Finding your Voice, part 1: Xaime and Raquelita
S1: You are listening to Port of Entry.
S2: In June of this summer , right before the kickoff of San Diego's Pride Month. We received an invitation to a film presentation and a live performance at the San Diego Public Library.
S1: Because of pride , the library was hosting a number of Lgbtq+ events. Rainbow flags and other pride symbols decorated the library.
S2: The staff were sporting pride pins and other pride apparel.
S1: We made our way to the Library theater.
S3: My name is Jeremy Davies. I'm a librarian here. I run our Monday night film program , Picture This.
S1: Among those events was the presentation of the short documentary called La Reina de Los cuentas.
S2: Spanish for the Queens of Stories.
S1: Followed by a drag performance by the stars of the documentary as well.
S3: Without further ado , here is the film. Yes.
S4: Yes. You are getting ready for some meeting. Yeah. Yes.
S2: Yes. The film starred Jaime Ashby's as Recoleta and his duo Francisco Soto as Barbecue. That barbecue , not barbecue. Two drag artists from the San Diego Tijuana border region , the film focused on a time in Francisco's lives when they started a drag queen story time in San Diego.
S3: Well , so much for joining for the film. And we also have some the start of the show. Before the panel discussion , we're going to have some live drag performances special for you all. And up first to the stage is a rocket. Give it up for rocket to. Yes.
S1: It wasn't your typical drag performance , or at least not how the media wants you to picture them.
S2: You know , men dressed in scantily clad clothes performing overly sexualized bits for an adult audience. This was none of that.
S1: A drag show , I mean , is.
S6: We here watching.
S1: Ariella , said Anita.
S2: The way. What we saw was like something you might find at a theme park like Disney. Yes , there was the princess dresses , big wigs , and copious and I mean copious amounts of makeup.
S1: In this occasion , it was Haim Recoleta interpreting Ariel , The Little Mermaid , and Francisco's barbecue interpreting Pocahontas. Yeah.
S5: Thank you Rita.
S3: And up next , we have a performance from the other star of the film , barbecue. Give it up for barbecue.
S1: It was really just Recoleta and barbecue , lip synching to famous Disney songs. And I'm a sucker for musicals. So this was up my alley. Yep.
S7: Yep. Your eyes lit up completely and kind of got watery there. What ? Cry-Baby.
S1: No , I wasn't crying. You were crying.
S2: After the performance , Recoleta told the audience a little bit about herself. Yes.
S4: Good evening. My name is Carlita. And , yeah , just a little bit about me. I grew up on both sides of the equator , in San Diego border , and I do come from a Mexican background. My parents were both from Ghana , from my mom's side. They're from Ghana , from my dad's side , they're from. So I think that's.
S1: Really Chimay or Recoleta Day job is , as a therapist.
S4: Specifically , gender affirming therapy for queer , non-binary and trans youth specifically , and then also Latinx clients through two different private practices here in San Diego. And yeah , and so drag is also like my sort of like side job that I've been able to sort of turn it , turn into a small little career and use it to like , be an activist in the community and empower other people , specifically youth. And I think that's yeah , that's all I want to share.
S3: Thank you. Awesome. Thank you. Yes. Thank you.
S2: If you tuned in to the last two episodes , we're showcasing Lgbtq+ stories of the region. These next two episodes are about how two members of the queer community found their true voice , and how they resisted and refused to be drawn out in a sea of hostility.
S1: One through performance.
S4: And it was great because it was just kind of like feeling like I was tapping into this part of myself that I never was able to explore or express , given the environment that I was growing up in.
S9: A practical illustration in acrylics através de la Scala is the story of vignettes in Los diferentes experiencias Como una persona queer and Tijuana.
S1: This is part one Hymen Recoleta story from Kpbs.
S2: This is Port of Entry.
S1: Where we tell cross-border stories that connect us.
S2: I'm Alan Lilienthal.
S1: And I'm Natalia Gonzalez.
S2: Heimer is a proud Latinx queer man.
S1: Although he's confident in his own skin today , that wasn't always the case.
