Tania Cordova and Emmanuel Garcia

Recorded June 20, 2019 Archived June 20, 2019 40:31 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: chd001133


Emmanuel Garcia (37) interviews his best friend Tania Cordova (50) about the challenges as a Trans Latinx woman. Tania also talks about her new project called "SER el cambio," a transitional housing center for theTrans community of Chicago.

Subject Log / Time Code

T says she was born in Michoacan, Mexico, and reminisces her childhood as happy and unhappy. She says: "I knew I was a woman."
T talks about the bullying she went through as a trans woman in Mexico.
T talks about how religion has played a big role in the prejudice against the LGBTQ communities.
T talks about moving out of her parents' home and became homeless, as her family did not accept her identity.
T talks about the many criminal activities she was part of to survive as a trans woman.
T talks about embracing "Alex," and being proud of her trans identity.
T talks about a recent incident at a hospital where she was called "Alejandro" (her birth name), and the struggle with having people understand her as a trans woman,
T talks about her new project "SER el cambio" (BE the change)—a transitional housing project to connect trans people with different programs available in the city.
T talks about her belief in spirituality, and her immersion in the Yoruba culture.


  • Tania Cordova
  • Emmanuel Garcia

Recording Locations

Cara Chicago

Venue / Recording Kit


Partnership Type



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00:02 Hey, my name is Tanya. I'm here with my best friend and Emmanuel. I'm 50 years old. Today is Wednesday, June 19th, 2019 and we are here Chicago, Illinois with my best friend and Manuel and I'm ready to enjoy this conversation.

00:26 My name is Emmanuel. I'm 37 years old and today's date is June 19th, 2019. And where in Chicago, Illinois?

00:36 And I'm here with Tanya who's my friend and as I like to call you my sister in the struggle. Thank you.

00:46 Pan Am first of all, happy birthday. Thank you so much. I know that you recently celebrated a milestone birthday 50 years old. How do you feel about that with Myerstown? You know, I'm 50 and I feel like not $25, but

01:06 You know it we got it this done well.

01:12 I think they're them Woodman and power me before I I before I was even born so I didn't have no knowledge. I didn't have that was no history about the stem wall that I ever actually read a learn about it into I was saying 5 6 years ago when I actually got involved into the movement and I think that Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson they were so committed to create change and I ugly DBQ community that yes by learning about their history if empowered me to stand up for social justice, especially for a trans woman.

02:05 When you think about now right now like turning 50 when you reflect back on your childhood. What does that look like? Where is that? Give me that picture.

02:19 I could give you the feature if you need to have an you know, I'm from Mexico. My hometown is a grandpa Michoacan.

02:30 My childhood it was like I was happy and I was unhappy.

02:39 I thought that what I was living it was normal bombing growing up. I remember when I was probably like four years old. I already knew that I was at a trans woman. I knew that I was a woman. I just didn't know how to express it bad for me. Yes the way that I was acting playing with the dogs with my sister Claus with my girlfriend for me and then they never was actually a masculine energy that I have actually

03:17 Reflect

03:21 So my parents are fortunately my parents didn't have no knowledge didn't have no time to actually pay attention to me. And you see that I was just different I wasn't I wasn't a girl and I wasn't a boy.

03:38 But they have all the words to describe.

03:43 All my way of act which and Mexico Leghorn and Mexico. They called hot dogs American and for me, that's a very offensive word.

03:58 Being all

04:03 I was Ballin. I was a victim of bullying. Yes for being me and I was just like why does people have to be so Crayola? Why do people have to be I'll call him a dog's name? I don't understand I didn't understood and that the moment and and the time it was like a flea go home and lay down in bed and my bed and cry and yes.

04:36 I didn't have a health a healthy child development.

04:45 What is your family like like or how many brothers sisters?

04:50 I have six brothers and three sisters. I'm the 9th and the family and I

05:04 To this year's I mean navigating.

05:08 For them to understand that I'm part of the family that I'm a trans woman. I'm a very proud trans woman of color or trans indigenous woman that I just want to live. I want love. I want respect. I just want the best that life has to offer.

05:30 Unfortunately, even a couple days ago one of my brothers. He actually have a doctorate degree but inside.

