Fashion and lifestyle magazine Vogue made headlines with its very first cover feature a muxe individual — an indigenous Mexican, particularly from the Oaxaca region, who mixes masculine and feminine identity and often identifies as “third gender” rather than female or male. Assigned male at birth, they may also identify as gay men, transgender women, cross-dressers, or men inspired by femininity.
The cover features 37-year-old Estrella Vazquez in a traditional huipil with a vibrant floral pattern.
“Once upon a time there was a land full of magic, fine gold, and iguanas, where the warm breeze still whispers in the ears of the people walking by,” reads the Vogue Mexico post.
“It is here that, in time immemorial, the story of the third gender begins. In a world in which labels seem essential, muxes appear as figures who defy classification. The third gender has an important role in the Zapotec history and becomes the living proof of the ancestral magic that still walks on this land.”
"Everyone is seeing this cover, everyone is congratulating me ... It almost makes me want to cry."— Openly 🏳️🌈 (@Openly) November 22, 2019
Estrella Vazquez has made history as the first Mexican indigenous trans woman on the cover of Vogue | #LGBT+https://t.co/LleZwmCqa3
The muxe culture has been a part of Mexico for centuries, flourishing regardless of often absurd U.S. debates on gender and trans people. The release of the cover in Mexico is also being taken as a sign that the largely overall Roman Catholic culture is beginning to become more tolerant in terms of gender identity and presentation.
“I think it’s a huge step,” Vazquez told Reuters. “There’s still discrimination, but it’s not as much now and you don’t see it like you once did.”
Vasquez was invited to be on the Vogue cover in August. At the time, she had never even heard of the magazine and was blown away that they wanted to share her indigenous culture.
Indigenous transgender women has been part of Mexico's heritage for centuries is getting the @vogue magazine’s front cover for the first time. #Mexico ingrained #RomanCatholic heritage has reinforced anti #gay and anti #transgender prejudice. https://t.co/NkkiroVoPP— Jacobo Ramirez (@jacoborn) November 21, 2019
“Everyone is seeing this cover, everyone is congratulating me,” she said. “I don’t know; it’s just hard to make sense of the emotions I’m feeling. It almost makes me want to cry.”
Vasquez is of the indigenous Zapotec people and part of a culture that goes back 2,500 years. Zapotec language is gender-neutral, as opposed to Spanish, which uses gendered articles (el and la). The Zapotec and muxe cultures are not well-known outside of Mexico, but hopefully this Vogue cover will change that.