Queer Goggles

Let's Have A Kiki

April 17, 2019 Brian Poth, Nick Vargas, Kiki Vela Season 1 Episode 2
Queer Goggles
Let's Have A Kiki
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Queer Goggles
Let's Have A Kiki
Apr 17, 2019 Season 1 Episode 2
Brian Poth, Nick Vargas, Kiki Vela

Kiki Vela joins Queer Goggles to talk about her experience with Leadership Academy, her passion and advocacy with the LGBT+ community, the importance of transgender visibility, and access to health care for trans women of color in Tulare County. Kiki is a fierce leader, drag performer, and all around awesome advocate for the community.

Support the show (http://paypal.me/thesourcelgbt)

Show Notes Transcript

Kiki Vela joins Queer Goggles to talk about her experience with Leadership Academy, her passion and advocacy with the LGBT+ community, the importance of transgender visibility, and access to health care for trans women of color in Tulare County. Kiki is a fierce leader, drag performer, and all around awesome advocate for the community.

Support the show (http://paypal.me/thesourcelgbt)

Speaker 1:

Hey everybody, this is Brian Path from the source LGBT plus center . And this is queer goggles.

Speaker 2:

[inaudible]

Speaker 1:

this week we're talking to Kiki Vella , one of our leadership academy participants about her experience with leadership academy equity on the mall and what it's like to be a trans woman of color in central California.

Speaker 3:

Okay. So my name is key . Um, I am 26 years old now cause I just turned 26 happy birthday. Oh, thank you. And um, my pronouns are she, her, hers. And the way I learned about the leadership academy was through my brother cause he previously did it the year before last year and he most immediate [inaudible] he motivated me to do it. So I signed up and ,

Speaker 1:

and you were like busy with another leadership academy at the same time, right? You had two things going on. Yeah. How did she do that?

Speaker 3:

Um, I like split my time. Well the good thing about it about the other leadership academy is that it's on another day. So that makes perfect sense for me to like go to both. So I just, I mean, I dropped out of school , so I was like, I don't have much time, so I might as well kill like my time. We're like doing something positive for the community.

Speaker 1:

That's great. And so , um, you were, so you work full time, you're in to leadership academies , um , and you are really active in the LGBT community. I think you were, you've been active as a performer, as an activist, all of that stuff. Even before we met you, I had heard of you through Ruben . Yeah. So we were really lucky to get you. Yeah. Um, and then , um, you know, you are very vocal about , um, a trans woman of color, how important visibility is. Um, can you tell us a little bit about that and how you feel , um, like what you bring to the table in terms of , um, who you are and how you feel about things.

Speaker 3:

Oh, okay. Um, so yeah, I am very passionate about like having transgender rights because , um, as we've all of know, we've all known that the gay movement was started by Trans Women of color. There were, if anybody knows about Marsha p Johnson, she was the first , um, trans woman to like, so possibly that's, they say that she was like the first one to initiate the fight and she was the first one to throw a brick at stonewall and in when the police were rating stonewall. So I'm like, I'm very passionate about Trans Women of color, trans rights and being visible because for so long I had to like not really be myself. I was like scared to, to like show my true self. I was scared to like to show any kind of femininity is I was acting a certain way. Like I was, I was scared. So it was like time for me to like be like who I wanted to be.

Speaker 1:

And how have things gone for you since , um, since you made that discovery?

Speaker 3:

Um, it's been really good. Thank God I have a very supportive family. Cause I feel like supporting having a supportive family is like, it's like the greatest gift of all because I feel like if you didn't like if I didn't have someone that's really close to me, like guiding me through on the right path, I would like be lost. And I wouldn't like be here in this earth on this earth cause I probably would like take my own life or because that's what happens to a lot of trans people. They become very depressed in that sometimes they are kicked out of their homes, they're beaten up and it's sad and I think that it helps to have someone there being supportive, holding your hand and you know.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And I met your family. I love your parents. I think they're amazing people. Um, you know, I know siblings can sometimes get on everybody's nerves, but you have a really great brother as well and um, you're, you're very fortunate , um, in that regard. For sure. I've known you for a while and I feel like , um, you know, I knew you as a performer and so I feel like you have a very, you have a very interesting past in that you, you know, you've lived a lot of your time in front of an audience. So can you tell me a little bit about how you started performing and then how that sort of influenced you becoming , uh , an activist or, or who you are today?

