Eldest sibling, performer, advocate; theseare some of the roles Zaide Manzano identifies with. Outside of the office, Zaide is also DeLa Rosa, Anchorage’s Latine songstress and drag queen, sure to offer goosebumps with every note they hit. In this interview, Zaide recounts their evolving relationship with self-identity on and off the stage, reminding the importance of visibility for Latinx and genderqueer communities in Alaska.
How long have you been performing? Has it aided you in finding your true gender identity? “I’ve been performing since I was 4 years old, singing in the garage with a jukebox and all my cousins as my audience,” they laugh warmly. Before I started recognizing my gender identity, I participated in choir and in theatre, spaces that introduced me to different perspectives and opened me up to the idea that maybe I’m not cisgender. In college I found my community and began advocating for it, and that’s when everything began fitting into place. I learned that even though I enjoy makeup and sometimes wear more feminine clothes, those characteristics don’t have to be tied to womanhood. Growing up, I often felt like the odd one out. My art allowed me the medium to express myself in ways I couldn’t yet say or act on explicitly. It allowed me to explore a part of myself without having to out myself. Because if I want to play a dude’s role, it’s just a part, it’s artistic--or so I would tell myself. In finding my gender identity, my art started to transform with it. Like now, I feel more comfortable being very feminine on stage, and I believe it’s because drag allows me to perform that femininity on my own terms. Growing up, I was told what femininity looked like and I couldn’t explore it on my own. Now I’m in control, and I don’t have to feel gross or uncomfortable with someone’s expectations projected onto me because I’m consenting to this idea of femininity.
Why are Latinx parents so afraid of their kids being genderqueer? Is it cultural? I believe it’s a survival instinct--a fear of the unknown. My parents are immigrants and had to learn to survive with resilience. That looks like skepticism and distrust because you always have to protect your children from something. It makes sense, but if that cycle never gets broken, the result is children who are also ignorant to these issues. It took baby steps, but we’re in a better place now. I showed them with time and conversation that I’m still Zaide. It’s still hard, and we still have a ways to go, but they’ve come so far. Catholic guilt is very real. And our culture is traditional, but in reconnecting with my indigenous roots, I’ve learned it wasn’t always that way. I come from the Nahua peoples, and I’ve learned how these traditions were stolen from us to instill a standard of colonization, which is very gendered. Nahuatl, our language was never meant to be so rigid, so binary, but it was taken from us and replaced with Spanish. Now I know that the Nahua didn’t believe in a gender binary, and I don’t either, so it feels like breaking a cycle of colonization. I’m decolonizing my identity, and slowly reconnecting--transitioning brought me closer to my ancestors. My queerness helped me get here, and I’m so grateful for that.
What do genderqueer youth need from us right now? It seems we’ve come so far, but are we even close? There are still too many queer brown kids finding themselves with no place to go. There are many resources in town; Full Spectrum Health, Choosing Our Roots, Identity Inc. But we want to get to the point where these resources are no longer necessary. We need to support an environment where we can all just live and enjoy our lives, because it didn’t feel that way just a few years ago. And these kids need role models, they need to see themselves in more people around them. Back in June, Ivanna, Goldie, and I performed a Drag Story Time event at the Native Heritage Center. An old high school friend, now a schoolteacher, messaged me just two weeks ago about her student who saw me, then was just obsessing over me. The idea that I could make such an impact on a little kid in the classroom, and for that to have resonated with them--I cried. I think that’s why I do what I do.
-You can support DeLa Rosa from the audience at Mad Myrna’s Diva Variety Show Fridays and Saturdays at 9 PM, and by following @official.dela.rosa on Instagram.
PROUDLY POWERED BY SOL DE MEDIANOCHE NEWS, LLC. Sol de Medianoche is a monthly publication of the Latino community in Anchorage, Alaska