and could not have official titles. 

Ávila legally changed his first name from Amelia to Amelio, cut his hair, and became one of Mexico’s most valuable and regarded revolutionaries. 

“To appear physically male, Robles Ávila deliberately chose shirts with large chest pockets, common in rural areas, and assumed the mannerisms common among men at the time,” according to History.com

While he was not the only person assigned female to adopt a male persona to join the war, unlike many others Ávila kept his name and lived as a man until the day he died. 

“After the war was over, their part in it was dissolved along with whatever rank they held during the fight, and they were expected to return to subservient roles. Some did,” writes Alex Velasquez of Into. “Others, like Amelio Robles Ávila, lived the rest of their lives under the male identities they had adopted during the war.”

You come at the king, you best not miss.

Ávila fought courageously in the war until its end. Becoming a Colonel with his own command, he was decorated with three stars by revolutionary general Emiliano Zapata. He led and won multiple pivotal battles where his identity and contributions were respected. 

However, that respect was sometimes earned through empathy other times through the whip of his pistol. Ávila was a man and anyone who chose to ignore this fact would be taught by force. On one occasion, when a group of men tried to “expose” him by tearing off his clothes, Ávila shot and killed two of the men in self-defense. 

Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila

Unsurprisingly, Ávila was a bit of a ladies man, though he finally settled down with Angela Torres and together they adopted their daughter Regula Robles Torres. In 1970, he was recognized by the Mexican Secretary of National Defense as a veterano as opposed to a veterana of the Mexican Revolution, thus Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila is considered the first trans soldier documented in Mexican military history. The swag is infinite! 

After the war, Ávila was able to live comfortably as a man where he devoted his life to agriculture. He lived a life, that still for so many trans people around the world seems unfathomable. Colonel Ávila lived to be 95 years old and the rest  — no all of it — is history. 

Two Trans Latinas In New York Are Starting A Beauty Co-Op To Help Trans Women Build Their Businesses

Entertainment

Two Trans Latinas In New York Are Starting A Beauty Co-Op To Help Trans Women Build Their Businesses

mirror_cooperative_ / Instagram

Four years ago, Lesly Herrera Castillo and Joselyn Mendoza both had a vision to create a worker-owned makeup and hair salon for the trans Latino community in Jackson Heights, New York. It was ambitious and for them, it was necessary. For years, the duo faced racial and gender discrimination from employers. Their own community, Jackson Heights, was also becoming a problem as the area became the site of multiple anti-trans hate crimes in recent years. So they came together with a plan to open Mirror Beauty Cooperative in 2015.

The beauty shop would create numerous jobs for the local trans community but more importantly assist undocumented individuals who were denied opportunities due to their legal status. So Castillo and Mendoza made the important decision to register the business as a cooperative cooperation (co-op). This was done so the salon would basically be “worker-run” and there would be no need for things like social security numbers, an obstacle many undocumented workers face when applying to jobs. Instead, the salon will use individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs).

“The significance of the cooperative for me is that it’s an opportunity to create more jobs and make a space that’s free of discrimination,” Mendoza told the HuffPost. “As trans women, we don’t often have access to a healthy economy, and this allows us to change that and obtain other services like health care.”

While their idea started four years ago, the duo hasn’t yet obtained a physical space to open up the salon. But they hope with enough support this vision can become a reality. 

Credit: @equalityfed / Twitter

While both Castillo and Mendoza haven’t opened up a physical salon space, they are both continuing to work in other salons as they continue to save and plan for the Mirror Beauty Cooperative. This past May they began to reach out to more people to help fund their goal through a GoFundMe Campaign. The results of the campaign fund have been less than 1 percent of their $150,000 goal. The duo has also faced other socioeconomic setbacks like lack of traditional education and the economic instability due to their immigrant background. 

“Latina trans women always have multiple obstacles in the way,” Mendoza said. “I think if a collective of white trans women were to start a project like this, their incubation process would be faster than ours because of their historical access to privilege.” 

But Herrera notes that the white trans community is still an ally to them even though they are on different economic levels. “We can always depend on the white trans community” to offer support “because they know they’re on a better [economic] level.”

For the trans, gender-queer and nonbinary community, job discrimination has been a reoccurring issue. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 16 percent of gender-queer and nonbinary respondents who had held jobs reported having been fired for their gender identity or expression. But for trans women and trans people of color, they were the most likely to have gone through this. 

While the salon is still in progress, Castillo and Mendoza have become a presence in their own neighborhood uplifting and bringing attention to the trans Latino community. 

As of now, the duo has a secret backup plan in case they don’t meet their fundraising goals by the end of the year. They hope that the campaign does one thing though, create and share their broader call for building community with people. 

That has already started to take place as Castillo, Hernandez and their new partner, Jonahi Rosa have all become presences in Jackson Heights advocating for the trans community. The trio even participated in the Queens Pride Parade as co-grand marshals. This has also included various charity events for local LGTBQ+ youth. 

They all feel that the salon has the potential to bring people together and spread awareness about issues that affect their lives every day. From the start, the trio has always wanted to not only create a space for the trans community but give them an opportunity. 

“We want to work, [and] we want to give agency to our community,” Rosa said. “It’s a perfect opportunity for our community to come together and make something for our future.”

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