05:42 She is so how can I say this ignorant ignorance and life doesn't match when he's active agree.

06:00 He cannot he doesn't want to understand that.

06:06 A trans woman is part of his family.

06:12 And when I was talking to my sister-in-law she was like, you know, what time? Yeah, you know, I'm so proud of you. My kids are so proud of you. I've been teaching them to love you respect you for who you are.

06:26 Unfortunately your brother. He's still have machismo. So he's so empowering. He just wants to kiss male. Hope to be some power than he doesn't want to watch that. He doesn't want to talk about about me. We can actually see it one day a week and be on the table and talk about when it comes to talk to kids friends or other people outside the family that works like Tanya. The next.

07:03 Yeah, I think for me my family their acceptance or lack of I think comes from religion from them converting to like Christianity when they first immigrated here. What do you think keeps your family from supporting you completely or wholly in the way that you would like?

07:24 What functional lights 2nd generation that aren't taken away that mindset is a story different evening with Catholics, but I think that'll help play a big role religion had play a big role when it comes to accept earnest.

07:42 They will OK for me to be gay to be a gay man.

07:48 But when it when I decided to go into transition and be who I wanted to be to be Tanya them that are light perspective change. Early.

08:03 And

08:05 Beverly it the pressure is there.

08:10 For me there, so they still be a responsible for not going to replace it. I had a great trip with my parents.

08:25 But with some of my siblings we still don't have that relationship, which I Define I should care by I don't care because even if we sibling

08:38 They're not really part of my life. I move on.

08:45 So when you comes to be late, it's really hard to break.

08:52 Don't be late.

08:54 And this is just my personal opinion. I don't think that there's that any relation leaders should have the right to encourage hate for me. Hey.

09:13 Can you can you tell me a little bit about when you first immigrated here? When was that? When did you leave? I knew you could use it mention growing up in Mexico. When did you immigrate and what was that experience like for you as a person who was

09:32 In transition

09:35 I always going to be a transition from westbankstrong of this stage. I think that life is about transition about when I actually make right to United States with a 1985 and when

09:55 I came to stay with some of my siblings that they were already living here.

10:07 I actually never really had a relationship with them because they move they make gravy from Mexico to the United States are probably 10 years before I did. So for me, it was like being with a stranger. I I didn't have the all connection with them. So when I came to United States when they came to Chicago and then I went to take some English classes and I move on two different programs.

10:42 I found that I wasn't the only person who was that friend. I found other HGTV Q members are there.

10:56 They give me the courage to get we usually says I'll say the first be out of the closet just a means biggest B. You don't hide yourself. So when I actually decided to call and confirm my family and tell them you know what I'm gay.

11:19 And they were like, you know what that's fine. You can stay in the house. We don't have a problem, but don't we're not going to allow you to bring your friends. We're not going to allow you to bring your partner. You're not allowed to say that you gay.

11:36 So I move out.

11:38 I laugh.

11:43 After that

11:45 I thought I might transition my physical temptation to be a trans Woman and

11:53 I've been sad and I was working I remembered I was working at Midway and show my transition. Actually. I lost my job and I ended up in the street and when I'm is what I'm talking about and I'm saying that I ended up at this rate. It's not that I want that I was homeless. It just said I didn't have no income. So I have to find a way to survive not to live not to live life not to live my life with freedom. Yes to survive. So I ended up doing survive an activities when it comes to when I'm when I'm saying about surviving activities. I'm talking about sex for I'm talking about drugs. I'm talking about all.

12:44 Chocolate and all the does I got criminalized. I got all those cases of my background that I never saw that he was going to have really messed up my life.

13:00 Bye.

13:01 And the moment all you think it's about you know what I have to leave. This is what I have to do in order to be me and stay alive. Yeah, I when I was thinking that you know, what are some things that may be cross your mind as you begin to do these activities or as you begin to find different ways of surviving that maybe Arkansas are things that in your childhood. You probably never thought this is what I'm going to do in order to live my life, right? And so it becomes kind of like this priority of you know, is it's either I completely go back into the closet and not become my true self or a my true self in the obstacles that Society the systems are putting on me.

14:01 I think my family there that some of my siblings there were embarrassed of my background than accepting Tanya.