S2: He shares his journey of how he came to find a place for himself in an environment hostile to who he was.
S1: We first met him at his mother's apartment in Imperial Beach. Witness ? Witness. Yep.
S10: Yep. Any minute. Yeah.
S1: He moved back in with his mother after splitting with his partner. When we ask if she could join us to be part of the interview process. It was a no. He made it clear that he preferred to hold her interviews somewhere else or have them when his mother wasn't around.
S2: It later became evident why that was the case.
S4: I wish I would have taken a little bit longer to to come out to them , but I felt ready in that time , so I did. They didn't take it well. They , uh , my dad told me that it was a phase. My mom thought it was like an illness. And they will stay in Tijuana. And to do some testing to , like , try to treat me for the doctor , to treat me to cure me. It was bizarre. And I. Yeah , it was it was interesting to experience all those things because it kind of , uh , traumatized me in a way of like , oh , there's something wrong with me. Like that was the message that I was receiving from my parents.
S2: Him his parents never really came to terms with homosexuality. They even went so far as to take him to Tijuana to try conversion therapy. When he was an older teen.
S4: She had asked me to go with her to Tijuana , and I think she kind of tricked me. Like she didn't tell me , we're going to go see a doctor. And we ended up being at a doctor's. I remember being really mad at her because she. Yeah , she she tricked me. Like she was deceiving me to , like , doing something I didn't want to do.
S1: To this day , his relationship with his mother is strained.
S4: Especially because , you know , she kept on telling me that what I had was an illness. And I kept on telling her that it wasn't an illness , that I was , you know , there was nothing wrong with me.
S2: While his mother was more aggressive in opposing homosexuality , he remembers his father's approach as calling it a phase , essentially believing that crime would just grow out of it.
S4: And it's interesting because I actually had therapy today , and we were talking about my relationship with my parents , about how my relationship to each one of them is different. My dad passed away six years ago or more than six years ago. He passed away in 2015 , and my relationship with him never got to the point where it felt like he was unconditionally supportive of me. He was supportive in some areas and I'm very grateful for that. He helped me with basic needs. He helped me when I was in college. He supported me through some really rough times in my life , but when it came to my sexuality , he was never supportive or accepting. Like whenever I would try to engage him in conversations about my sexuality or my partners or anything related to the queer world , he would always ignore or avoid the subject or just kind of make like facial gestures , kind of like in disapprove or in disgust. Um , and , and that was my cue to , like , just not engage anymore.
S2: His father owned a tire repair shop in Tijuana , and.
S1: Like many kids who are born into a family business.
S2: You have to learn your family's trade early on.
S1: He remembers working there and having to man up to the world.
S4: So it was kind of like hard having to , like , grow up in that environment. Imagine and say Como tiros. So my sister's mucho tiempo was , uh , experiences as enormous as the , uh , kind of being. Yeah. Like my sister , man. Like typical behaviors of catcalling women who will walk around or just like , um , being like men. And I just , I remember being around that constantly and always having to , like , be aware of my own behavior.
S1: himI grew up scared of being perceived as gay or not being men enough , especially after he saw how kids like him got treated and picked on at school.
S4: There was one openly gay kid that everybody knew about and everybody would like be like super , like homophobic. Like they were yell things at him. And I never saw any violence. But the verbal harassment that I think I witnessed was really severe to the point where , like even people mentioning his name around me or seeing him near me during lunch would like activate my sort of defenses and I would like , feel like I needed to freeze or like not interact with this person. And because , you know , I was aware of me , like not wanting to be associated with this person that's here , I was scared. Yeah. I was scared and nervous and fearful of like , you know , similar things happening. To me , and so.
S2: Not having solid emotional support to fall back on at home meant Jamie lacked the confidence to take on the world and accept who he was. That is , until he found an outlet. Yeah.
S1: So fast forward to his college years.
