Self-Expression, Beauty Rituals, and Uplifting The Trans Community With Mariana Marroquin

Learn about LA's Trans Wellness Center and how to become a better ally for the trans community.
annkrishaannkrisha
Jun. 24, 2020
campaign, cherie
Cherie is an online community of beauty lovers sharing their stories; whether that's their favorite products, makeup tutorials, or skincare routines. Download the app today to be a part of #BeautyWithoutBarriers and show the world what beauty means to you!It's Pride Month! Here at Cherie we're celebrating it by amplifying queer voices and stories. It's important that with every month of celebration we also include moments of education. While continuous support and education for all parts of the LGBTQ+ community is important in creating understanding, I wanted to bring light to the "t"— trans lives. Trans people have been underserved for far too long with people often not knowing that intersectional bodies are some of the most endangered. The lack of understanding and acceptance towards the trans community from the broader majority of people, primarily cis-gendered heterosexuals, have disproportionally harmed trans lives. I spoke with Mariana Marroquin, the Program Manager of LA LGBT's Trans Wellness Center, to talk about her life, trans allyship, the hardships they face, the wonderful work being done by community centers like TWC, and what beauty means to her. What is the importance of spaces like LA's Trans Wellness Center?The Trans Wellness Center is a space where people like me have worked for more than a decade, asking to have our own space and to be led by our community. That’s something that makes us very unique. For many years, when we would talk about HIV and STD prevention and care, we were a community that would be left behind. We were always being told about what we need to do, but we never had the opportunity to be the ones actually making the decisions. I think when we finally opened the Trans Wellness Center two years ago, it carried that legacy of my trans sisters who have worked to have our voices and our bodies and our lives uplifted in many different ways. Why do you think the T for trans lives is often left out in conversations when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community?I think people still don’t have the chance to actually listen to us. Someone asked me “How can I be a good ally to the trans community?” I’m like, “Just forget about every assumption you have about me and just hear me. Just listen to my needs, who I am, and what my message is in this world. And what I need to say.” And that happens a lot. People want to come alongside trans women and the trans community without giving us the space to explain our needs or our goals in our lives and as a community. And we have a new generation of gender non-binary and gender non-conforming people who I celebrate and who I’m learning from. I take a step back and I just want them to tell me about them. I’m an immigrant woman from Guatemala who came here to be a woman and know what it means to be a woman. It’s interesting how, in many years working with my community, I keep learning about what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a trans woman and what it means to be a trans leader as well. Because everything is changing and evolving and I’m so happy about that. I think talking about beauty isn’y about physical beauty; it’s about who you are and what your contribution is to society. That’s the most important thing people need to know about the T. That message, when we talk about other issues… I remember when we were talking about marriage equality. The trans community was supportive of marriage equality. The trans community has always been behind every movement, but when it’s time to talk specifically about the T, we don’t have that many spaces to do so.What are some issues that the trans community deals with?We don’t have the same opportunities for employment. Regardless of our qualifications, education, or skills, we just don't get the same opportunities. Employment and education are important things that we all need to have access to. A lot of our youth decided to not continue their education because there's a lot of bullying, staring, and misgendering of them at school. It’s a shame because I believe we are a community that humanity can learn about resilience from. It doesn’t matter what we go through, we keep going every day. It doesn’t matter if our family or any other people say “I don’t see you” or “You’re not who you say you are”—we keep going out into the world. Every day is a challenge of people questioning who we are. People will ask “but what is your REAL name?” These are things that any other human being wouldn’t get asked every day. People don’t get questioned about who they are and whether they belong in certain spaces. People are beginning to also see how many transgender women of color are being murdered every year due to hate and prejudice and no one is doing anything about it. So that is the reality out there. If you are a parent and you have a very young child who is beginning to express themselves as a transgender person, and you see that there is so much hate out there, you’re going to worry and you’re going to try and change that kid instead of supporting who they are. But there is a community out there and there are allies who are curious about who we are and who want to give us the platform to show the world who we are. Ann: It makes me think about how there’s this inherent misunderstanding of the trans community and I think a lot of the time, people, when they don’t understand something, don’t take the time to understand it. They just dehumanize it because it’a easier to stay on course with things you do know than to be uncomfortable and learn about things you don’t know.We are so open to speak and to talk about our lives. I always say to not focus on the trans part. Ask