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Queef Latina
Photograph: Ashley McKibben

Get to know these heroes of Miami’s vibrant LGBTQ scene

In honor of Miami Beach Gay Pride, brave locals open up about coming out and where they found acceptance in the city

By Falyn Freyman
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Physically, we’re locked down and waiting patiently for the day this global crisis is a distant memory. Mentally, though, we are strutting down Ocean Drive fully decked out in our rainbow garb, tossing our $20 bills in the air saluting Miami’s finest drag queens and voguing on the catwalk without a care in the world.

The end of March and dawn of April in Miami usually means one very important thing: the arrival of Miami Beach Gay Pride. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for 2020. But just because Pride is postponed this year doesn’t mean we can’t still celebrate from home—and celebrate, we will.

Below, meet four out and proud Miamians who are lifting up the city’s LGBTQ communities.

Pride of Miami

Queef Latina
Queef Latina
Photograph: Honest Henry

Antonio Méndez (a.k.a. Queef Latina)

Drag queen and tailor

Antonio Méndez moved to New York City to pursue his dream of a career in fashion. He stuck it out for six years, but, fatigued by the cold and wistful for palm trees, he returned to Miami only to experience another kind of nostalgia. “I missed having the queer community I had in Brooklyn; it was so warm and welcoming,” he says, recalling his inspiration for Wigwood. This past February, Méndez celebrated the fourth anniversary of his joyous LGBTQ performance-art festival. Speaking of coming out, he says, “Growing up in a conservative, Catholic, Cuban family, when the moment came to tell my parents, it wasn’t received in the best way.”

Partly motivated by that experience, he began welcoming the community into his own home, which he dubbed the House of Shame. “It’s where queer people can express themselves in a way they couldn’t with their family,” he says. The House of Shame has become an incubator for Miami’s alternative queer culture, as well as Méndez’s own drag persona, Queef Latina, a colorful, bearded 1950s housewife. “In the past, there were a lot of venues that would turn us down when we wanted to do programming,” says Méndez. “Now they’re reaching out to us. People see that we come with a following and good ideas, in art and in the cultural development of Miami.”

Favorite Pride memory: “Skating down the parade in my in-line skates and full drag. There’s nothing quite as awesome as having friends yelling ‘Queef!’ from all directions.

Tommy Ralph Pace
Tommy Ralph Pace
Photograph: Courtesy ICA Miami/Xavier Lujan

Tommy Ralph Pace

Art museum deputy director

Tommy Ralph Pace was 10 years old when he came out for the first time. “I told my father at our local Denny’s thatI was pretty sure I was gay.” He came out “officially” when he was 19 and a few more times in between to select friends. And even though he left his South Florida home to earn his art-history degree at Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn, when he returned to live in Miami he quickly found a familiar sense of acceptance among the city’s artistic community. “Miami has an incredibly tight-knit family of artists and creatives, which naturally overlaps with the queer community,” Pace says. He grew his circle while navigating a career across various Miami arts organizations, including Design Miami/ fair, the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami and in his current role at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), in the Design District. Apart from its free First Fridays series, which frequently features edgy queer performers (think Sophie and Tygapaw), ICA recently launched Culture Club, “which aims to support cultural activities in queer communities” as the first LGBTQ affinity group in a U.S. museum, says Pace.

Favorite Pride memory: “Last year, we walked and handed out folding fans to guests along the parade route. I truly felt like Oprah Winfrey! You get a fan, you get a fan, you get a fan!”

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Eileen Andrade
Eileen Andrade
Photograph: Gabriel Gutierrez

Eileen Andrade

Chef and restaurant owner

“My parents have worked in the restaurant industry their whole lives, and they always dreamed of me continuing their legacy,” says Eileen Andrade, a Cuban-American born and raised in Miami. “I wasn’t going to do it.” Instead, she went to school for fashion merchandising at the Miami International University of Art & Design. “It was the first place I realized, This is where I’m supposed to be,” she says. Surrounded by young, open-minded creatives, Andrade began testing out the city’s alternative nightlife scene. She recalls, “There was this club called Vagabond that was my safe space at night to go out and dance and party.” She had already come out to her siblings and friends in 2008, but she’ll never forget December 9, 2009, the day she came out to her mom. “She cried. I mean, she cried a lot for many months,” Andrade says, noting that her parents took about five years to come around. In that time, Andrade discovered that working in fashion wasn’t for her and that, really, hospitality was her first love. After working with her parents and running a food truck with her brother for a couple of years, Andrade is now the proud chef-owner of two brick-and-mortar staples of Latin fusion in Miami, Finka Table & Tap and Amelia’s 1931. “You need to give it time,” she offers to anyone struggling to find acceptance in their own families, especially Latinx households. “My mom loves my girlfriend, and we have a very tight relationship—she’s very accepting. It just took a little longer than [it might have in] other cultures.”

Favorite Pride memory: “Going to all the parties before I was out. I could be myself, and if someone did recognize me, I knew they were an ally.”

Brandon Reed
Brandon Reed
Photograph: Courtesy Brandon Reed

Brandon Reed

Videographer and spin instructor

Brandon Reed was 19 years old when he decided to rebel against his parents and drop out of college. “I was pretty closeted at the time,” he says. Originally from Detroit, Reed’s first home in Miami was a hostel on 20th Street and Collins Avenue in Miami Beach, where he split a $400-a-month room with a stranger and worked the property’s front desk to make rent while pursuing a modeling career. “I met my first gay friends ever at the hostel,” he says. “They took me shopping and got me some tight clothes, ’cause I was all in Polos and shit—not fashionable at all.” In the 10 years since, Reed has moved back and forth from New York, returned to school, traveled the world and finally landed in Miami again. The hostel is long gone, but those pivotal early days of exploring his queer identity still shape his social life today. “The 12th Street gay beach is always fun and popping on the weekends,” he says. Now, when he’s not working as a commercial videographer, you can find him spreading a message of acceptance as a spin instructor and head of training at RedBike, a local chain of cycling studios. “My class is always about doing it together—that tribal feeling we should all have being a part of something,” he says.

Favorite Pride memory: “I met my husband during Pride. He came to my class, and then I ran into him later that weekend on the beach.”

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