Vives Q presented the final edition of its First Tuesday series for 2017 with a special book-release celebration Nov. 7 for trans activist and health/HIV educator Reyna Ortiz' memoir, T Stands for Truth: In Search of the Queen (Trans Fusions Publishing).
Ortiz not only spoke about her story in conversation with moderator Emmanuel Garcia, but was later joined by her mother, Anna Ortiz, and her mentor, Monica Fernandez, in a round-robin discussion. This edition of the series also included performances by Latinx drag artists Fatima Galindo, Gaby Badu and Lila Star, and featured a screening of rare footage of the late transgender icon Ms. Ketty in performance. The event took place at the National Museum of Mexican in Chicago's Pilsen area.
Emcee Antonio Elizondo introduced Garcia, who spoke candidly about Ortiz, a Vives Q volunteer and social-work advocate. (Ortiz works with Chicago House Social Service Agency as a Trans Safe coordinator, connecting trans-identified individuals to resources which includes housing, medical, and legal.)
Ortiz told Windy City Times in a recent interview, "[The book] is about my life and experience as a trans Latina in Chicago. From sex work to social work, telling my story is obviously really personal, but I wanted to be truthful."
When asked if some of the book's darkest sections were painful to write about, Ortiz said, "I thought it would be hard to write but the healing process was beautiful. What was painful as a 17-year-old going through the process is entirely different from a 30-year-old trans person's perspective."
When asked why she wrote the book, Ortiz said, "This is not about selling books. The purpose of the book is to educate people. I wanted to speak with younger kids who are going through the process, the loneliness youth face, coming out two times with parents and society. I really wanted to show them you could triumph."
Speaking about setting up her own publishing company, Trans Fusions Publishing, Ortiz said, "There are a lot of beautiful stories that need to be told and I am hoping that our next book will be someone else who wants to tell her story." She also said, "The most important thing is to share. The trans community hasn't progressed in 40 years because people are not having the difficult conversations they need to be having."
Asked about her youth and coming out at age 13, Ortiz pointed out that the support of her family was key, especially when she started high school. As a freshman she was bullied and called names, but by her senior year she was so popular that she was crowned queen at the prom.
"The key to all that was something I learned from my mother, that what was important for me was to always take pride in myself," she said. "When you start as a freshmen, you don't know anybody and people call you 'faggot' and talk about you. At the time I identified as gender-fluid and I was finding out what that meant for myself. In high school the other kids certainly didn't know what that meant. My older brother stepped up [to protect her] but getting crowned at the prom was a huge step. So many people would come up to me and say, 'I heard so and so about you, but you were in my math class and you're pretty cool.' I made it a point to show people who I was instead of telling them."
When asked about trans allies and what they can do to help, Ortiz said, "An ally is not just a term, it's an action. It's not just a label, you have to do the work. We need people to not say they are an ally, we need them to BE an ally."
Later, when she was joined by Fernandez and Ortiz's mother, the dialogue shifted to raising and helping a trans child. Anna Ortiz spoke about feeling guilt for not knowing how to support Reyna and said, though she loved her deeply, "I didn't know what to do." Fernandez said, "You have to love your children for who they are, not who you want them to be. You gave her [Reyna] unconditional love and that's what she needed."
Also during this edition of Vives Q footage of Ketty Teanga from an Association of Latinx Motivating Action (ALMA) fundraiser was shown by Garcia, who filmed her in 2009 for an assignment for Windy City Times. Miss Ketty was inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame on Nov. 8.
After the festivities, Ortiz met her public for a book-signing.
The next Vives Q event is Tuesday, Jan. 9, at The National Museum of Mexican Art.