Community Spotlight: Alexis Martinez
By Zizi Phillips
Alexis Martinez, (she/ her), identifies as a transgender lesbian woman. She is married to her partner of 45 years and has a daughter and two granddaughters. Alexis is of Mexican and Apache decent. She was born in the projects of Chinatown. Alexis describes herself as culturally diverse, but stays grounded in her roots of her culture.
Living in the projects offered insight to Alexis as to the clear segregation and social separations between different cultures. As a kid, Alexis knew that she was different and identified as transgender. In the 50’s there was not many examples of transgender women as there are in today’s society. Alexis found herself fighting not only for social justice, but for justice in regards to marginalized groups of people in general. Alexis’ first example of systemic racism began when she stumbled across images of Emmet Till’s murder. This sparked a flame within Alexis into pursuing radical advocacy and justice for all people, including transgender women of color. In 1959, Alexis decided to take an oath to discontinue pledging the allegiance. Living at this time, racism was at an all-time high, liberty and justice wasn’t the truth for individuals that were non-white. Experiencing bullying in a Catholic school gave Alexis tough skin and she was able to use this strength to defend herself against people who attempted to harm her. She trained as a boxer at age eleven, by the age of fourteen she was a golden glove boxer!
Alexis is a woman of transgender experience, but at the time of the realization of herself, there wasn’t established vernacular yet for the identities she carried other than pronouns: she/he. There also weren’t many inclusive spaces for women of transgender experience among housing or employment. Name change and hormone accessibility were easier to obtain compared to now for transgender women, according to Alexis; There were underground physicians who she found that helped her physically transition through careful navigation. Misogyny was very prominent in the mid 1960’s, and physical and emotional abuse was common in Alexis’ experience. This horrible mistreatment of women, especially transgender women played a huge role in why physical violence towards transgender women were’ usually not reported during this time, and still to this day.
Alexis is now working with The Trans legal Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund Name Change Project . This organization aids women of transgender experience to have the ability to change their gender and name on important documents of residency. TLDEF helps women get their documents free of charge. Alexis also works with incarcerated women of transgender experience by supporting them with resources, such as food and money to able to connect with loved ones through telephone outside of prison. She initially started working at TLDEF as a volunteer. Alexis is now 72 years young and is planning to get a degree in law. She feels more alive and energetic than she has ever felt in her life! One inspirational moment that Alexis remembers is being incarcerated with Bernie Sanders; hey both were participants of boycotting for social justice. In 1968 Alexis was also arrested for avoiding the U.S. military draft. She served four months in prison and was released with the help of her provider completing gender affirming paperwork indicating that she was in fact transgender and no longer considered male, therefore should not be asked to serve in the military draft! The correctional center released Alexis, and dropped the charges of insubordination for not serving in the military.
Alexis is also inspired every time she sees resources for housing and employment for transgender women become more accessible! She is motivated by her daughter, partner, and granddaughters. “The sin of Slavery is what continues to corrupt the American dream” Alexis shared with me. A big thanks to our sister Alexis and all that she is. Her story is so heroic and amazing. Her testaments have helped so many women of trans experience!