The Challenge of Being a Mexican Transgender Woman in Dallas

Sophia Corona never imagined that walking through the door of the Mexican Consulate in Dallas would feel like being reborn.

On February 16, Sophia became the first Mexican transgender woman in Dallas to receive a birth certificate from the Mexican consulate that recognizes her gender identity, allowing her to leave her old name behind.

From that day, Sophia was able to start making the necessary changes to all her legal documents so that there was no difference between her appearance and her name. Sophia is finally who she always wanted to be.

“It feels like I’ve taken a giant leap forward and although I still have a lot to do, I feel like everything will be easier now and I won’t look bad like when someone would see my ID, read a man’s name and see I’m a woman,” she said. “It’s over.”

This year, the Mexican government began to grant its transgender citizens birth certificates in their preferred gender identity. The process is free and it is carried out quickly in any Mexican consulate in the world, with few requirements.

“Even I can’t believe it,” said Sophia, 30. “Now my passport has my new name on it and I feel like something has happened that I never thought could happen.”

Sophia has lived in North Texas for four years with Gabriela Pérez, his wife.

Sophia was fascinated by women’s clothing and accessories since childhood. Sometimes while playing, she would put on a dress and heels, and she said that made her very happy.

She has vivid memories of a dream she had one night as a child, where she was getting ready to perform in a play and saw her dress and shoes, knowing she would wear them to perform.

“When I was about to put the dress on, I woke up,” Sophia said. “And now I realize what that dream was trying to tell me. Since I was very young, I stored this deep inside of me.

She was living like a man, but everything about her told her there was something wrong.

In a high school in Mexico City, at the age of 14, she met Gabriela Pérez, also 30 years old.

They dated for a few months and broke up after leaving school. Sophia went to college to become an engineer, and Gabriela decided to become a Catholic nun.

Neither dated again or had another relationship. Sophia graduated from college and worked as an engineer in Mexico City. Gabriela was sent to California by her religious order.

Sophia Corona (left) and Gabriela Pérez (right) met when they were 14 while in high school in Mexico City. A decade later, they reunited through Facebook and began a relationship after Gabriela finished her service as a nun. Sophia’s transition began after their marriage.(Ben Torres / Special Contributor)

Ten years later, they reconnect via Facebook and get to know each other again. They thought about dating again.

“I had to make a decision before taking my perpetual vows the following year,” said Gabriela, who had already been a nun for 9 years. “I thought about it a lot and decided to close this cycle by completing the last year of my temporary vows.”

Once she ended her commitment to the church, Gabriela returned to Mexico and reunited with Sophia, whose government-issued documents still identified him as “male”. They started dating again, and given the lack of opportunities in Mexico, Gabriela decided to return to the United States, where she was already a legal resident. She moved to Dallas.

Months later, Sophia came to visit her girlfriend and decided to stay. They tied the knot in Dallas in July 2018, when they were both 26.

Later came the biggest challenge their relationship had ever endured: Sophia’s transition.

Until she was 26, Sophia lived by the standards imposed on her. She silenced her desire to be a woman for all these years.

But one day, she had the courage to reveal her biggest secret to his wife.

“One day, before she came home from work, I dressed and made up with everything I could find and waited for her at home,” Sophia said.

When she arrived, Gabriela didn’t quite understand what was going on. Sophia told him what she had never told anyone else.

“It was a shock for me. I was coming out of nine years of Catholic conservatism, and that’s when my mind opened up,” Gabriela said. “There was a kind of resistance, to think that I had left the convent, that I had worked so hard. For me, it was total depravity. I couldn’t understand it.

During her inner struggle, Gabriela started doing research: reading books, watching videos and movies. Anything that could help her understand why the person she knew as her husband liked to dress up as a woman.

“For me, it was very difficult to see that [Sophia] I would go to work in boots, jeans and a shirt, and when I came back from work I found her wearing a dress and makeup,” Gabriela said. “It was very difficult for me.”

They were crying and fighting every day, and it all got even more complicated when Sophia realized she wanted more than just women’s clothes: she wanted to change her whole life.

“I tried to deny it, to contain it. I asked for help to clarify my ideas. I had a lot of introspection, reflection,” Sophia said. “It’s not just what you go through, but also having to tell family, friends.”

They decided to break up. But it only lasted a few hours.

“We talked and tried to find common ground, we recognized that we loved each other very much and wanted to move on…and that’s what we did,” Gabriela said. “Day after day, week after week, month after month, with the love we have for each other.”

Gabriela began to learn more about the transgender community and made peace with Sophia’s identity and the idea that she is also now part of the LGBTQ community.

With her new birth certificate, Sophia Corona will be able to begin the process of change...
With her new birth certificate, Sophia Corona will be able to begin the name change process on all of her official documents in Mexico and the United States.(Ben Torres / Special Contributor)

“I don’t mind her being the way she is. I’m in love with her as a person, but in the eyes of the world I’m a lesbian because I’m with another woman,” Gabriela said. “But I don’t care about labels, I love her and she’s my wife.”

At the end of 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and after several months of therapy and introspection, Sophia began hormone treatment at the Oak Lawn Resource Center, and her life began to change.

At first, she found it difficult to go out dressed as a woman, but she gradually gained confidence. A few months ago, Sophia changed jobs and now lives as herself on a daily basis.

Their new relationship to the world as a couple has not been easy.

“Now I realize all the things that we women go through that I hadn’t seen before,” Sophia said. “Fear, having to be aware of your surroundings, or when someone is looking at you, or when someone is talking about you. And you just want to live your life, but you never know what crazy person might love you and resent you.

Last March, Sophia and Gabriela bought their first home in Garland.

It is still very difficult to be a member of the transgender community in Texas.

Sophia and Gabriela learn every day that living in one of the most conservative states in the country has its consequences.

Just a month ago, Sophia said she was rejected by a company that had already made her a written job offer. When they found out she was trans, they just cut off communication with her. She is now considering taking legal action against the company.

Sophia and Gabriela lament the new debate where heads of state, they say, are making transgender children a new public enemy.

In February, Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered several state agencies to investigate cases of transgender children receiving certain types of gender-affirming care, calling it “child abuse.”

Abbott even asked citizens to report the parents of these children, as well as the doctors and nurses who perform these treatments. The order is now contested.

“We’re a very easy target,” Sophia said. “Child abuse is not having enough money and having to work two jobs, never seeing your children. Why don’t they solve this? But no, it’s easier to look at that, us (trans people), than to fight inequality, which is what the government should be working on.

“It’s terrible that the governor is speaking out of ignorance, out of disrespect and empathy, and from his privileged status quo,” Gabriela said. “He forgets that we pay him to be our representative and maintain order, to represent all of us, not just those who vote for him.”

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