Q&A with Alexa Rodriguez
Alexa, could you tell us a bit about yourself? Where are you from? What motivated you to come to DC?
Well I’m a 37 year old transgender woman, and I’m originally from Usulután El Salvador. I arrived to Maryland, on January 2009. 12 years ago I converted and have been an activist looking out for the rights of HIV+ people and the Trans community. That’s what I’ve been doing here almost the entire time I’ve been in this country.
What motivated to come to DC was the fear of living in my country, then and now, with transphobia. Since I was an activist I was afraid to continue in my native city, since the authorities and laws in my country don’t really protect us. Even if there are protections written on papers, they don’t protect us. Here I found liberty after been awarded political asylum because of my sexual identity.
What are you doing now?
After working as a volunteer, and meeting a lot of beautiful people in the area, today I am the Youth Center Transgender Program Coordinator at Empodérate! Youth Center, from La Clínica del Pueblo.
How did you decide to work at Empodérate! Youth Center?
After doing a lot of training thanks to Identity Inc. (my former job), and Empodérate!, and receiving a lot of support from my own community, La Clínica del Pueblo opened this new position in the center. I was chosen among many people who applied for the position, which I now very thankfully hold; I plan to give all of me for the betterment of the Trans community.
Which are some of the services offered by Empodérate!?
Empodérate! is a youth center for Trans and Gay Latinos between the ages of 18 to 29, including their partners and friends.
· HIV testing every day: Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and Tuesday and Thursdays from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM. The testing is completely free and confidential.
· Weekly meeting for Gay or Bisexual guys and Trans girls.
· Individual counseling.
· Social activities
· Leadership retreats
· Movie nights
· Dance and sewing classes
· Sport activities and physical conditioning
· Monthly birthday celebrations
· Community participation
· Reference services
How does it feel to be an example to the HIV community? or, How does it feel to be an example to other Transgender people with HIV?
Well I feel honored, because a lot of the HIV+ girls don’t feel comfortable talking to me, and in some way my personal and professional experience allows them to move forward when they lose hope. I always talk about my arrival to the clinic as a client for the HIV+ services, and how now I’m part of the staff. I’m proud of being able to serve my community after the clinic served me.
What would you say to your 21 year-old self?
At that age I was diagnosed with HIV. I would tell myself that life is beautiful, and that we have to live it responsibly. That we shape our own destiny, and we should never give up. There is always someone ready to help.
How does it feel to work with Latino LGBT GLBT History Project?
It’s a great opportunity to let my ideas flourish. Even if sometimes I have very crazy ideas, they are always heard. I felt welcomed since the moment I started collaborating with José Gutierrez, and also today under the leadership of David Pérez. I always feel that they listen and respect me. The call is for all of us and anyone that wants to join. The doors are always open to all Trans girls.
How was living in El Salvador?
It was very exciting to working for the LGBT HIV+ community. I grew a lot as an activist, and I learned a lot from my HIV+ sisters and brothers. They are still in my thoughts and life plans.
At the same time, the uncertainty of not having the government’s and the authorities’ protection made me live with fear. Today there are a lot of organizations that have done a lot, but there is a lot more to be done. I have to put my two cents from where I am, so that someday we can live free in El Salvador.
Given the opportunity, how would you work with the Gay community?
Work to unify all of the communities, I believe that unity makes strength...!
And keep creating always more youth leaders so that they can continue our work.