14:15 I want to ask you a little bit about that path right that eventually I think leads you to I'll kind of interact with

14:27 For lack of a better word that the criminal justice is done, which has a lot of Injustice has in itself. Can you talk about what how cuz I know that it asked collated, right? It wasn't just one you don't end up in like federal prison or in an immigration Detention Center because you were shoplifting or do you write so it's like what are the things that led to that?

14:55 Well, one of the things that led up to for me to be in prison and to be on there a ice attention.

15:06 It was that all would we have to go back?

15:11 30 years ago and we at we actually go back 50 years ago when Marsha and Sylvia is this revolution 50 years to call you weird criminalize just for being at the street dressed as a woman.

15:32 20 years after I still got arrested yet for me being Tanya been in the street. Yes for Tanya not to use the right drill bit. They think I should use how is it possible that I got criminalize for yet? Been me.

15:54 So those little thing. Sareth actually lead to

16:01 All the race calendar for me to do different activities in order to survive if they would have thought they would have gave me the opportunity to have a job gave me the respect. He saw that it will reach out to me and say you know what time yet?

16:18 Desa program we have a program for you. I'm personally a WhatsApp. Nobody to reach out. Nobody did that correctly Outreach?

16:31 And when I when I talk about correctly correctly average, let's have some of the program and there were so many program but those programs are not reachable 211s community.

16:51 I can let you know today. I was just thinking and I was when I was going to post something on Facebook that across my mind and I was like, you know why Tanya trans woman trans vent touring woman should take a different.

17:09 Encouragement when I talk about that when when I mean is that and I'll coucher is what about I'm going to Mentor you how to do your physical transformation. This is your transition. It shouldn't be a physical transformation more important than any other any other programs saw on.

17:36 Not get the bow, okay.

17:40 Going out of breath all the time that they actually available but they also from morning you encourage you been telling you to do sex work is fine powder.

18:03 I'm working and breaking the cycle. I'm bringing it back to this article because I'm alive I can sit here and tell my story many of my ancestors. Unfortunately, they're not here to tell the story. They don't have a voice. They didn't have a voice and they're not going to have a boy.

18:23 Because they that

18:32 Sisters are immigrant sisters that they're still at the journey try to reach out.

18:41 Trying to sit

18:46 Asylum United States many of them they have not even made it to depart many of them can actually been taken that I sign on petition and they're on the right attention and because they lack of medication some of them which which which that I should be hiv-positive they don't have the right medication.

19:15 Why?

19:22 I know it's really complicated the like the different ways in which you like the in the system interacted with you write. How do you how do you end up coming out of that?

19:37 I still working on it. I've been in the system for three decades.

19:44 And

19:45 4 years ago at my last request I ended up in detention.

19:51 I've been deported and removed from this country a couple time. I never knew that I never knew. Nobody ever told me that I could have I could have submitted an application for Asylum.

20:06 And I understand the situation for transport and attention cuz I be in there.

20:12 Everything that is being said in the news.

20:17 It's not even a little bit compared for what we actually live inside.

20:25 After I got released

20:29 I will made my commitment that I was going to stand up for social justice.

20:35 I reach out myself to the cop program. I came to the Cara program and I encourage myself that I was going to break a cycle a cycle of poverty of cycle of humiliation a cycle of hate.

20:56 And I've been working.

21:00 Panda

21:03 The Cara program for you. I think one of the questions that I had for you when you invited me to the Celebration there was a celebration of you finishing the program and it was a beautiful event and I kept thinking the whole time that what was it about this program that worked for you write that there so many organizations right who are trying to find ways to support the trans Community. Let's be very generous right and saying that because we know that a lot of organization say they're doing that and they're not but how what do you think the model worked and helped you as a trans woman?

21:52 When they come to the Coppertone, I was so naive and I was very wonderful cuz I have lost my parents and

22:03 Like at the same time they passed away and I didn't I just didn't know, you know what to expect from this program.

22:19 And for me just to pay the current to go and the circle and talk and say you know what?

22:27 I have

22:29 To break the chain. I have to just stand up and embrace that I'm a trans woman that I have the power to get break it and and work on bees and then brace little Alex that he was there. I didn't have

22:51 Tania wasn't there.

