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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA student shares her experience making the gender transition

Michelle Tomaszkowicz

Avalos hopes that her transition can inspire others in a similar situation and strives to set an example for other transgender individuals.

Arielle Sarai Avalos awoke at 7 a.m. last year with an epiphany. While completing her daily routine of showering and applying makeup, she texted a friend, then left her home on Broadway Boulevard and drove to campus with a new identity.

Avalos, an out-spoken 19-year-old UA student, has always known she was different, but was unable to articulate and understand why. Avalos identified as a gay teen throughout high school, harboring repressed emotions. In hindsight, repression was triggered because she lacked the proper vocabulary and knowledge.

“At the time, I didn’t know what I was feeling,” Avalos said. “I’ve always been one to bottle things up and not talk about it.”

Following extensive research and personal reflection, Avalos became informed, permitting her true expression as a transgender woman. 

Her self-discovery thrived further during her freshman year, when she took Introduction to LGBTQ Studies.

“I believe it was always there, but I never knew what to call it,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “Being able to get the tools [helped with] understanding who I am.”

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Friends instantly offered encouragement as she contemplated potential names without breakthrough results. The process remained bleak until a morning revelation compelled Avalos to consult someone she’s trusted since childhood.

Aleah Shook had been a dependable confidant from the time she and Avalos lived in their hometown of Yuma. She said Avalos’ name is an authentic representation of her personality.

“It is spelled like Ariel, ‘The Little Mermaid,’ but she put her own twist on it,” Shook said. “She’s very unique like that.”

Determined to legalize her internal identity, Avalos paid for the expenses out-of-pocket. She submitted a name order petition to Pima County Superior Court, was granted judiciary sanction within two hours and is now interchanging her previous name on every associated archive, document and account. The process was as complicated as it was rewarding.

“You don’t realize how much you put your name on everything,” Avalos said. “It was an amazing feeling to be recognized.”

Family transition

Before her transition, Avalos was considered the only grandson on her mother’s side, feeling pressured to live a lie. After accepting her transgender nature, she feared that disclosing her identity to family would result in rejection and ostracism.

Their Mexican-Catholic background originally inhibited Avalos from revealing what she defines as her true self. When Avalos mustered the courage to be transparent, she was surprised by her family’s unconditional support of her transition.

Avalos’ maternal grandmother, Sarai, became her caretaker and role model after her parents’ divorce caused tension between Avalos and her mother. When a phone conversation ended with her grandmother saying “mijo,” Avalos was going to let it go.

She recalled thinking, “I’m not going to expect much from my grandma because she’s known me this way my whole life.”

Realizing she used the wrong pronoun, her grandmother quickly corrected herself.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s going to take me awhile. I love you, mija!”

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Hormone therapy

Six months have passed since Avalos began hormone therapy. Remembering to swallow a tan estradiol pill and a blue spironolactone tablet each night was initially difficult but is habitual now.

Fat redistribution, facial rounding, skin softening and loss of body hair are a few physiological transformations Avalos has gradually observed.

“You want the results faster than they are coming, but I have to remind myself it’s a slow process,” she said. “As my body changes … a lot of my clothes don’t fit properly or the way they used to.”

By end of this year, Avalos intends to undergo a gender reassignment surgery. She’s heavily anticipating the day her gender expression will permanently match her gender identity.

“I’ve been living a lie my whole life, existing as something I’m not,” she said. “I just want to be me.”

Avalos’ transition fees have been covered by her father’s medical insurance. 

Avalos’ journey, unlike other transgender individuals, has encountered little adversity. While Avalos appreciates this, she acknowledges the reality of its rarity.

“[I was] met with a lot of acceptance and love throughout my transition and coming out,” Avalos said. “I know people face more harassment than I do.”

Helping others

As a Theater Arts major, Avalos said she hopes to advocate for the LGBT community as a future celebrity while utilizing her social media platform and acting performances.

“There are so many kids who are like me,” she said. “Kids who are afraid to come out and need someone to follow after. I would like that to be me.”

Last month, Avalos acted in “The Vagina Monologues,” creating public discussion. 

She said she resonates the with monologue performace on issues affecting women, since it stresses the different discomforts and splendors women experience day to day, challenging society to reconsider “rigid gender-based standards.”

“Arielle is brave enough to support other women—especially other trans women,” said fellow actress Ashley Little. “Her Facebook posts are typically about trans women of color. Hearing that perspective from her is really important.”

Being able to live among people in “unity, solidarity and understanding” is how Avalos said she envisions the world in which she hopes to help create.

“You’re existing in your own being and allowing others to exist in their own being,” Avalos emphasized. “[We need] to ‘parallely’ live through life without ruining each other’s life.”

Follow Tori Tom on Twitter.

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