me who I am and where I came from. Ask me what my goals are and about my experiences. In that moment, all those ideas you have about the community go down and you can actually meet the real human being behind the T.How do you continue to uplift yourself and members of the trans community?Something that every human needs is a sense of belonging. In LGB communities, the T was always left behind. When we go out and we go to school and we go to work every day, people can tell that we’re very unique and that we’re very different—that’s something that I appreciate when it comes to having this platform where we can share who we are as human beings, and not just as a letter that we celebrate every year. For us, pride is every single day. When I wear makeup, it's a celebration that I have a job and that I have a place to go and I have a mission that I need to accomplish. That’s something I’ll never take for granted. We all have the power to be the person to make the difference for others. There’s always someone you can help, no matter how down you’re feeling. Sometimes we think about how we’re the ones who need help but that’s not always true. There’s always something you can do for others. I’m part of a team where, despite what we’ve been through, we’re able to put others first and we’re able to empathize. We all can find the place where we can be a part of a team where we can make others stronger.What are some of your greatest accomplishments in your life?Having a job where I can be who I am. If I were to lose my job tomorrow, I believe I would be in a place where I’m struggling to find a job and to find a new place in our society. I’ve been able to help create a place where I can allow people to be themselves and I’ve been able to provide a safe space for others. I’m happy that, while at some point in my life I needed a chance, now I’m the one who is able to give people chances. Being about to create those opportunities for others is so fulfilling. I feel like I’m wise and experienced now and like I have something to tell new generations. I never imagined that I would be alive to witness this and be a part of this. It’s amazing. I work in immigration too and there are around 100 individuals who came to this country in my same situation — with fear, without knowing the language, without knowing what their situation would look like. And I was the one connecting them with immigration attorneys and telling them “I know you’re scared right now, but things will be different in a year to two.” I always keep in contact with them and it’s so nice because I know that feeling and I get to work on behalf of these people. What are some of your favorite beauty rituals? What do you love about beauty?My grandmother and my mother are two women who I love and admire so much. They always talked about finding the best way to feel good and to look good. Growing up, I remember putting on my first peel-off mask and that was a moment where we connected so well. I was that little boy who was very close to her. Those little moments were so important because we shared something together. We’re still doing that now. In that time, it was not okay for other people to see. But it was okay for my mom. Because she knew that I was, no matter what, her child. She knew she needed to protect me. We’re still bonding through beauty: finding the best lipstick, finding the best masks, making homemade treatments for hair and everything. That’s something we enjoy a lot together. I think that’s something that we share intimately. I think that boys have that with their dads; I had that with my mom. She had the same thing with her mom. It’s fun and I enjoy everything that makes me closer to the way I feel inside. I didn’t have the chance to do that growing up, so I do that now. I own my own beauty and I own my own face and I own my own body and I can’t ever take that for granted. I have a message to send every day through beauty: I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. I really love that families are being more supportive of their children and their gender expression. Growing up in Guatemala and having my uncles talking about me and criticizing my mother for letting me be me was very hard to go through. Now I can see kids wearing feminine clothes and playing with barbies and being who they want to be and that is the most gratifying thing to witness. It’s interesting how you have the chance to educate your parents. My mother always knew I was different, but she didn’t know anything about being trans. Now I have the chance to talk about other trans people and I have the chance to tell her that re lipstick is not the best lipstick for everybody. We need to celebrate body shapes, color, and everyone in life. We’re getting into good conversations all the time and we’re learning together.Fill in the blank: I express ________ through beauty.I express my true self through beauty. There is a beautiful word in the trans community: transition. Transition isn’t only for trans people. Transition is for everyone. Every day you need to try to be your best self, the best person you can be. It’s a constant transition. It doesn’t start and it doesn’t end. You should be always trying. I believe that’s a beautiful journey that we need to enjoy and that applies to every human being. If yesterday you have one style and tomorrow you decide to go for something different, that’s okay. That’s great because you OWN that and it’s your right as a human being to send a message to others. That is important to remember. People focus on being complete and it’s not about that. It’s a beautiful journey of transition every single day. You can have hard days and you can be sad. But tomorrow you need to keep going. Growing up it was very sad and very depressing. Sometimes I remember that. But now I’m so vivid and so full of life that it was so worth it.
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