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Trans leader Reyna Ortiz on new book, being prom queen
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2017-11-01

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Trans Latinx activist and advocate Reyna Ortiz's upcoming book, "T: Stands for Truth," will be released Nov. 7.

"It is about my life and experiences as a trans Latina living in Chicago," said Ortiz. "From sex work to social work, telling my story is obviously really personal. But, I wanted it to be truthful. So many trans women are living a very similar lifestyle and it is necessary to shine a light on these issues. Trans women need to break free from the perception of what society expects from us. Why can't trans woman of color strive for better, for success?"

This is not the first time Ortiz has told her story. She was also featured on StoryCorps ( www.wbez.org/shows/wbez-news/transgender-teenager-named-prom-queen/2802b91e-f552-4fdc-8c31-09c35ad6b25d ).

"StoryCorps was a great experience," said Ortiz. "I really started to understand how impactful my story can be with regards to educating society about the trans experience."

Ortiz was born in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago and has three brothers ( older brother John and younger brothers Israel and Rafael ).

"I went to public schools mostly in Cicero, Illinois," said Ortiz. "My freshman year at Morton East High School was probably the hardest to endure. I believe I was the first person at the school to introduce them to what 'gender fluidity' means. I was determined to have a high school experience the way I felt I deserved.

"Of course, there was a small percentage of my high school that were very uncomfortable with me. Initially, I had to fight my way through the halls and early on my older brother John had to step in. He showed the school that I was protected, that I had a support system, that was not going to allow people to bully or intimate me. After that incident my high school experience became pretty normal. I really had a great time in high school, very minimal instances of discrimination."

Ortiz ( who self-identified as a two-spirit, androgynous, genderfluid youth at the time ) was named prom queen in 1998 and calls that night a pivotal moment in her life. She said this was the moment she achieved respect from her peers by winning the highest honor of femininity.

In addition to being an author, Ortiz is the trans resource navigator for TaskForce Prevention and Community Services ( the only LGBT organization in the heart of the West Side of Chicago ) where her primary roles are as health educator, HIV counselor and drop-in coordinator.

"Taskforce, or what the youth call 'The Vogue School,' is one of my most favorite places to be," said Ortiz. "We provide a safe space for African-American and Latinx LGBTQ youth. It is a phenomenal place where youth can express themselves without judgment or ridicule. We offer various resources and referrals that can benefit our youth—housing, medical, legal, PrEP and most importantly support and guidance."

Ortiz is also the TransSafe coordinator for Chicago House, where she connects trans-identified people to resources involving housing, legal, medical and employment opportunities.

She also founded, alongside GiGi Boom and Monica Fernandez, Trans Women in Real Life ( T.W.I.R.L ) to build community and pride as well as educate and empower trans indentified women.

Ortiz's message to allies put their words into action to help trans and gender nonconforming people get ahead. This includes learning about trans people and issues, hiring them and standing up to people who say anti-trans slurs or other comments.

"At this time in my life, simplicity is important to me," said Ortiz. "I love to cook, write and work. My work is a huge part of my life. I never would have thought that working for my trans community would bring me so much fulfillment, peace and happiness."

In Ortiz's message to fellow trans and gender nonconforming people, she invoked Channyn Lynne Parker's quote "It is a good day to be trans," adding, "Trans women are taking more pride in our community. We are striving for success, entrepreneurship and leadership roles so we can prosper. Keep living and pushing yourself but also enjoy the moment. Sometimes we get all wrapped up in the bureaucracy of gender that we forget what it is all about. Live, laugh, use condoms and take your hormones."

Vives Q will be hosting a free event to celebrate Ortiz's book release Tuesday, Nov. 7 at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St., 6-9 p.m.

The event will include a talk by Ortiz; a panel featuring people in her book; and performances by entertainers Gaby Bady, Fatima Galindo and Lila Star. Also, Ortiz's book will be available for purchase.

To register for the event, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/vives-q-presents-t-stands-for-truth-book-release-celebration-tickets-37979278043 .


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