gender euphoria post with three trans Latinas in a collage

These Trans Latinas Share What Makes Them Euphoric All Year Long

Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla

Pride Month is that long-awaited time of year where we celebrate and appreciate everything that has to do with the queer community. But just because Pride is over, doesn’t mean that talking about queer experiences isn’t a year round affair. And included in that space are the often forgotten but always included (and essential in our history books) are trans women. Identifying as a trans latina can be incredibly difficult and dangerous — even if they do so silently and to themselves. A lot of trans Latinas do it anyway, because that’s simply who they are, during Pride and the other eleven months of the year

Gender euphoria is the feeling of joy when trans bodies and their expression matches their internal gender identity. While gender dysphoria is the exact opposite; a deep sadness and frustration of trans people’s where their physical expression doesn’t match their perception of themselves or how they want to look to others. Instead of focusing on the latter, we decided to give a spotlight to what brings trans Latinas gender euphoria. We spoke to three Latina trans women with differing backgrounds about their experiences: 

Aldita Gallardo is the Advisory Board Chair of El/La Para TransLatinas, a San-Francisco-based organization for translatinas to promote survival and improve quality of life. In contrast to her early-childhood queer awakening, Aldita’s transness came to her later in life. “It wasn’t until I moved to the Bay Area about 10 years ago, where I met other people expressing and labeling their genders where I was like oh,” she said. 

That’s certainly no rarity. Latines who grew up in small towns or even suburban areas tend to learn how to name their identities once they find community when they’re older. Thankfully, that seems to be changing thanks to the internet and the vast spectrum of creators telling their stories. All of that to say that just because we might not have the words to describe it, doesn’t mean it’s not felt.

“The first time I wore red lipstick that my friend let me borrow — she was also a Latino who rocked the bold red lip — and I wanted to do that. But I didn’t know that I could or that that was gender euphoria,” Aldita said. It might seem stereotypical, Latinas love for red lipsticks, but it’s popular for a reason — we simply own it. 

For trans women, especially trans latinas, gender euphoria is those basics we associate with womanhood: red lipsticks, dresses, gold hoops, makeup, among others. “Exploring what womanhood meant for me was always tied to my culture and ethnic background,” she said. That first time feels special because you’re allowing yourself to try the things you’ve secretly wanted to, from seeing the cis women in your life do those traditional feminine rituals. 

“I just remember the exact moment when I put on the clothes and I looked in the mirror. That was the big point-of-no-return,” Marielle de León told me. “I just saw myself and was like ‘oh, this is actually very correct.’” Marielle is currently running for candidacy for the municipal legislation of San Juan and is a member of various Puerto Rican LGBT+ organizations, including the Coalición 8 de Marzo de Puerto Rico. She first started questioning her gender identity during the summer of 2017, around the time she graduated from college. With the help of her therapist and friends, she started by wearing makeup and trying out feminine clothes. 

The first few years, she felt like she had to keep up a very feminine appearance. “Now, I feel more comfortable expressing myself without needing to do all of that,” she told me. “Although, I have to admit that when I do, it’s easier to get that euphoria.” Still, we can’t always have euphoric days. Sometimes dysphoria comes with a vengeance. “There’s still moments where it’s not perfect.” Marielle told me she has an appointment for later this year to get a FFS (facial feminization surgery) done. “My friends say your face looks great, that it already looks feminine. I’m like, yeah, but It can look better… for me.”

People’s physical appearances, sexuality, and others’ perceptions of you feels like a constant struggle in the trans and non-binary community. Sometimes, it can be what makes or breaks you — the line between euphoria and dysphoria. It doesn’t help when it feels like the current culture might be part of the problem. “It’s very hard sometimes to see people like me, Latine or Puertorriqueñe, because I can feel that the stereotypical view in Puerto Rico of trans women is that, in general, they’re all straight,” Marielle said. “I don’t fit that mold.”

But it doesn’t have to be all physical, sometimes it’s the little things that count the most: “I think some of the gender euphoria that came in wasn’t just from outer expression. It was seeing the name that I chose printed for the first time. I was like ‘oh, I am Anita, I am her.’ That was really beautiful,” she said. 

“I didn’t have words for it growing up, but I always wanted to be like my girlfriends,” Luna Cisnero told me. Luna is a drag queen and performer, also known as Luna Karr, who lives in a small town in Texas near the border. “I had a weird feeling in my chest all the time, where I just felt like I didn’t belong here. I guess it was my soul — it just didn’t belong in this body,” she said. Luna suppressed it for years because growing up in a conservative Border town was “going to be hard for me to survive in this environment.” 

Luna told me she first felt gender euphoria when she came back from the military in 2017. She painted her nails black for a local celebration of the border’s bicultural community called Sombrero Fest. “I was so scared to be judged for who I was, but I had never felt more freedom than that day,” she said. 

When I asked what gives her gender euphoria now in her everyday life, her answer surprised me: “I think it’s when I meditate and when I ground myself into appreciating every single part of this vessel,” she told me. “Sometimes I wake up with a lot of gender dysphoria, but I just meditate and feel gratitude for every single part of my body. I think those are the days where I feel more euphoric.”