S4: My last year to in college , I was a fan of this popular TV show called RuPaul's Drag Race. It's a show about drag queens and a contest to see who is like the top , who can be the top drag queen. And I just remember being really intrigued by the , like , just the concept of a drag queen. I remember one of the first years that I was in college , there was like a local drag show that happened on campus , and it was just like these really cool drag queens that were very seasoned , like they had been doing drive for a while.
S1: He first checked out the scene and went to a few shows.
S4: Really fun. And I just remember having like this , this opinion of like , wow , that's so cool that these queer people are just having fun performing , entertaining us , and they look really happy. I never thought of myself as actually wanting to pursue being a drag queen.
S2: Then he dipped his toes in the waters.
S4: And at some point , I was curious to see what drag was like here in San Diego. Then I started attending some of the drag shows here in San Diego , just to like , show support , to see what it was like , and possibly to also experiment with it , because I was already in this place in my life where I felt like , oh , like I want to just tap more into creativity as an artist. Like I want to learn more.
S2: And after mustering the courage , he took the plunge.
S1: Dove in headfirst.
S4: Yeah , it was great. Yeah. I mean , I remember the the first Sunday I did it , I performed to , uh , a song by Shakira. Uh , you know that video where she has the purple wig ? So it's fun , and I look like a busted queen. Like , I did not look my best , but it was still so much fun. I have a photo somewhere.
S1: And when you started pursuing drag , something in Kimmy's life opened up.
S4: I wanted more like , I was like , wow. Like , I can really see myself doing this more. And I did , and it was great because it was just kind of like feeling like I was tapping into this part of myself that I never was able to explore or express , given the environment that I was growing up in. You know , where I would always have to , I guess , police my femininity.
S2: Something that he felt was clogged or stuck. Finally found a way out.
S4: Express myself in anything that's not masculine , right ? Um , so to unleash that part of myself or to tap into that part of myself felt really liberating.
S1: And just like that , Recoleta was born. Recoleta , in her own words , is someone who Jaime was not. She is fierce , confident and unafraid.
S2: He finds in her a sort of refuge and the power to navigate the world more confidently.
S1: And we asked why. Recoleta ? Yeah.
S4: So in college I would. I would name myself Rachel from the show friends because it was like a group of friends , like my close group of friends. Like it was like , yeah , I mean , it's one of those shows that I feel like especially , like growing up in , in the border town. It's like one of those shows that helped me learn English , you know ? Yeah. It's not by choice that I , you know , wanted to watch it , but it was just one of those shows. It was on TV that I just grew up watching and , and I , I learned a lot of English through it. Mm. So , so yeah. So I don't know , I just name myself Rachel because I was like , okay. Yeah. Like this is who I am. Like naturally of course it fits. And but then I was like , no , like I am Latina , so let's switch it up. And and I am fun size. So Recoleta just made made made more sense.
S1: Jaime gave us a quick tour of his room , full of all sorts of colorful and eye popping crafts.
S2: Paintings and different depictions of stages of his life were hung over his wall.
S4: Yeah , my wigs are here , so it's kind of cool to know that it's like , you know , this is I was afraid to , like , have stuff like this when I moved back because I knew that my mom would have a reaction to it. But I think over the time that I've been here , like , I've just sort of been challenged to take the risk and just , you know , claiming this space , I pay rent and , you know , so I have to.
S2: His room was cramped , his drag accessories were mostly hidden away , and his art supplies were overflowing from his work desk.
S4: Hi , man. And Recoleta closet. It's all in there. So it's , like , awesome. It's about to explode. I mean , yeah , my coats and then my little Mermaid outfit and just fringe and pads and. Yeah , a whole bunch of stuff in there that make up.
S11: Choose something.
S2: The small room boxed him in.
S1: It felt as if a sort of force was pushing him in containing the side of him. His family does not approve of. It became clear to us that he's a big bird trapped in a small cage.
S10: Thank you , thank you. Yeah. Maybe.
S4: Maybe. Maybe a couple of months. I'll move out , have a bigger space.
S12: For two weeks. Literally.
UU: Literally. Yeah , that's.
S1: For him , Recoleta became a sort of release.
