Born men but living as women, the muxe community in Oaxaca, Mexico, long endured discrimination as a way of life. Younger members are challenging that.
Naomy Méndez Romero is lucky — her first dress and heels were a gift from her father, and her university lets her wear what she likes. In macho southern Mexico in the 21st century, that matters, because Naomy is a muxe.
Born men, but often living as women, muxe — pronounced “MU-shay” — occupy a traditional role in indigenous Zapotec culture that goes beyond identifying as gay. But Naomy, who is studying law part-time and wants to go into politics, sees obstacles even in her hometown of Juchitán de Zaragoza, in the state of Oaxaca, where muxe are part of the fabric of society.
“I’m breaking the stereotype or stigma in our region,” she says of a tradition where muxe, who do not necessarily undergo surgery, are expected to stick to stereotypically feminine jobs like cooks, seamstresses or beauticians, and to stay single.
“I want to be a lawyer. I want 100 percent acceptance, not 70 percent, for this to be a true muxe paradise,” she adds.
Naomy, 28, wears female clothes for her weekday job as a secretary at the town hall, where she is allowed to use women’s bathrooms. Estrella Vásquez Guerra, 36, also a muxe and the municipality’s director of sexual diversity, sports the traditional long skirts and blouses that were the hallmark of artist Frida Kahlo . “I love people to turn […]