Speaker 3:

Oh yeah. So I started performing when I first turned 21 I've been a fan of, I'm like, well, even before, like I'm a trans woman who does track . Um, but even before I did drag, I was always performing. I was always singing. I was always like in productions, I'd vote, vote if I wasn't in productions, I was singing in talent shows or like in some kind of choir. Um, so the way I got into performing was the love of music and that like drives me to be a great, excellent performer. And the way I got into drag was through small drag competitions. I was really nervous and it was like it was my first time doing drag and I look busted as hell and it was like a learning experience. Even though I didn't win the competition, I still like had the drive in me to like still keep pushing on and still like perform wherever I had the chance. I would like beg and message all the Queens and Fresno cause that's where I normally perform. I would like message all of them. I would like I was saying in like 10 or 15 messages before they even responded cause that's how committed I was. And when I do perform I like to add like some kind of special message tied within my performance, whether it be something like racism, transphobia, anything like that. I like to put that in my performance because it shows that, oh she's like leading like she's actually doing something like I'm in . Yes I'm entertaining an audience but I'm also like making them learn about, you know, these major issues that that are going on right now. Especially Violence Against Trans Women of color. Some trans women of color don't even get to live over the age of 35.

Speaker 1:

Those are terrible statistics. Yeah. So part of what we did for our leadership academy this year was continue our clinic visits. And so we partnered with act for women and girls and they , um , talked to us about reproductive access, access for teens, access for youth with reproductive health. And then we looked at that through an LGBT Lens. And so when we're looking at access in the central valley for healthcare , for most people, it doesn't even matter if you're LGBT. It's not great. There's travel's a hard for people. And then, you know, sometimes they have to wait, you know, weeks to see their primary care provider and forget it. If you have a specialty need, you know. So , um, how was your clinic visit? How did that go for you and how does that, what does that feel like for a trans woman of color here in the Central Valley accessing reproductive health care ? What did that feel like?

Speaker 3:

Well, when I did my first clinic visit, it was cool, calm, collected. I was able to like state my name and tell him like the correct pronouns that I go by. Sometimes it was, it can be a little hard because I went to, I believe it was um, family healthcare network in Traver and when I went in I told him like, oh, I would like to get an STD, STI check. She didn't even bother to like, oh, do you want to HIV as well? You would think that they would like provide that HIV as well as like the HIV test as well. Right . And I also told him like, oh, can I have a full panel? And they're like, they like looked at me kind of weird. They're like a full panel. Like what do you need a full , I was like a full panel. Like I want be checking all STDs. Like, and they asked, I told her like, make sure to like check the throat when you're doing tests for like STDs, the throat never comes up. You could have an STD in your throat and not even know it . So that's why it's a very important to let the doctor know, like to do these extra t tests on you because you may do, you may be doing like a blood test, which is called yes. Um, it shows up or a urine test for , um , checking STDs, but sometimes there's other areas that it won't even come in , in the blood or the urine. So at some pertinent it's important to like let them know like, oh, can you check this as well?

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And you know that about , um, your house and you know, a lot more than most people your age I think. And so you're able to ask for those things because you're aware of them. There are a lot of people that just, you know, when they go to the doctor, they feel very nervous. Um, they're just, they just want to get in. They just want to get out. Especially if you're there for an s t I check. Great . So you just want to , you just kind of want to go in under the radar and if you don't know to bring up these things , um, you could walk out and not get tested for the right thing and not be offered an HIV test. Um, syphilis is high in our area as well. And so , um, for you to ask no to ask for a full panel , um, is really great. Um, it's, it's, it would be nice if they offered it. I mean it's sort of like only logical if you're having any sort of sex that is maybe unprotected, then you're at risk for all sts . Right. So , um, so that was in, that was in Traver. And um, were you able to go to any other clinic visits like at planned parenthood or anything?

Speaker 3:

I went to the one in dynadot , which is basically like my primary care and, okay. He like advises you to like, if you're sexually active and you're out there having sex, no mother , if you're gay, straight, whatever you are, he like recommends for you to be on prep because prep as a preventative drug that prevents you from contracting HIV. And he like, he even asks me like, Oh, do you know anybody else that can benefit from this? And it's simple. It's like, it's good to know that we have a doctor in Dana Point California that is aware of like STD rates going really high and HIV is going high as well. And for him to take initiative to be like, Hey, do you know anybody else that can benefit from this? It's like, really, it's like a positive thing to hear from a doctor.

Speaker 1:

It's sort of surprising. I mean there , there has, there was a lie I think passed in 2016 , um, called 26 40, which requires , um, doctors and physicians and anyone providing STI, you know, tests that if somebody tests for HIV and they're negative to offer them access and information about prep. And so many people still aren't doing that. Um, so it's really, it's really nice to hear that , uh , the clinic in de Nuba is what , what was that clinic again?