S2: An empowering persona that he could turn to find the confidence to face the world around him. And as he took on more shows , he fell in love with performing. He started showing up on the San Diego drag circuit with his partner at the time , barbecue , when he met Francisco Barbecue. He found in him someone that was as committed to drag his community and education as Jaime himself was.
S10: You when you can.
S13: Create visibility for the Lgbtq+ community and normalize it. Hey. Toshi.
UU: Toshi. Hey ! Over here. Sorry.
S7: I was I. Thought.
S1: We sat down with him a second time in Barry Park.
S2: A park in front of his mom's apartment complex.
S1: He brought his dog , Kiyoshi , a beautiful golden retriever that he shares custody of with Francisco. Hyman told us a story about a specific invitation that he and Francisco received a few years ago.
S4: One of my good friends who was involved in the community and who's also a librarian. She or they reached out to to me and my partner at the time to see if we were interested in being a part of this , what they called the drag queen. Story time. Just to see if we were interested in doing it , you know , to to host a little event at the library in no time where we would just read a book and maybe perform. And at the time , I actually didn't feel super comfortable with that idea because I just didn't know how it would be received by people. But my partner at the time was , you know , encouraging us to do it because they were like , why not ? Like we have the experience and we know what to do. Like we can we can organize it , we can make sure it's appropriate. And and I was like , okay , I became more open to it and then decided to do it. And then that's when it all evolved into this big scandal , you know , with a big scandal.
S2: So they were invited to be a part of Drag Queens story time. They agreed to go. But.
S1: Again , no surprise to anyone. The event opened up a whole can of worms.
S2: Scratch that , a shitstorm of worms.
S1: As the date approached , him and Francisco became the target of hateful attacks from conservative groups.
S2: The event was in September 2019 at the Chula Vista Library in south San Diego County. Here is a local TV reporter's account of the incident.
S14: They marched from the other side of the building and kind of made a line here in the front. They've been shouting things like , we'll take a listen. So if you can hear that it is. Everyone is welcome here. No hate , no fear. So we're told there are going to be two readings today. One from 4 to 5 and 5 to 6 , and another one from 5 to 6 with a break in between. But I was kind of surprised when I got here. I wasn't I didn't understand exactly what it was going to play out with. But there are a lot of police officers here.
S2: Protesters versus counterprotesters , police patrols and guards. Even the Westboro Baptist Church made an appearance.
S15: Oh. Okay.
S2: Yeah , we can go on. Anyways , a perimeter was set to contain the opposing groups from confronting each other.
S1: It was wild.
S2: To keep him and Francisco safe. They were escorted through a tunnel that led to the back of the library.
S1: Once everyone and everything settled down. Hi , Francisco started the show.
S16: Wonderful performers.
S17: Recoleta and barbecue.
S4: Hi , my name is Recoleta. My pronouns are she , her , hers.
S18: Hey , y'all. And I'm barbecue. And my pronouns are she her hers as well. Oh my God , it.
S4: Is so many people here.
S18: I know I'm very , very excited.
S4: So much for being so here. So ? So.
S2: Hey , man. Francisco. No no.
S1: No no. Recoleta and barbecue. We're standing in front of a packed house.
S19: All right.
S2: Families with their young kids showed up in support and were ready to enjoy a show.
S4: And if you really love something. Also say yes. I love it. And if you don't like something that you can keep it cute or put it on mute.
S18: Well , let's get on with our story then. Now that we've started the party , the story that we'll be reading today is going to be called Julian is a mermaid.
S4: But he loves mermaids. The mermaid ? Yes. Okay.
S2: They worked the crowd regardless with what was going on outside. Inside ? It was a fun event. Kids were laughing. Adults were cheering. Everyone had a wholesome time.
S18: Julian is a mermaid. Recoleta. And what is Julianne getting from that big , glamorous fish that looks.
S18: Do you love necklaces ? They're still. Barbecue.
S2: Barbecue. And despite the protesters , the event was a resounding success.
S1: At the park , Hyman told us about a book that is central to the drag queen storytime.
S13: You always like to read or.
