In the ultra-macho, predominantly male world of pro wrestling, Mariah Moreno certainly stands outeven at only 5'9" and 140 pounds.
Moreno is, perhaps, the only out transgender pro wrestler in the world, although now she is just making her name"Amanda, The Bloodthirsty Vixen"competing in small regional, domestic promotions, often in front of sparse crowds.
She's nowhere near the worldwide fame that comes to all associated with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) or Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling, the top two promotions in the United States. But the girl's got a dream, that's for sureand she thinks big.
"I've always been a fan," of pro wrestling, said Moreno, 27, who has had a particular fondness for the now-defunct Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW).
"While in high school, I caught wrestling on TV, and quickly became addicted. I had to watch it; I couldn't get enough of it. And still can't, to this day."
Moreno lives in Long Beach, Calif., and has competed for such promotions as East Coast Lucha Libre and Legion Championship Wrestling. She has been a wrestling manager for three years and actually wrestling for a year.
"I was nervous just a bit [when I started in wrestling], but really no different than anything else that I do in life. When I start a new job, or go to school, or go to the market … yeah, I'm being more physical with these people [as a wrestler], but it's work; it's a job," she said.
Amanda wrestles against men and women, and she said, "it's been amazing, really a lot of fun, with a lot of friendly people."
Being transgender has not been a problem for Moreno. Or for the wrestlers she works with and against. But some promoters have told her, 'Thanks, but no thanks.' And that doesn't bother Moreno.
"That's absolutely fine and understandable since those are family-oriented companies with a high percent of minors in the crowd," Moreno said. "There's a secret behind the name, A-man-duh," she says, stressing each syllable.
"I've had a couple of companies in southern California that will not hire me because I'm transgenderthat's because they are family-oriented companies with a lot of kids in the crowd. It bothers me, but I totally understand because, well, I'm something out of the ordinary; I'm not something you're going to see when you go to the normal grocery story, for instance."
Still, she added, "I've had an exciting career so far."
Moreno wrestles almost every weekend, and works as a caregiver to the elder in her day job. She previously spent two years working at a tanning salon.
"I would love to pursue a full-time career in pro wrestlingwith WWE, TNA, or in Mexico or Japan," Moreno said. "My character is very mysterious; not many people know much about me. My character also is hardcore; I've done some crazy stunts in the past, some crazy dives, [through] tables, barbed wire and more.
"I'm pretty wild in the ring; I'm kind of crazy and out there."
Being an out trans also has never been an issue.
"I was born male and, at age 15, I decided to start living my life as a female," said Moreno, who had breast-augmentation surgery about five years ago. "I plan on going forward with [full transition] surgery within the next five to seven years.
"I've actually felt this way since the age of 5. I was very open and vocal about how I felt at a very, very young age. In kindergarten, for instance, when the teacher asked to divide the students, boys on one side and girls on the other, I strongly felt I was female, so I went over to the girls' side. And I caused a scene when the teacher asked me to go to the boys' side [of the room], so much that my grandmother, who was my guardian, had to be called in."
At 10, "that's when I really started to feel like I was not in the right body," Moreno said.
At 15, Moreno started dressing like a female, "and it worked for me."
It worked despite issues from other students. "Yeah, I've had my share of brutal kids, but I think I ultimately gained their respect because I wasn't one to be picked on," Moreno said. "I lived my life the way I wanted to live it, and I think everyone in school knew that. I've always been vocal about who and what I am. And I wasn't going to let anyone shut me up or scare me, not at all."
Does Moreno consider herself a role model for the LGBT community?
"I'm not sure about [being] a role model, but I do feel like I am opening doors, and I hope the world is noticing that transgenders are as actual humans, and people who can get physical in the ring; we're not just these fragile individuals," Moreno said. "I hope to be a role model to other transgenders in the future."
Moreno is single and said she is attracted to men.
"The wrestlers have been great; I've never had a [personal] problem with another wrestler, and hope I never do," Moreno said. "They have been very respectful to my lifestyle."
For more about "Amanda," go to www.santinobros.com .