Speaker 3:

It's an alternative that's all in out . Um , yeah ,

Speaker 1:

that's awesome. Um, that's really awesome. So, you know , um , part of the work that we do for San Joaquin Valley, how fun is to change policies and systems. And so just by, you know, going in and asking and being aware of our bodies as LGBT people , um, we can ask for the right things for us. And oftentimes just doing that sparks like a doctor to go, oh, you know what, maybe I should do that for all my clients. Yeah . You know, or like, hey, maybe more people could benefit from prep. Um, so I just want to thank you so much for the time that you've spent with us , um, in leadership this year. You are a great example of what it means to be a leader and , um, and I appreciate you. Oh, thank you. Um, I want to ask you maybe one more question , uh , or two , uh, really quick. So if you could describe , um , your experience in Sacramento advocating at , uh, uh, equality on the mall, what would you say was, was that the first time you'd ever done something like that?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it was the first time I ever went to like an event late then . Um, I would describe it as really like inspirational. Like everybody was there , like wanting to change, wanting to change laws, wanted to present law , um , bells and stuff like that. And it was like amazing to see like that many people out there like Po , like coming together, like wanting change in America. Yeah. Well in California.

Speaker 1:

Well, yeah, I mean, we're California, America, you know, let's change what we can. Yeah. Um , we're pretty lucky to live in California. Yeah. Um , you know, sometimes we're a little unlucky that we're in the central valley because it takes a while for things to kind of trickle down to our area. But , um, and then I want to talk to you about access for , uh, trans , uh, affirming healthcare in the Central Valley. How hard is it been to find providers here that , um, can , uh, give you what you need as, as a patient? Like , um, how, how hard was it to find , um, HRT , t or any of that for you?

Speaker 3:

Um, at first it was hard because I didn't know where to go and when I did research the, it was best to go like out of town. So like San Francisco, La, Stanford . And what year was that? Do you remember? That was like the beginning of my transition. 2014. Yeah. So yeah, it's difficult to like find like health , um , like HRT, especially for me like wanting to get hormones and some, and when you do go to like say you go to, cause I go to um, planned parenthood and Fresno and sometimes they don't take your, your medical from Tillary county. Got It , got it. So it becomes more difficult and there's like more like stop signs saying like, Oh yeah, you can't get this because you live in this area. And it's like shitty because you're wanting to like transition and it's like, it's frustrating.

Speaker 1:

Right. And you took all the time to kind of figure out where to go in the first place. So you find out, you finally find out a place to go, you , uh , they say they take your insurance, you either, I mean, if you're lucky enough to have transportation, you can get there, but you live like a good 30, 40 miles from Fresno, so you get there and they don't take your health insurance. Right. So are there trans , uh , people who have to resort to like black market hormones or anything like that? Have you heard of that in this area?

Speaker 3:

Um, yeah, there's been a couple, I won't name names, but there's been like trans women who had a like transition and take like black market kind of drugs and you don't even know what you're putting inside your body. So that's a huge risk that you are taking in . And it's like dumb because we have, there's like healthcare, but healthcare doesn't cover what you want to like get like pills or shots or whatever it is. Like it sucks because you wanting , you're wanting to make a change within yourself and they're like, roadblocks.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, because the , the insurance as far as I know , um, covers trans related healthcare. Right? Yeah . But , um, yeah , sometimes you can't find a doctor to do that, so , um , or they don't know how or they're uncomfortable maybe initiating the treatment, but they'll, they'll write a prescription once you've kind of seen what they call as a specialist, which is just somebody who knows a little bit about trans health. Right. And so , um, but uh, is there anything else that you would want , um, the audience to know about , uh, about you or your experience in Leadership Academy?

Speaker 3:

Um, it's been really great. I like it. I'm not only in those leadership academy, mostly in the act for women and girls and um , yeah, I'm very passionate about doing the, that I'm doing. I really, really want to have a shelter for trans women of color because, or LGBT in general, anybody's welcome like a shelter for anybody. And there's no like homeless shelters for Trans Women. And if there is, you have to be like, there's like wanting, you have to be passable and that shouldn't like dictate whether or not you can be led into a homeless shelters . So my number one passion right now is like getting a shelter for LGBTQ IAA people.

Speaker 1:

And I think you're not alone. I think there's some people right now doing , um, Kinda some, I actually know someone today doing some legwork to house , um, one of our trans sisters today. So , um, it's been, it, there is a need for sure and we need people like you , um, to lead the way because you can, you can, you can make a difference. Well, I appreciate you. Thank you so much, Kiki.

Speaker 3:

Oh, thank you. It's been great.

Speaker 1:

If you'd like to know more about the source LGBT and our programs and services, please visit the source lgbt.org or follow us on Facebook at the source LGBT.

Speaker 4:

Hello .