S4: Yeah , we usually we have read the book. Julian or Julian is a mermaid. Uh , yeah. Which is a story about a little boy who is with his grandma or his abuelita , and they're just going throughout town , and the little boy is sort of talking about mermaids and how obsessed or passionate he is about mermaids and how he wants to become a mermaid. So there's a part of the book where Julian crafts like the the the , um , he grabs like , fabric and wraps it around his waist to create , like , a tail effect. So grandma comes back into the living room and she looks at him , and Julian has like this , like , concerned face. So I like to ask the audience , like , what do they think Julian might be feeling in that moment ? And what his abuelita might be feeling in that moment. So just by looking at the facial expressions in the images of the book. So it's kind of a cool little moment where it's like , you know , you can really tap into the emotions or the characters , and you can also get a reflection of the emotions on in the audience. Right. And then to see what happens afterwards , which is where she shows her support for Julian wanting to be a mermaid.
S2: Hi , ma'am.
S1: Francisco Recoleta and Barbecue.
S2: Have kept doing more drag queen story times.
S1: The succeeding events have made regional and national headlines for each critic. They have 2 or 3 people throwing their support behind them.
S2: I guess there really is no such thing as bad publicity. Yes. Queen.
S4: Yeah , it was just like a really intense situation at that time because it was just had blown up to this sort of spectacle of like , oh yeah , like it's like it's just the right thing to do to have drag performers performing in front of kids , especially when drag was something that it wasn't known how it is now. There's definitely there has been a stigma. There's probably still a stigma about it , that it's like a sexual thing and that it's going to corrupt or persuade kids to become queer in some way or to sexualize them. I think I've also heard people talk about how drag queens are perceived as , like , predatory in some ways.
S20: Chess. Yes.
S12: Temos aqui en la university.
S1: We met him one last time in his new apartment in City Heights. Ooh.
S7: There he is. I'm sorry to keep you waiting for a couple minutes. What's that ? Second ? Game , Ben.
S1: He had moved in two weeks prior to our visit.
S2: There was definitely a palpable difference in the air.
S1: A two bedroom flat adorned with all the things that decorated his room at his mom's place.
S2: Everything was more spread out and with breathing room.
S1: He had an altar up for the Los Muertos.
S2: His dad's picture was at the top , next to a couple of candles and marigolds.
S1: In the kitchen. A signboard read Casita de Chimay.
S7: Oh , okay. Cool. Yeah.
S10: Oh , wow.
S7: Nice , dude. It's a nice place. Yeah.
S1: We noticed the difference in him as well. He was completely beaming with enthusiasm.
S4: I kind of call it my home arrival , homecoming , and having my casita the hi , my Recoleta is really , it feels like a mixture of grieving. Grieving because I'm leaving behind a life , an era of my life where I had to sort of be in like survival mode , survival mode , emotionally , in terms of like how it's affecting my mental health and not feeling secure and not feeling safe to , like , be myself in front of my family , in front of my mom , having to sort of hide parts of who I who I am , including my drag , including , you know , my friendships , my romantic sort of partnerships , my job. Because a big part of my job is to do gender affirming care. And so that means working with my community.
S1: Finally , he had a space of his own.
S2: From feeling caged. He was now somewhere where he could build a nest and spread his wings more comfortably.
S1: He was very happy.
S4: I haven't gotten ready in drag yet here , my new place , but I'm looking forward to it and I feel like it's going to be exciting. Yeah , yeah , I haven't done it yet. Still unpacking and still haven't really made time for anything else but hopeful that I will maybe in the next couple of weeks. I don't have any gigs , but I think that's the only way to get them is to get dressed up , go to go out , meet people and see if people are looking for a performer. Yeah.
S1: Yeah. Before we took off , our producer Julio asked if I had any last words he would like to direct , maybe to his mother or his past self. He had an insight he picked up from his therapist. He shared it with us before we parted ways.
