Living life as your true self might not hold much importance for some, but for others, it is the ultimate driving force.
Miguel Pena, a queer trans Venezuelan-American Tik Tok creator (whose pronouns are he/they), understands the value of showing up as his true self. He has managed to do this while navigating his identity’s intersections. And this is something he doesn’t take lightly.
Despite living in a world where trans people are often — and unnecessarily — demonized and dehumanized, Pena uses his platform to shine a light on the beauty of growing and nurturing the part of him that was always meant to flourish.
The Latino creator draws you in with his raw — often endearing — depictions of real, everyday life experiences through comedy and relatability.
Scrolling through his Tik Tok page — which has more than three million followers — Miguel Pena shows us a range of stories.
His followers can see his life as a normal 20-year-old, as well as his first encounter with testosterone. Miguel even invites us to witness how he helps his mother thrive in her newly opened Venezuelan cuisine restaurant.
The significance of being a queer and Latino creator is not lost on him.
Pena has made his transition public, and its impact has been grand. This is especially true for trans people of color, as it is not the norm for LGBTQ+ spaces to be represented in Latine and BIPOC communities.
His appeal also lies in documenting milestones that play a significant role in Latine communities, such as being a first-generation college graduate.
In fact, the Venezuelan-American content creator graduated with his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at 19 years old, just a year ago (from the time of writing this article.)
There’s a lot to Pena, which is why we made it a point to secure an interview with him.
Via a Zoom call — on a stormy afternoon on my end and a sunny day on Pena’s — we spoke about his background and the significance of his content.
Interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
On how his mom pushed him to excel
I had spent five years living in Venezuela. I was like 13 when we moved back to the US. I was raised by a single immigrant mom. When we got back, she told me how expensive college was here, and I didn’t really know what to expect.
Her dream was always for us to go to college here. You know how Latinos are. She was like, “I don’t care what you do after.” For her, it was about putting us on the same level as the white folks and Americans.
And it took me a minute to get there, but I ended up attending a high school with a college program. After 10th grade, it was just straight into college. At first, I hated it, but then I was like, “man, this is really cool.”
I always tell people I only had maybe six or seven other Latinos, including me. In the school, there were maybe four Black kids and maybe four Asian kids.
I walked across the stage with my AA degree at 17, and it was really satisfying to hear them say my last name — a very ethnic last name. I went to FGCU afterward on a scholarship and graduated again by the time I was 19.
Who else is doing it like this?
On coming out to his family
Growing up in a Latino household, there are a lot of gender norms, there’s a lot of stereotypes, and there’s a lot of expectations. It wasn’t so much about what they were telling me because, honestly, since I came out, my family has been nothing but understanding and supportive. However, as a first-generation, you want to be everything your parents couldn’t be. You want to be everything they want you to be or surpass their expectations at all costs. They deserve it. So it’s kind of finding a balance between still showing up for my family and living true to myself.
On how to speak to your family about difficult topics
One of the things that I did was give examples. I think that that always works. This sounds corny, but I actually put this in a video. I was like, “mom, you know, Ricky Martin? Martin came out, and everybody loved him, and if I come out, everybody’s going to love me.”
I was trying to find a way to relate it. I think one thing that a lot of folks sometimes, I think, get caught up in is thinking that your family is coming from a place of judgment, when usually they’re coming from a place of fear for you, of protectiveness.
Sometimes it’s not that they don’t want to understand, but that the reason that they don’t is A, because we haven’t talked about this stuff before, and B, we’re protective by nature.
So, my advice to people is just to try and be a little bit confident in yourself and have patience, because they’re not going always to get it on the first try. It might take a little bit. And if you have to take some distance to explore yourself, that’s okay. You’re not betraying anybody. You’re not going against your family’s wishes just because you choose to be yourself. But as a Latino, it’s tough. By getting away from those familial relationships, we’re driven so much by our family, culture, and sense of community.
On how social media influenced him
Social media definitely put the fire in my ass. When I was a kid, I grew up online. I did a lot of research; I watched a lot of YouTube. I did a lot of that stuff. But I kind of pushed it away and into the back of my mind. And then going back on social media and seeing that there was a community, especially on TikTok, there is a community for every single person. It helped me to have the support, to have the education, and to have the information. If it weren’t for social media, I probably would have no idea where to go and get testosterone or how to start researching clinics for top surgery here — or even have a good understanding of pronouns.
On creating content for Tik Tok
When I first started TikTok, it was right during quarantine. So, it was like we had all the time on our hands to think. All we could really do is think, be with ourselves and do all that kind of stuff. And then, for a while, I was like, “damn, do I talk about it? Do I just stay my dead name with this funny girl persona? Do I start showing up like myself and see where that takes me?” And so I did. And the response I have had from so many people really pushed me to keep going. Because, man, for a second, I thought I would get kicked off the Internet.
I don’t know why. It was my own anxieties, but it helped me to have that positive reinforcement and people telling me that this made sense to them too. I started growing along with so many other people. There were people in my comments that I would recognize. They’d tell me, “oh, I cut my hair when you did. Oh, I started T when you did. Oh, I told my family when you did.”
On his partner’s support
I feel really grateful to have met her. I’ll say this not even as a partner or girlfriend because I don’t think our relationship status matters as much as just the person she has been for me. She is the person I tell my deepest, darkest secrets to. One of the first people I came out with every step of the way where I was saying, I want to start T, she’s like, “Yeah, go and do it.” And she had to listen to me have the same internal struggle 10,000 times. She’s a really special person to me just for the fact that she’s been very patient, been very supportive, and has not given a damn what anybody has to say when it comes to my identity. She’s really supportive in that way. And all I hope is that the rest of the people in my community have somebody that’s there for them in that way.
On advice for other trans Latinos/es
For all the Latinos, all the trans Latinos that are out there that are finding these articles because they’re figuring themselves out: do not forget that you can be one thing and be the other too. Intersectionality is one of the most beautiful things that exist. It’s what makes people so unique and not feel alone. Sure, maybe it starts with [underrepresentaiton], fewer people in the media, but eventually we’re going to take over. Eventually, we will be the ones that everybody wants to be like. Do not be scared. Don’t be afraid of change. Don’t be scared of putting yourself out there because there’s much more freedom when you finally do it.