Social Issues

Doctor/drag queen looks to spark change in Venezuela through LGBT+ activism

By Hector Pereira

Caracas, Jun 23 (EFE).- Francisco Machado brings a great deal of passion to his role as a doctor, but he is equally dedicated and enthusiastic when putting on a wig, makeup and a dress and transforming himself into his feminine alter ego Vitiliga.

“I’m 27 years old and I’m a medical surgeon and I’m also a drag queen,” he said in revealing that other side of himself on Twitter on May 5.

Along with the message, he uploaded a pair of photos – one of him wearing a tie and a white lab coat and another in which he is wearing a blond wig, a red dress and heavy makeup around the eyes.

More than 1,000 Twitter users have posted their comments under that pinned tweet thus far, most of which have praised him for his courage.

Although he insists on keeping his feminine personality separate from the man that he is, those spheres are the two faces of a committed activist who wants to spark change in his country and is putting all of his energies into that pursuit.

“As activists, we’re coordinating more and more. We have a better-structured agenda,” Machado said.

He noted that Venezuela is far behind other South American countries in terms of LGBT+ rights but that this year’s pride month is a space conducive to bringing greater visibility to that community’s demands, including their call for same-sex marriage rights.

“I believe I have a commitment to diverse-gender people because a lot of the things you see nowadays in the health system are due to ignorance,” he said when asked about the country’s ban on blood donations by men who have sex with men, as well as other LGBT+ restrictions.

Machado said some of his colleagues in hospitals simply “are unaware” of how much other people can be affected by these rules, pointing to the fact that hospitalized trans women are placed in beds alongside cisgender men.

“Within the health area, we still have a lot to learn … and I think that little by little, with a lot of hard work, we can make progress,” he added.

Machado was nine years old when he became fascinated by the medical profession, finding inspiration in television shows in which plastic surgeons were portrayed as if they were Hollywood celebrities.

Although medicine and equipment shortages at hospitals in his crisis-hit homeland pose major challenges, the doctor chooses not to let those difficulties demoralize him and instead strives to help patients with the few resources at his disposal.

But Machado also needed an outlet for a very different side of himself and recently found in the world of drag shows the perfect means of expressing his femininity through dance and comedy routines.

“Vitiliga is an empowered woman. She’s a fighter. She’s a woman who looks to inspire those who know her story and show that you can exploit all you are as a person in your drag character,” Machado said, recalling that he came up with the name of his alter ego after being diagnosed in 2020 with vitiligo (a medical condition in which areas of the skin lose pigment).

This “humanist woman” looks to both entertain and educate, using “dragtivism” to help societies eliminate stigmas about the LGBT+ population and especially those related to health rights for members of that community, he added. EFE


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