S4: One thing that came up when I was letting them know about my my sort of need to to have closure with my mom and what I would want to say to her was thank you , good bye. And so he suggested this sort of a statement from this indigenous group called ho bono Bono. And it's about self forgiveness. So it goes to practice ho bono , take a few deep breaths with your eyes closed , and then slowly , slowly repeat the following phrases 7 or 8 times. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you , I love you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you , I love you. So I think about that , that that specific phrase in a , in a it gets me a little bit emotional because it's a lot of what I've experienced in my relationship with my mom. It's like I'm grateful , but also you hurt me. And so I'm holding all of these very complicated emotions , and I need to express them to you somehow. But the only way that you'll receive it or hear it is if I just simply say thank you. Goodbye. So I think it's a really powerful thing to say. And just by saying those two. Two words. Thank you. Good bye.
S1: And as Les Note , he sent her producer a couple of letters. We didn't want to close this episode without sharing them here. One from Heimat to his mother.
S4: Dear alma , I'm writing to share a couple of words with you. Thank you for the support that you've provided me for all the basic necessities that I needed during this time. I'd like to ask for forgiveness for not being the son that you always wanted me to be , and that I will never be , which I know causes you a lot of hurt. I love you for trying to be the best mom that you could be for me. And goodbye for right now. Because being around you is really challenging for me. Because I feel a lot of rejection. And I hope that one day our relationship could be transformed into something that's more loving and caring. I wish you all the best.
S1: And another from him to his younger self.
S4: Dear Jaime , though , it's okay to be different. Your way of being and your expressions are some of the most beautiful and powerful things that you have. Please don't feel shamed for all the negative comments that people say they're false. And yes , it's okay to be sad for the lack of loving and caring things that you haven't received yet. Be very patient and you'll see. The one day , very soon you'll receive all the love and care from the people around you. In the meantime , dance. Draw. Go outside and play and sing Britney Spears songs. I'm very proud of you and I love you.
S1: This episode of Port of Entry was written and produced by Julio Cesar Ortiz.
S2: Adrian Lobos is a technical producer and sound designer. Elisa Barba is our editor.
S1: Lisa morissette is director of audio programming and operations , and Jen Decker is senior director of content development.
S2: This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting , a private corporation funded by the American people.
S1: This project was also made possible with the support from California Humanities , a nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit Call Home Talk. Lilienthal.
S2: Lilienthal. Natalia.
S1: Natalia. Gonzalez.
S10: Nos vemos pronto.
Port of Entry is showcasing LGBTQ+ stories of the region. In this edition, we sit down with Xaime Aceves Equihua, a therapist, and Drag Artist from the San Diego Tijuana region. Due to rejection he faced early in his life, Xaime found it challenging to allow himself to be who he was until he found an outlet: Drag. He now leads a series of Drag Story Time in the region with his duo, Francisco, to promote visibility and acceptance of queer youth in the region.
You won't want to miss this inspiring story!
Xaime is an associate clinical counselor who is providing in-person and telehealth sessions in San Diego, California. Xaime specializes in gender-affirming and bilingual therapy. For more information you can contact by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Special thanks to Paul Detwiler, Director of the short film “La Reina de los Cuentos” and Fernando Garcia, Editor for allowing us to feature parts of the documentary.
Port of Entry has whole new set of stories for you, this time centered around LGBTQ+ issues.
This season we dive with our guests on what it means to be queer in the borderlands, finding yourself and fighting for your rights.
Follow hosts Natali Gonzalez and Alan Lilienthal as they sit down with these fascinating people who share their stories. Listen in and join us!
If you like this episode, show us some love @portofentrypod.
From KPBS and PRX, “Port of Entry” tells cross-border stories that connect us. More stories at www.portofentrypod.org
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Port of Entry'' is written, produced and directed by Julio C. Ortiz Franco.
Adrian Villalobos is our technical producer and sound designer.
Alisa Barba is our editor.
Episodes are translated by Julio C. Ortiz Franco and Natali Gonzales.
Elma Gonzalez is our Spanish editor.
Lisa Morrisette-Zapp is director of audio programming and operations and John Decker is the director of content development.
This program is made possible, in part, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.