Bambi Alacran. Photo courtesy of Bambi Alacran.

A beautifully complicated, cultural coming of age. That’s how Bambi Alacran recalls her upbringing on the Eastside, a story of finding confidence and strength in spite of past traumas.

As some states across the nation move to ban gender-affirming treatments for youth, Alacran says such support saved her life and pushed her to pursue her dreams.

Those dreams began while a student at Theodore Roosevelt High School, as Alacran became more confident in her identity as a trans woman, posting makeup looks and tutorials on social media. Now a 21-year-old cosmetology student, she shares her story in hopes of inspiring others to step into self-love. 

Boyle Heights Beat sat down with Alacran to learn more about this journey.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Trigger Warning: This interview contains mentions of suicide.

Photo courtesy of Bambi Alacran.

Boyle Heights Beat: Where is home for you and how would you describe it? 

Bambi Alacran: For me, home is East LA and Boyle Heights. I grew up in both because I was raised by my mom and my grandma. My mom lived in Boyle Heights and my grandma lived in East LA before passing. Home is where there’s brown people, where there’s Spanish music, where you drive by Mariachi Plaza or El Mercadito. Like just very colorful, vibrant. All types of people around. And just very lively with the smell of tortillas hechas a mano. That’s the vibe. That’s what I think of when they come home. 

BHB: Growing up, what women did you see yourself in?

BA: Truly, my grandmother. My grandmother to me was like who taught me how to be a woman. To me, she was like, animated and somewhat of a cartoon femme fatale. Like, I watch her roll up her nylon mesh tights or whatever and put on her makeup and heels and stuff. So then I’d stomp around in her heels and put on her lipsticks and leave the tiniest little kiss prints all over her. And just emulate her femininity.

BHB: And how would you describe yourself now?

BA: Myself?  I think I’m just, I’m confident, kind of empowered. I’ve been through a lot that has made me who I am now. And I feel like growing up trans and Latino, I had no choice but to become wise at a really early age. I didn’t have much resources. The only thing I had was like myself to tell me “it’s okay you’re going through this. There’s nothing wrong with you. People just don’t understand who you are yet.” I don’t know how to explain it, I guess by creating my own peace in my queerness really helped me early on.

Bambia Alacran as a child (right) in an undated family photo. Photo courtesy of Bambi Alacran.

BHB: At what age did you come out? And how was that experience for you?

BHB: I came out first to my mom when I was 12 years old. It was the scariest thing ever, like, I’m Mexican, you know, and I remember always thinking, “I’m never going to transition until my dad’s dead.” I used to always think that. “I couldn’t do it until my dad dies because of machismo.” Then I started realizing, “I don’t see myself living long term as a boy at all.” I was sure I was gonna die early on by suicide. I thought “I’m not making it past 17. Why am I going to make life plans?” Which is so ridiculous. By 13 years old, I just felt like my skin was crawling, I couldn’t keep living like that. At 14 years old, I transitioned. I transferred to a new high school and just like, start f…ing fresh. New name, new face. I’m Bambi, period. At first it was smooth sailing, until it wasn’t. So I would say I socially transitioned at 14.

Bambia Alacran with her parents in an undated family photo. Photo courtesy of Bambi Alacran.

BHB: As a queer person it is so hard regardless of the support systems you may have. What do you have to say to the haters?

BA: Honestly, like, if you’re a person who’s a bigot in any way, there’s something you need to check within yourself. Why are you uncomfortable by someone else’s femininity? By someone else’s blackness or someone else being comfortable with being Latino? What part of you is being made uncomfortable? Truly discover that. Why do you feel afraid to wear nail polish or put on a dress? And then feel so threatened by another person expressing themselves in their own way?

Growing up I felt like it was kind of impossible to be both Mexican and queer, I felt like I was unacceptable in being Latino, and being trans. When I was a sophomore, on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” there was this one contestant that, for me, changed everything. She was this fabulous Mexican drag queen, who did a hometown look inspired by Mariachi Plaza, here in Boyle Heights. She was just gay and fabulous, and Mexican. And that really taught me that it’s great to overlap. Yes, I’m trans, but I’m also Mexican. That really just was a pivotal moment in embracing all of me.

