Saturday, August 22, 2009
Who Would You Want to Meet in a Dark Alley?
Beth-Sua at a vela. New York Times Photo
I was at the acupuncturist this morning lying flat on my back with seven tiny needles stuck in me. "Howsa feel?" the doctor asked. I rub my head and frown. "Not so good, head hurts." Leaving out the pronouns and smaller words in general, I believe, will make me more understandable to Dr. Chau whose English is limited. Outside his storefront operation, the N Judah rumbles by causing the building to vibrate. Inside the dry, powdery smell of medicinal herbs is comforting. I'm looking forward to a restful hour on the couch. So I'm lying there with the needles and the heat lamps and the treacley Chinese/new age music playing softly in the background when my mind wanders in a southerly direction coming to rest in Oaxaca among the Muxe of Mexico in all their cosmetically enhanced, bewigged glory. To be honest all I know of these "mixed-gender" people is what I've read and seen in a New York Times article from about a year ago entitled "A Lifestyle Distinct: The Muxe of Mexcio."
Distinct indeed. Not only are they full fledged transvestites, but in rural Mexico they are very much out and about. Supported by their families, celebrated at parties and balls in their honor. There are pictures of them with their mothers, fathers and grandparents-- a rough looking lot to say the least and to be honest not the kind of people I'd want to bump into in a darkened alley, and yet they seem to have transcended centuries of hatred and homophobia without a moment of angst.
True no one smiles much but so what, they accept their girls for who they are, even consider them to have special intellectual and artistic gifts. Of her 13 year old Muxe grandson, one woman says, "it is how God sent him." A father extols his Muxe son's virtues by citing what a help he is to his mother; to both of them. " Why would I get mad," he wonders aloud. "Why would I reject him?" I'll leave you to ponder the rarity and wisdom of these two simple, uneducated peasants. So maybe I'm wrong, maybe they are exactly the kind of people I'd want to run into in the dark. Maybe I'd even seek them out with a flashlight and offer them free drinks at the bar of their choice.
From the article, one image in particular is quite arresting; a Muxe called Beth-Sua, born Orlando, is pictured head back, hair adorned with a nest of tiny silk roses and smoking a cigarette at a vela or community celebration. Maybe she's forty or forty five. If ever the line "don't fuck with me fellas" was meant to be uttered by anyone it would be Beth-Sua. She's an organizer and AIDS activist who makes her living embroidering huipiles, the traditional blouse of the Isthmus region. Was there ever anyone who appeared more comfortable in their powdered, mascared skin than Beth-Sua? I don't think so. You go girl! And don't change a hair for me--or anybody else.