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Homo Say WHAT!?
Paletero! Paletero!
by Tony Alvarado-Rivera

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En la vida, hay momentos que digo, I am so-so glad to be me. There were also moments in my past, which I was so angry at being me. I was mad that I wasn't good at all the other stuff boys my age were good at. Instead of playing wrestling at the age of 10, I was busy taping my favorite songs off of Oldies 104.3.

Whenever el paletero came along, I was never asked which flavor paleta I wanted. No. No one cared that my favorite was and still is mango. Instead, they gave me the pink one because yo era rosita. I was pink. Now of course, I have no problems being pink. In fact, I welcome the opportunity of bending gender norms and breaking gender stereotypes. My past could very well be the reason I was always so funky back in school. I would bust out my 4-inch platform shoes, press on some polyester, and twinkle my eyes with a little red eyeliner—back when I was going through my 'I'm a druggie' look. ( I know, I was a mess, I'm the first to admit it. ) I would always have a cutest man bag, i.e. purse, to match my ensemble. Still to this day I don't know how I survived in the hood! The first time I ever did drag was during a summer retreat for future teachers.

The event wasn't made to mock the trans community, but it certainly didn't celebrate it either. I wasn't going to participate, but as the resident 'I'm here and I'm Queer' person, at the last minute I decided to give it a go. In two seconds I was out on Belmont shopping for a wig, a dress, and a pair of nylons. My look ... was a little retro and very neon green. The crowd went wild.

The next year, I tore up some material and made my very own Union Jack dress ala Geri Halliwell Brit Awards. It was then that my fancy for glamour was born. At shoe stores, I almost always find the cutest and cheapest stuff in the 'women's' section. I head down to thrift stores and buy bracelets and costume jewelry bigger than my dreams.

When my mom saw my nuevo look, she flipped and told me I was way too gay. Over my shoulder I carry the old-school plastic Mexican mercado bags and head to Dominick's with no reluctance.

If I could pull off the Frida Pre-Columbian look, you know I would have a changito on my back.

After my fancy for things classified for the 'opposite sex' continued, I had the chance to do a play in which my character has a one-minute costume change from corduroys into a black thigh-high dress. At first I was kind of reluctant because I didn't want to make a fool out of myself, but once I slipped on those heels over my nylons and took one look at my legs, I knew this experience was divine. Being in that dress, even though it was a character, was so exhilarating. It allowed this alter ego to come out and play. A person inside was dying to come out.

I was always afraid of letting that person out because I was supposed to be macho. And me being gay does not mean that I want to identify as a woman, but I for sure want to use my title to go all out and experience the joy of being a queer person.

In a culture driven by machismo and 'tradition,' there's so much to lose by being effeminate. I say, forget that ... make your own rules and learn to have fun with yourself. Let's rid ourselves of this 'sissyphobia' and learn to explore our genders a little more. Instead of looking down at las vestidas or las transvestites, make the connection that they gave us the freedom of being who we are.

Trans folk started the revolution, and now we dare look down on them? Sylvia Rivera, and others who have since passed, allow us to be free. Take her legend and learn to examine your gender and your roles.

Latino Gay men are far too often categorized into el hombre y la mujer. Break the mold, check a new box ... just learn to be yourself and then you will see how the world is so much more once you set your mind, body, and soul free! So come on comadritas, here comes the paletero ... I dare you to take a good lick of that pink paleta. ( wink-wink ) .

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