WAMU 88.5 : Metro Connection

Xion's Story: Transgender Woman Tells Of Life On The Streets

Play associated audio
Xion Unique Lopez wants to help improve the lives of other LGBT youth.
Xion Unique Lopez
Xion Unique Lopez wants to help improve the lives of other LGBT youth.

Xion Unique Lopez, 20, was born a boy. Her name was Ronnie Lopez Taylor. Raised in a huge family where family members often called her a drama queen to tease her about her aspirations of being a pop star, Xion often felt like the black sheep.

"I come from a very wealthy, big unsupportive family," says Taylor. "I felt like I didn't belong. I felt like it was me against the world."

Lopez had no one to talk to. She describes her early childhood as cold and unwelcoming — a place where she was left to her thoughts on who she really was.

"I knew I was living my life as a lie," she says. "I remember at times just waking up and crying because I just felt like I was a part of a horrible nightmare in which I just wanted to wake up from. I knew for myself it either had to be changed or I was going to take my own life."

So she decided to leave. The days of being forced to change her "Ronnie" clothes to "Xion" clothes outside her family's home in Hyattsville, Md. were long gone. She wanted to be free to live her life as who she truly was: a woman. She made the decision to leave her family at the age of 14.

"You want to be free in your mind, but there [are] so many things that you are faced with: vulnerability, a feeling of neglect, a feeling of just wanting to be wanted," she says. "You feel free, but there's still just always that something missing."

Living as Xion

Unfortunately, that freedom came with a price. A friend introduced her to the Stroll, D.C.'s prostitution zone. Lopez says that it was a job that she didn't think much of. "It was a quick and easy way to make money," she says. The work was not ideal, however, she was able to freely cross dress and practice how to be the woman she wanted to be.

With no family and no home, she gradually began to form a life. She went to high school in Laurel, Md. from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., worked a full-time at Potbelly's, and then worked on the Stroll at night. Lopez says she was "determined to do the things that [people] told her she wouldn't be able to do."

"I was determined to finish school," she says.

Even though she was creating structure for herself, an event that took place forced her to make a change.

One night she went out partying. She was addicted to cocaine in that point in her life so she had taken some during the night. Later on, she woke up from a date rape in a hotel. Lopez says that she remembers thinking that she would change her life around if only she could get up from the bed. She called her counselor, who is also the keeper of the Wanda Alston house, a non-profit owned by the Transgender Health Empowerment, Inc. located in the District, and she began her drug treatment and housing process.

Xion's future

These days, Lopez is focused on two things: completing her medical transition that began in December 2011 and working toward improving the living conditions of LGBTQ youth, especially transgendered youth, who are without a home in D.C.

She also hopes to one day get married and formalize a non-profit — one located in Baltimore and another in Philadelphia to reach out to homeless youth who are trying to live unconventional lives in a conventional world.

Lopez has overcome obstacles that most people 20 years her senior would have not been able to overcome. She feels hopeful about the future and that, most importantly, she has purpose. Even with this new found hope, at times, some sadness creeps in when she thinks about what her life could have been if her family was supportive.

"I look at my younger sister," she says. "She has the attention and love from my mother. I do feel that I missed out on that. I tell people all the time now that I live life with no regrets. Everything I've done, I've had to go through. It was a lesson for a reason."

Lopez's hardships in her childhood: homelessness, addiction, and prostitution were all, according to her, lessons in disguise. She has used her experiences to empower transgendered youth who are without homes. Lopez says that strides must be taken to ensure that children have a safe place to live no matter how they identify themselves.


[Music: "Row Remix" by Jon Brion from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind / "I Know Who You Are But What Am I" by Mogwai from Happy Songs for Happy People / "The Winner Is" by DeVotchKa from Little Miss Sunshine]

NPR

Once Outlaws, Young Lords Find A Museum Home For Radical Roots

Inspired by the Black Panthers, the Young Lords were formed in New York City by a group of Puerto Rican youth in 1969. Their history is now on display in a new exhibition.
NPR

Europe's Taste For Caviar Is Putting Pressure On A Great Lakes Fish

Scientists say lake herring, a key fish in Lake Superior's food web, is suffering because of mild winters and Europe's appetite for roe. Some say the species may be at risk of "collapse."
WAMU 88.5

A Congressional Attempt To Speed The Development Of Lifesaving Treatments

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act in a rare bi-partisan effort. The bill is meant to speed the development of lifesaving treatments, but critics warn it may also allow ineffective or even harmful drugs onto the market.

NPR

Some Google Street View Cars Now Track Pollution Levels

Google's already tested three of the pollution-sensor equipped cars in Denver, and is currently trying them out in the Bay Area.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.