As a Boricua FTM, I can honestly say I don’t know many of us. However, I have been blessed to be introduced to one: Paxx. I met Paxx during my tumblr days. He contacted me introducing himself and being the awful message-replyer I am, it took me a minute to respond. Once finally in contact, I began asking him lots of questions. I grew up in the Northeastern part of the United States—an area of the USA populated by thousands of Puerto Ricans of various generations. Being a Boricua living in Diaspora has actually afforded me a great amount of privilege in terms of access to transitioning tools. My knowledge of the island’s queer resources was both limited and exclusively from research (not experience). I wondered what kinds of resources or communities there were on the island for FTMs and all gender variant folx. What was his everyday life like? What was his daily experience as a gender variant Boricua?
But apparently I was not the first to ask these same questions. Paxx started telling me about the documentary Mala Mala—directed by Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles. Premiering at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, Liza Domnitz describes Mala Mala as “a celebration of the trans community in Puerto Rico, the fissure between internal and external is an ever-present battle. A unique exploration of self-discovery and activism, featuring a diverse collection of subjects that include LGBTQ advocates, business owners, sex workers, and a boisterous group of drag performers who call themselves The Doll House. Mala Mala portrays a fight for personal and community acceptance paved with triumphant highs and devastating lows.” I asked Paxx if I could interview him for La Respuesta — both about Mala Mala and his own personal life, and he agreed. So without further ado, check out my interview with a lovely human who I deeply respect and feel honored to have crossed paths with:
EJD: Introduce yourself! Who is Paxx?
PM: I’m an art school drop-out turned cook; been cooking for the past 13 years. I’m originally from Mayagüez, a college town on the west side of the island. Moved to San Juan in my early 20s. I thought I was gonna be a college professor or a graphic artist, even a photographer but I guess life had other plans. Which I luv because cooking for me is truly an art form and it makes me happy. I also identify as trans/ genderqueer and my preferred pronouns are they/ them/ their and I don’t mind he/ him. Also, technically, I’m still not out to my parents because religion ate them and they’re in denial.
EJD: How did you make it into the Mala Mala film? Were you approached by the directors?
PM: We met through Instagram. One of the directors saw a photo and we started tawkin’. Now we are all friends, the directors and both my g.f. and I. they even stay at our home everytime they come to PR; They’re great!
EJD: Why is a film like Mala Mala important?
PM: Well, I think it’s important because it showcases a community that is often pretty much invisible in PR. Also, the tone of the movie is one that feels more like a celebration on diversity so people can see that we are not as strange or fuct up as they think we are. We are just regular folks.
EJD: What social and medical spaces exist for trans* people in Puerto Rico? Are there queer clinics, support groups, ect?
PM: For trans women there are more spaces. Right now there is the butterflies trans foundation run by Ivana Fred, one of the most popular trans spokepersons On the island. For trans guys, I don’t have much info, Except for this young psychologist who as part of her graduating thesis started interviewing masculine identified folks. I met her through one of my besties and she started interviewing me. She along with some others are trying to help build a community for us.
EJD: How has being Boricua shaped your understanding and expression of your masculinity?
PM: Well I’m not your typical machista/ macharrán guy. I’m one who likes alway to help and give a hand. I’ve always been involved in activism for the independence of Puerto Rico, for the working class, for all queer rights. I guess i’m just a guy that wants to be productive in this society, someone who sees everyone with equal eyes for everyone.
EJD: You’re starting up a food truck! Tell me about that.
PM: My gf and I are really stoked about this one. It’s taken us two years of literally “dejar el pellejo pegao.” Mucho blood, sweat and tears. It’s hard work but we are proud! The thing is that the government takes so much time to give permits to hard working people that actually want to do something great in their town. If we were a multi-national like Walmart or Starbucks we woulda gotten those permits with closed eyes. I have so much friends that just moved to the US and Europe even South America because they got so frustrated with the current economic distress of the island. But I’m just not ready yet to give up!
We are right now running a campaign to raise funds for our truck, go here to help.
EJD: Ultimately, what do you want people to know about the Puerto Rican queer and trans* community in Puerto Rico?
PM: That we exist!!!!