identity

Why This Transgender Mexicana Picked This Biblical Name

On a U.S. Navy base located in Panama, a long awaited gift was born to a sailor and his wife. Little did they know he had the body of a healthy baby boy but the spirit, soul, and heart of a baby girl.

leia

My childhood was typical for a male — as in playing with action figures, fishing for bass, and reciting dinosaur names aloud. At heart, my sisters’ dolls were all I coveted. The baby ones especially. A part of my childhood was spent thinking I’d have a dolly one day; that I would have my own big, Mexican family. During mass, I’d pray God would turn me into a good mother someday.

I was 21 — almost done with college, done with rehab, done with therapy — when I finally realized how hard I had let my life become. A lot of people ask me “When did you know?” It had been engrained in me as far back as I can remember, but I couldn’t verbalize it. It was impossible. Just like you fall in love or lose someone, some things are just beyond your control.

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Over the last few years it really dawned on me, I wasn’t gay or a cross-dresser or a drag queen. I realized I was pretending to be male more than I was pretending to be female. I was simply a woman trying to live my life.

People now know me as Leia. When it comes to pronunciation I blurt out the phrase, “Like the Princess!” In Biblical terms the name means “Flower of God”…

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No one can take Roman Catholicism away from me. I grew up with crosses above my bed, blessings before everything (even taquitos after school), and falling asleep with rosary beads still in hand. I believe God gives us only what we can handle. He gave me a lot because He knew he made me with a little more armor than the rest. No offense.

It’s been just shy of a year since I made the decision to let the woman I am bleed out. My eyebrows and hair are a black-brown, my lips full, and my eyelids layered in black and browns. I’m biracial, a blend of Mexico City and Bavaria. The German tends to shine brighter with my green eyes and light complexion, but I always joked my deep set eyes, distinct nose, and high cheek bones were that of an Aztec princess’.

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Students Get Huge Success Thanks to will.i.am

Things That Matter

Students Get Huge Success Thanks to will.i.am

Credit: Christopher Polk / Getty & CYNTHIA ERENAS / LA WEEKLY

Cynthia Erenas was a young girl making bread in Tijuana not too long ago. She emigrated to Boyle Heights to go to school, but wasn’t interested in going to college. Then she discovered STEM [Science Technology Engineering Math] classes.

Now Erenas is awaiting acceptance letters from MIT and Georgia Tech and giving TED talks. This is all thanks to her work with robotics: she helped organize the first robotics team ever in Boyle Heights and won the FIRST [For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology] Robotic Competition. P.S. — she was one of 10 winners from 32,000 participants AND the only one in California.

Erenas didn’t do it alone. Musician will.i.am’s i.am.angel Foundation helped fund after school programs like Erena’s robotic competition.

“Students are the future of this neighborhood,” will.i.am said in an interview with L.A. Weekly. “And their future opportunities to have careers, versus simply jobs, depend on them having 21st-century skills like math, science, engineering and writing code.”

Erenas agrees: “When it comes to engineering and science, out here [on the Eastside] we’re always told what we can’t do. But once you help build an environment where robotics and technology and all of it can be fostered, it just becomes natural for students.”

Read more about how will.i.am and his i.am.angel Foundation are changing education in Boyle Heights here

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