22:56 When Alex was a boy when Alex was a little boy. Nobody was there to care about him.

23:07 South

23:10 Get to embrace myself to raise a little boy and to haul him and taken Awhile lyrics me and you we going to break this we going to walk together.

23:24 And encouraged and educate society that we are here that me as a trans woman. I should not hide I should not take any hay production and everything that it would lead other trans woman to be cat and dog at the justice system.

24:01 It sounds like you know, it's theirs up that this process right of like healing that continues from that that that was a very healing moment for you. In terms of the bet is not just this program right that it was a way of kind of reflecting on the past then sort of

24:20 Do you know confronting how you were going to move forward with all that after I freed my Asylum application was accepted. I thought that like oh, okay. You know what? I'm going to move on. I'm not going to have any problem, but I have to face all the menu Barrios that are trans folks are facing especially with the name change for me going to different interviews when I was young hunting bear with my eye with my interview and there with that. You know, what time? Yeah, you're the best.

25:03 But after I actually provide my eye of my investigation without my name changed, that would totally have a second to talk to hire me. So why haven't you been able to change your name? I was so I wasn't able to change my name a couple years ago because my felony conviction and you when you actually have a felony conviction and all the pain and a Class E felony in my case. I have to wait 12 years so I came and took him to the Copper on 2015. So I have to wait two more years. So in 2017, I was able to change my name when I reach out to pee LGB Transformer employee Justice project, which we dedicate our Irish and needs to name change mobilization.

25:56 They have a proposal for me if I want to take the lead to take him to to take a leadership to challenge any Noah's law when it comes to name change calling restrictions.

26:16 I thought that I was Betty was a great opportunity and he has been a great opportunity.

26:24 After I change my name.

26:27 I saw that it was going to be sir that I already changed my name. I don't have to explain.

26:38 To nobody when it comes to any customer service. I'm going to give you an example.

26:46 Yesterday today I went to the hospital.

26:52 And I change my name already. I change my gender already, but for some reason I do have a problem with my insurance. They haven't been able to change my name.

27:04 So I have to add the kar Hospital how to do registration how to take to do an intake for a trans woman and this is not the first time this is the third time that I have to train them.

27:22 Some name change of pronouns are very important to trans folks.

27:29 You cannot you cannot.

27:35 Put a trans woman and Jeffrey.

27:41 By calling them by their legal name, so they haven't been able to change your name.

27:50 And just give it a little bit and is an area that's come the medical assistant to say Alejandro.

28:02 And everybody turn around like who's Alejandro so they look and me or

28:10 They are all the eyes that we had me they were like

28:15 What the fuck is my warrant? But I mean that with the expression.

28:20 What about a bass and a person next to me? That is transphobic?

28:28 What about if I get beat up?

28:31 Liberty Hospital

28:35 Is an acceptable.

28:37 And I'm not going to let big Best Buy.

28:40 I took action I talk to a manager.

28:48 Thank you. Didn't know how to handle it.

28:51 And I talked about training. I've been talking about me go and do some training.

28:59 Because I'm public spaces. They still. Have the training.

29:10 I just out of curiosity what was their justification like that? They said cuz people always think like while they're in there. They are my intent wasn't to cause harm right? And so but you like you said you have you changed your name your gender marker on your ID. They know that it's just your insurance card that doesn't have that and so why would they go by the insurance card and not by all the other records that are probably listed in your file. They said that it was a steak and I told them I work in the medical field. I know how to do restriction. I know the law.

29:55 Bello face that they have to call you you haven't been able to change your name they have to call you by your preferred name. So I have to train a manager. What was the difference of a prefer name and a legal name change cuz I was talking to him. I prefer name and I was like that's not a different name. That's my legal name.

30:23 Do you know the different?

30:35 You're an activist. You're an organizer. You're an advocate for so many people and for yourself really cuz you've had to be right like you said you were advocating the hospital and you've done that and multiple occasions. You don't have to do that. Especially if you're a patient, right? No one should have no patience would have to be there be in that position that you're in. I know that you're carrying all of that into the work that you do now, as you said, you know for the past six years you've have been dedicated to doing this work. What's your vision for further your community for our community?

31:22 Work for a community. First of all, you know, I'm going to be like, you know, I'm going to be lunch instead of Cambio, which is a new program and new entry program specifically for a trans woman.

