As told to Emily Kestel and Jami Milne. Portrait by Jami Milne.

What characteristics do you admire in other women?

I love when women lift each other up. We are told so often to tear each other down or this is a competition but nothing makes me feel more excited than when I know that I’m cheering someone on and I know that they’re doing the same for me.

Who is a woman that you most admire?

My tiny, 4-foot-5 Mexican grandmother, Lupe. She had 12 children. My grandpa worked on the railroad, so she did it all. Twelve children is a lot of children, but she would not only do the house things like cooking, cleaning, and doing the laundry, but she started her own business and sold tortillas out of her house. Everybody knew who she was, and she was just so gentle. But she also taught us how to play rummy and how to bet on card games.

What is your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is my children dying.

What does it mean to be fearless?

Being fearless is continuing to show up as my true authentic self when that’s not always safe to do. I get to be in a lot of rooms in this community across the state. And if I’m quiet, there’s a large impact on the LGBTQ community. I have to continue to show up even when it’s really, really scary, because I know that’s the advocacy that needs to happen.

How do you define success?

Success to me is not related to my career. I actually never envisioned myself having a career. I wanted to grow up and have kids and stay at home with them. I just want my kids to be proud of me. At the end of the day, when they grow up, I want them to know that I stood for something, that I wanted to be a force. I hope that they look back, like I look back on my grandma, that they say, “She was a force to be reckoned with.” 

Do you feel as though you are successful?

Society doesn’t want me to feel like I’m successful. But I truly believe that I am. 

How and when do you feel the most true to yourself? 

I feel the most true in my identity when I get to organize something. I love planning a party, or planning a trip. When I’m traveling with my family, and I can be bold and visible, when Kate and I can hold hands and be together and not feel scared, and my kids are there, and we’re showing them something outside of our little bubble, I really think that is when I feel my best. 

What’s one experience that has influenced who you are today?

The day that I came out to an employer. The next day, they stopped putting me on the work schedule. And I knew that I was being discriminated against, but I did not have any power or energy to do anything about it. That’s when I knew that I had to use my power and privilege for something bigger than me.

How can we build a more equitable world for everyone, especially women?

We have to invest in women and we have to trust in women. Universal health care, universal child care, making sure that trans and nonbinary people are included in that. Pay us. Give us opportunities. We have to give women opportunities based on their experience, maybe not based on their degree, or how they look. We have to trust that women can get things done.

This story is part of a collection of 10 stories produced by Ballet Des Moines and Fearless as part of its “SHE” series. To read all of the other stories, visit this link.