May 25, 2020 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

MIKA, Lil Nas X and More at GLAAD Awards

March 6, 2020

March 6, 2020

GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, today announced that recording artist and...

“Pose” Actress and Transgender Rights Advocate Angelica Ross Among the Honorees Truth Awards

March 3, 2020

March 3, 2020

The Annual Awards Show to Honor and Recognize LGBTQ + African Americans and Their Allies By Staff Writer Better Brothers...

Apply for New Affordable Senior Housing at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s McCadden Campus

February 28, 2020

February 28, 2020

The City of West Hollywood has announced that applications for new affordable senior housing will be accepted by the Los...

Santa Monica Honors LGBTQ Politician and Heal The Bay CEO on 100th Anniversary of U.S. Women’s Right to Vote

February 28, 2020

February 28, 2020

Honorees Include Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Heal The Bay CEO Dr. Shelley Luce Amidst an election year...

Los Angeles Premiere of Latinx LGBTQ Film at Outfest Fusion

February 26, 2020

February 26, 2020

“Acuitzeramo” screening March 9 By Staff Writer Outfest Fusion presents the Los Angeles premiere of Cabaldana Alchemy’s short film “Acuitzeramo”...

Douglas: What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting

February 26, 2020

February 26, 2020

By Chole Marie Rivera The theater is dark and light casts a purple glow on the outline of a cartoon...

WeHo Opens Nominations For 2020 Rainbow Key Awards

February 18, 2020

February 18, 2020

Nominations will be Accepted Until Thursday, February 27 By Staff Writer The City of West Hollywood is gathering nominations for...

Honoring National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day at the ONE Archive

February 4, 2020

February 4, 2020

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is on Friday, February 7. In the LGBTQ+ community, HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects gay black men...

Q&A: Being Openly Gay at LA Opera

February 3, 2020

February 3, 2020

The scene: Eurydice always imagined that her wedding day would be a day she’d never forget. But after a tragic...

USC One Archives to Host Screening of Film on Black Trans Woman to Honor Black History Month

February 1, 2020

February 1, 2020

Meet Mary Jones, a black transgender woman born in New York in 1803. Described as a “man-monster” in the press. ...

Trans Flag Emoji Unveiled for More Cyber-Inclusion

January 31, 2020

January 31, 2020

Transgender texters, rejoice! For there is finally an emoji there for you!  Unicode Consortium, the company that sets industry standard...

LGBT Center to Host Groundbreaking Conference for LGBT Widows and Widowers in L.A.

January 30, 2020

January 30, 2020

Renowned Designer, Author, Advocate Nate Berkus to Give Keynote Address On Saturday, February 29, the Los Angeles LGBT Center will host...

LGBTQ Center of LB Announces 2020 Executive Team for Board of Directors

January 29, 2020

January 29, 2020

The LGBTQ Center Long Beach recently announced its new executive team to lead the organization’s 2020 Board of Directors.  Stella...

Public Outcry Temporarily Saves Los Angeles LGBT Center’s STD, HIV Services

January 28, 2020

January 28, 2020

The temporary agreement restores funding through the end of March. The Los Angeles LGBT Center announced today that it has...

HRC to Honor Dan Levy, Janelle Monáe at Award Ceremony in DTLA

January 27, 2020

January 27, 2020

Award Season is upon us, and the LGBTQ+ Community is not immune. HRC announced today that actor Dan Levy will...