31:38 When I came to the car program I would save it to help by Melissa pouring and

31:46 I have stable housing. But another to be part of the car program. You have to have a Skype with stable housing.

31:55 And what are the biggest barriers that trans woman has to integrate into society, even if they just getting released from prison are they getting released from immigration is housing. So say is going to be a transitional housing and mission is to connect them with multiple a program that they already available in the eve they're not available. We going to create this program because we the people have the power.

32:38 One thing that you shared with me, I think it was one of the times that we got to get to sit together over coffee and have a really long conversation about our lives and what connects it to this work wise your altar at home. You know, your spirituality practice is a big part of your life. Can you talk a little bit about that why I've been initiated into the Yoruba religion Kitty ganga was my godmother and Motley.

33:16 The whole city knows who Kitty can worldwide and kitty cat that was a great female impersonator performer in Chicago, but what's an octopus and a very spiritual woman that Empower me to have to have that leadership at in a spiritual leader. We all energy and we are connected if we actually see as its past 3 to Aditi is just like a network.

33:54 Energy travels all over our toes travels all over just like the network cell for me to have that connection with the hoverboard ages made me.

34:14 Feel that I'm doing that I'm going to do with that power. I know that I'm going to be able to change someone's life. I know I'm not going to be able to change the world, but I have to put my but I have to play my part and what I'm doing also something that I learned and the car program is that

34:35 How do you want people to remember you and I remember the first time when I went to the circle and I was like, how do I want people to remember me?

34:47 I want people to remember me as Tiny as an octopus as Tanya as an advocate as Tanya is she is she was always been started yesterday, and she created this program for Trans woman for Trans immigrant for Trans woman of color that had been in fat fat fat by the justice system.

35:18 Separated change means

35:26 Helping someone else to change the life positively.

35:32 With Miss Kitty Miss Kitty, you know she was I got to meet her at one point and she's with the big leader within the trans community that specifically the Latina trans Community here in Chicago at a different time to write then we have today. I think there's more visibility around trans issues and buy at that time right with Miss Kitty. She was she played such a huge role in in in guiding people specifically transwomen.

36:14 She's your like spiritual godmother.

36:19 Mother what would you say? How would you describe her? And I think she and she did a gray gray.

36:32 Job and creative

36:40 How can I say this he asked she was able to provide?

36:46 With work too so many trans woman who are into the show business.

36:54 Adidas that was her way of being an activist being able to provide.

37:03 Work for someone

37:08 How do you think that she would what it what would the message her message be? Cuz I know that you're in communication like you said within that work right spiritually like what what is the message? Do you think that we're getting today from the spiritual world around this the fight for Trans?

37:30 Writes Horatio's want to hear her message right now would it be?

37:37 By Allah you doing the right thing by godchild you doing the right thing. Let them know.

37:47 Allow them to listen to you.

37:52 And yet deliver.

37:54 Apple sign message

38:02 Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

38:05 And then they'll be 16 and education for me. I did great in educational programs will definitely create a chain.

38:26 And with your family

38:28 I got my family. I do actually have a relationship with some of them and I'm not going to be in my time and people who doesn't agree, but that's their personal opinion and they have to work on that not be working on down.

38:47 Some yoga in the new generation don't think that way new generations Loft Ian.

38:55 Where do you think we'll be in 10 years?

38:58 V

39:02 Dad's being the director or sell Cambio and continue doing this great work. And especially I do not have a name change. We still have our we don't know how long it's going to take because we are meeting with your GP. We just filed a lawsuit against Illinois with some of that felony restrictions.

39:29 So I not even know how long is it going to take and I'm not even know. How is it going to leave me? Maybe? I don't know. Maybe you never know a possible. That would be wonderful. I want to thank you so much for 1 year leadership. And really I do believe in the universe and I believe that we are all connected like you say and I think I may have that whenever you know, I connect with you and I know that that has a lot to do with just the work that we're all trying to do. And so I just want to thank you for really being a voice and for advocating and for using that energy to make a huge difference, which you've already made and so whether you see the fruits of that today, I hope that you know that you have already planted so many seats.

40:25 Thank you so much, and I love you to death.