‘Orange Is the New Black’ Actress Talks About Her Transgender Sister

Actress Selenis Leyva

Selenis Leyva
Photo: Elise Gannett (via METROWEEKLY)

While most of the focus on transgender issues related to the Netflix series Orange is the New Black (ONTB) has been focused on actress Laverne Cox, Washington, D.C.’s METROWEEKLY magazine shows us that there is another actress of the series who has a transgender connection. Selenis Leyva, who plays Gloria Mendoza, has a sister who is transgender:

MW: When did it become apparent that Marizol was, in fact, more than gay, that she was transgender?

LEYVA: Shortly after coming out — under two years. She began to go secretly outside dressed as a woman shortly after coming out as a gay male. She would hide her women’s clothing in her room. She would then leave for school and change in the basement before going outside. I’d find the clothes, my mother would find the clothes. And we felt like we had to respect whatever she needed to go through. So we never confronted her.

I confronted her when she first came out. I said, “Do you want to be a woman? Do you feel you are a woman?” And at the time she said, “No, no, no.” But I think it’s because she didn’t know what she was feeling. It was all very confusing. And even to this day, I’ll ask her, “Did you lie to me at that point?” And she’ll say, “No, I didn’t lie, I just really didn’t know what I was going to do.” But she’s living her truth now. She’s living her truth.

MW: How did the family cope with it when she finally decided to be herself?

LEYVA: In the early stages it was hard emotionally for the entire family to come to terms with what we were losing. I was losing a brother, and my mother and father were losing a son, somehow. So it was hard. Even to this day I try to picture her before she transitioned, and it’s like this person has gone.

We had to get used to not saying the name. In the beginning, I had a hard time not using her birth name, her given name. It took me a while before I could address her as Marizol without it sounding or feeling forced. And again, it wasn’t because I couldn’t understand what was happening. I felt like I was losing a brother who I loved so much, whose face was everything I loved and had so many memories. It took me a while before I was able to fully embrace it. And I remember saying to her, “Please excuse me, because I’m having a hard time.” I said, “I want you to forgive me for slipping up at times and calling you by the other name that you do not want to hear.” I wasn’t doing it intentionally — it was something in my psyche that was still having a hard time letting go. Because somehow I felt like I was losing this other person.

MW: And now?

Read the full article

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