July 4, 2022 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

The Fruitful Reign of Los Angeles’ Queer Mother Karina Samala

Since the 1990s, one woman has been keeping queer culture alive from Long Beach to L.A.

With Ryan Murphy’s “Pose” sweeping the Golden Globes this month and everyone’s thoughts turning to holiday pageantry and celebration, it’s no surprise that the concept of the queer mother has taken hold in the public imagination. Back in the day, when queer folks had to stand together to claim their own spaces and escape brutal treatment by their own society, trans women held their own, offering shelter to younger women who had come to L.A. to make a life for themselves. If you were a trans woman in the early ‘90s or 2000s in L.A., you probably came across Karina Samala, one of the most active voices for trans rights in a still-divided community. When Zachary Drucker, the L.A.-based artist, activist and actress, sat down with Karina, she had a few memories of her own to share about the influential producer of two trans beauty pageants, “Queen USA” and “Queen of the Universe.”

In a conversation with Drucker, Samala remembers growing up during a more conservative period in L.A. history. She was terrified to “out” herself as queer, nevermind as a trans woman, for fear of losing work and exposing herself to violence. To find her own community, she started getting involved with the queer organization Imperial Courts, one of the oldest and most celebrated resources for trans folks in L.A. Once she started immersing herself in the community, a world of possibilities started to open up.

“Empress Honey Carolina had a fundraiser for the Imperial Court called the Closet Ball; a coming-out-of-the-closet type of thing. They asked me: ‘Come on join the pageant! The prize is a lot!’” Samala told Drucker. “It’s a reverse ball where the male would come out as a male and be judged as a male, then someone would do their makeup backstage and then they’d be judged as a female, and whoever wins gets the crown. And it goes both ways. So, I won and was so excited and started dressing up in public! That started the whole thing. And I started joining other pageants, bigger pageants. I went to Chicago, San Francisco, Sacramento. I started winning! I thought, wow this is fun. But I still couldn’t leave the house in makeup, because of my neighbors.”

Samala’s pageant career and her day career – working as an aerospace technician for the government – seldom crossed paths. However, when Samala was offered a spot working with the L.A. County Sheriff’s department, she saw a way to make even more of a difference. Before West Hollywood was the gay-and-proud city we know today, it was a place in need of a lot of reform, especially where the cops were concerned. Like a protective mother, Samala used to check on the women doing sex work to make sure they had condoms and a safe place to stay. She didn’t just stop there.

Before there were any specific resources for trans folks in the city, Samala helped create the Transgender Health Program at St. John’s. Today, she still acts as an agent for change by serving on the West Hollywood Transgender Advisory Board. She has no intention of slowing down the fight.

“We need to honor transgender people, especially all those who died; we must fight for them. We need to vote the right people into office who will help us.” Samala told Drucker in her interview. “That’s very important. We have lots of work to do. We need to build a free world for everyone to be respected and to improve the quality of life and space for all transgender people.”

Related Posts

Happening Now: West Hollywood’s LGBTQ+ Arts Festival

May 23, 2022

May 23, 2022

By Susan Payne Happening now through the end of June, WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival celebrates the artistic contributions of...

California Trans Child Molester Gets 2 Years In Juvenile Facility

February 2, 2022

February 2, 2022

A Los Angeles County judge ordered Hannah Tubbs, a transgender California woman, to serve two years in a juvenile facility...

Homeless Initiative Meeting In West Hollywood

February 2, 2022

February 2, 2022

The City of West Hollywood’s Homeless Initiative works to address homelessness with a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency, collaborative response. It’s estimated that...

WeHo Premieres the ‘Moving Image Media Art’ Exhibition Series

February 2, 2022

February 2, 2022

The City of West Hollywood announces the premiere of the Moving Image Media Art (MIMA) program and the worldwide debut...

LA Street Will Potentially Be Named After Anti-LGBTQ Singer

February 2, 2022

February 2, 2022

A portion of Bailey Street may be renamed to the late Mexican Mariachi singer ” Vicente Fernandez Street’ – a...

WeHo Spreads Word About Free Covid Testing

February 2, 2022

February 2, 2022

The City of West Hollywood is reminding residents that free COVID-19 testing is available for them.  Demand for COVID-19 testing...

Green Qween New Queer-Owned Cannabis Shop Will Open Downtown

February 2, 2022

February 2, 2022

Green Qween, a new queer-owned and queer-driven cannabis shop, will open in downtown on April 20th.  The shops owners, Andrés...

2022 ‘WeHo Reads’ Series Celebrates the ‘Road to Joy’

February 2, 2022

February 2, 2022

The City of West Hollywood invites community members to celebrate literature and local authors with its 2022 WeHo Reads literary...

New CA Law Helps With Transgender Deadnames

January 18, 2022

January 18, 2022

A new California law requires public colleges to update diplomas and records for transgender students who have changed their names....

MJ Rodriguez, 1st Openly Transgender Actress to Win Golden Globe

January 18, 2022

January 18, 2022

Michaela Jae “MJ” Rodriguez has made history by becoming the first openly transgender person to win a Golden Globe.  The...

Animal Shelter Donations In Honor Of Betty White

January 18, 2022

January 18, 2022

Animal shelter donations have increased exponentially in honor of late actress gay icon and animal lover Betty White. Over the...

AIDS/LifeCycle 2022 Needs More Volunteers

January 18, 2022

January 18, 2022

AIDS LifeCycle is back with more than $4 million raised so far for the 2022 ride benefitting the HIV/AIDS-related services...

Long Beach Named One of the Best LGBTQ Cities

January 18, 2022

January 18, 2022

For the 10th year in a row Long Beach has been named one of the best cities in the nation...

Gay Wedding At Dodger Stadium

January 18, 2022

January 18, 2022

Eric Braverman and Jonathan Cottrell will exchange vows at Dodger Stadium. Showing the progress the LA Dodgers have made as...

LGBTQ Haven in Long Beach

January 18, 2022

January 18, 2022

Long Beach is quickly becoming more and more of a safe haven for LGBTQ individuals with its queer spaces exploding...