BHB: You put it so beautifully, because it’s almost like a projection of their own insecurities, right?

BA: One thousand percent. An internal reflection. I don’t blame them. There was a time when I was homophobic. When I was a little I was taught certain ideas. And I was taught so strictly God made a man and a woman. Men are supposed to be with women and men are not supposed to be with boys and blah blah blah. That was so ingrained in my mind that one day, I saw a boy on boy kiss on television and I wanted to throw up because I was so uncomfortable. Because I thought so strongly that it was wrong, you know, but also, it was probably because I was a little fruity inside. These superficial things that make us seem so different, aren’t actually anything at all. When that’s all that is around you, you can’t really blame the person. Something that’s so important about expanding your viewpoint is being open, understanding and hearing out other people’s experiences. If you’re still homophobic or a bigot after hearing people’s stories and still want to argue about where people should [pee] without actually asking a trans person what it’s like to be trans, you’re choosing to live in ignorance.

Bambia Alacran with her grandmother in an undated family photo. Photo courtesy of Bambi Alacran.

BHB: What does it mean to you to be able to express yourself in different ways?

BA: It’s truly the only freedom we actually have in this life. The phrase “your body, your choice” is such a prevalent quote that we use in so many ways nowadays. Truly having medical freedom, or just having the ability to put on whatever f…ing fabric you choose each morning and paint on your f…ing eyeliner wing as sharp or long as or thick as you want it. My parents had so much control over me growing up, I had to have short hair all the time because my dad did not allow me to grow past a certain length. Makeup for me was like, truly what liberated me. I’d go into the bathroom and shave off my f…ing eyebrows, and then I’d get in trouble. And it was like, “well, what are you gonna do, they’re not gonna grow back for two months.” So then I stamp on stars on my eyebrows, or like, draw colorful eyebrows. I remember sophomore year of high school on St. Patrick’s day I drew on green eyebrows. It felt like gaining power over my own body. It’s so liberating. I think kids should have the freedom of exploring makeup and like doing what they want with their hair at the age they choose to.

“I feel like growing up trans and Latino, I had no choice but to become wise at a really early age. I didn’t have much resources. The only thing I had was like myself to tell me ‘it’s okay you’re going through this. There’s nothing wrong with you. People just don’t understand who you are yet.’” 

BHB: What does Boyle Heights represent for you?

BA: To me Boyle Heights represents roots, you know? I feel like a lot of our people across the country are very Americanized, and in a lot of ways, whitewashed. Now I spend most of my time in San Diego and Orange County and it’s a super different vibe, you know, and there’s a bunch of Latino kids they’re not as connected at all to like their roots or their history. Boyle Heights is truly like the epitome of being proud, of having heritage pride. Boyle Heights folks are some of the proudest people that I’ve ever seen. They are proud of who they are, proud of their parents, proud of being first generation or being dreamers, or whatever it is. That’s something to me, even as a trans person that I find so admirable. I find it so freaking brave. 

BHB: What advice do you have for young women coming into their own?

BA: Truly take one day at a time, like one moment at a time. The worst thing you can do is stress or worry about something that’s far ahead. Always remain positive. It’s always up to you, if you’re going to see the glass half full, or half empty. Find a way to spin everything into an opportunity because we’re never going to know the cards were dealt with, but it’s up to you how you play them, you know? If you have to step out of yourself and pretend you’re in a movie, do it. Do whatever it takes to get through it so you can rise to the best version you can be.

Avatar photo

Carmen González

Carmen González is a former Boyle Heights Beat reporter, a 2019 graduate of Felícitas and Gonzalo Méndez High School and a student at Cal State Long Beach. González is a fellow with the CalMatters...

Join the Conversation


  1. This was an amazing interview I loved it all beginning to end. Love you cousin you’ve come such a long way and we’re all so happy and proud of you! You’re a walking example of what “Being your true self!” is. Your grandma will forever be proud of you! She always showed you off!

  2. Gracias por entrevistar a Bambi..muy importante que se oigan estas historias.. bravo Carmen!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *