Abandoning Venezuela to Find Myself: A Photo Essay of a Transgender Man in Miami
I live in a space between the water. On one side I see the life of tourists, or of those who are passing through to enjoy the virtues of the fourth most corrupt city in the U.S. On the other side, I live in a city-town, isolated and broken, divided by great highways, composed mainly by people, all very different from one another, who are “in the fight.” However, not everything is black or white. Miami also happens to be in a process of growth, investors are betting for life here so they decide to clean the neighborhoods, build modern buildings, create parks and recreational areas. This is known as gentrification. This city is currently living a transition highly celebrated by those who applaud the upper-class lifestyle and hated by those who are pushed out of their historic neighborhoods.
Changes. I look in the mirror and don’t recognize myself yet don’t remember how I looked before. Testosterone has had effects on me, these are almost unnoticeable to those who see me every day, including myself, but become evident if we compare a picture of me today to one taken 10 months ago. I have undoubtedly crossed thresholds that would’ve been impossible to cross in my native Venezuela. This is not only due to the access to treatment, but also the exchanges with other queer people who have allowed me to put myself in a place where, for the first time, I am who I am.
But how can I be composed of so many fragments? The broken Miami, the broken gender identity, the broken homeland. Just like a mosaic, I’ve learned to put my pieces back together, my personal exploration lies at the center: this is my transition. I have turned to LGBTQ+ events, parties, bars, and exhibitions all over the city. I am on a mission of finding the El Dorado of my identity. While doing this I have seen how cis gay men have a ball at Twist, a nightclub in Miami Beach that Versace used to go to. I’ve remembered Reinaldo Arenas’s classification of maricas at Azucar, a nightspot where Cubatón is the musical genre par excellence. I have put myself in evidence by scrutinizing the gender of the young people who enter Woods in Wynwood, all beautifully made up (it is clear that I still do not adapt to the existence of the non-binary). I’ve been to parties where the men wear cropped tops. I’ve seen a kiss between three santeros. I’ve heard a gay couple who, unable to understand themselves between English and Creole, have given everything to one another on the dance floor. I’ve seen, at the beach finally, the scars of a mastectomy in the chest of a transgender man. I have laughed my head off with the performance of a drag queen in Hialeah, a mythical place of Cubanity. And so, holding my queer girlfriend’s hand, I see that life is something else; something different from what it was two years ago when I arrived.
From the Tequesta Indians who occupied these coasts in the year 3 A.C., to the multiple immigration waves of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, Colombians, Venezuelans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, among others; the attacks and repercussions of the narco [drug culture], the luxuries of the Russians, the art deco architecture, the mixture of everything and nothing; the billionaire in that penthouse that I can see from the plane; the many corn products; the access to white cheese and Latin American vegetables at the mega corner market; and the LGBTQ+ picnic that I attended and surprised me by the variety of its members; to the pharmacist's greeting that once again gives me my corresponding monthly dose of hormones. I have come to accept Miami just as it is, because Miami has also accepted me just as I am.