He was sexually active with men early, and especially when he was sent to a boarding school at age 11, where he seduced both bullies and teachers.
"But do not call me gay. I never had gay sex. Never will. I'm always the girl, he's always the man."At 15 he was in the school drag pageant, where he stood out by being real. In 1974 Vazquez was called to register for the Cuban army, but turned up in semi-drag and was ruled ineligible because 'homosexual'. He became a teacher but was obliged to resign despite being a good teacher. He discovered the gay scene and took such jobs as supervising convict labor.
In 1980, when Vasquez was 22, President Fidel Castro said that anybody who wanted to leave Cuba could do so, and sent mental patients and convicts with them. Vazquez joined the 'Marielitos' (as they came to be known from the name of the harbor where they left). The Marielitos were sent to Fort Chaffee in Arkansas, where Vazquez found a lover the first night. In all he had 31 lovers before being sent to a gay sponsor, Rolando, in Los Angeles.
By 1981 he had his first venereal disease, just as AIDS arrived. Rolando persuaded Vazquez to start using condoms, and helped him get a job at the Neiman Marcus department Store. However he did too many drugs and was fired, but then worked doing sewing for a boyfriend who was a designer at the Ice Capades. Together they went to see the trans performers at the Cha Cha club.
Vasquez decided that it was time to change and became Adela. After changes that come from taking hormones, Adella advertised herself as a 'She-Male' in Hollywood Connections, and was a sex worker for a few years. In 1992 Adela was invited by a community worker to enter in the Ms Gay Latina contest, which she won.
Since then Adela has been an activist against HIV. She started as a showgirl with the AtreDivas, a drag group that would donate their earnings to AIDS charities. She has become an artist and a performer and lives in San Francisco.
In 2004 the artist Jaime Cortez developed her life story into a graphic novel.
In the documentary film, Diagnosing Difference, Adela says: “I think ‘passing’ is a word to discriminate us immensely. Not everybody can pass. And passing is something that the doctors will tell you to do, you try to pass. Well, no matter how much I pass, I will never be a biological woman. How about empowering me as the transgender woman that I am?”
- Jaime Cortez & Patrick Hebert. Sexile = Sexilio. LA: Institute for Gay Men's Health, 2004. Online at: www.apla.org/news-and-multimedia/publications/documents/sexile_web.pdf.
- Kathryn Frank. Drawn In, Drawn Out: Graphic Novels as a site for alternate representation. Undergraduate Honors Thesis at Stanford University, May 26, 2009: 37, 59-61. Online at: http://csre.stanford.edu/theses/09_KFrank_Thesis.pdf.
- Theresa M. Tensuan. "Crossing the Lines: Graphic (Life) Narratives and Co-Laborative Political Transformations". Biography, 32,1,Winter 2009: 173-189.
- George Ayala, Jaime Cortez & Patrick Hebert. "Where There's Querer: Knowledge Production an dthe Praxis of HIV Prevention". In Matysol Asencio (ed) Latina/o Sexualities: Probing Powers, Passions, Practices, and Policies. Rutgers Univeristy Press, 2009:150-172.
- Annalise Ophelian (dir). Diagnosing Difference. With Dylan Scholinski, Dean Spade, Susan Stryker, Adela Vazquez and others. US 60 mins 2009. PDF.
- "Adela Vazquez". National Queer Arts Festival, 2010. http://queerculturalcenter.org/Pages/QFest10/Formerly.html.
- Darlene Tando. "Physical Transition Options for the Transgender Individual*". Gender Blog, 4 May 2012. http://darlenetandogenderblog.com/2012/05/04/physical-transition-options-for-the-transgender-individual.
- kimrr94. "Immigration and 'Sexile'". Transgender Identities & Communities, Feb 28 2014. http://wgs552spring2014.wordpress.com/tag/sexile.