Sunday, November 18, 2007

Monica Barros-Greene

Another installment in my ongoing series of articles on transgender and non-transgender women who have qualities that I admire.

One of the Dallas metro area's most esteemed restauranteurs is Monica Barros-Greene.

She owns a well known and highly regarded restaurant in Big D called Monica’s Aca y Alla in the Deep Ellum section of Dallas that innovatively mixes Mexico City and Tex-Mex cuisine.

Oh, did I forget to mention that in 2005 Monica narrowly lost a bid to become the first transgender person elected to the Dallas City Council? She ran for the open District 2 seat on the Dallas City Council, was endorsed by the Dallas Morning News but lost in a runoff to longtime activist Pauline Medrano.

Monica was born in Mexico City. When she was 17, on a whim she decided to travel with two friends to Indiana to win the heart of a Mexican girl who lived there.

At the border, the road trip with her friends couldn't continue because they didn't have the proper visas, so Monica proceeded without them. She arrived in Dallas a little after midnight on January 5, 1974.

But Monica had been struggling with her gender identity, trying on dresses behind locked doors. Her first impression of Dallas at the time was that she wasn't going to stay long. "But life has turns you don't necessarily see ahead," she said.

Her father wanted her to attend business school, but she wasn't amenable to the idea. He issued her an ultimatum: either attend business school or support yourself. She chose the latter, taking a job as a busboy.

After an initial rocky start, she quickly moved up the restaurant ranks and eventually became a manager for some of the hottest restaurants in town. She got married and divorced twice and had two kids with her first wife. In the midst of her second marriage she opened Eduardo's Aca y Calla in February 1992.

Her father died a year later back in Mexico, and that summer she shared her gender secret with her family. On March 4, 1994 she called the restaurant staff together for a meeting and announced that the restaurant would undergo a name change.

The restaurant wasn't the only place undergoing a change. Monica arrived wearing a black plaid miniskirt, white jacket and heels. She left the restaurant management duties to her second wife and moved in with an accountant who was also undergoing a gender change.

The roommate died two days after a successful GRS procedure, but that didn't dampen Monica's determination to undergo what she calls a 'reincarnation in the same lifetime'. With a passport in her new name in hand, on May 7, 1995 she boarded a plane to Brussels, Belgium and had GRS.

Monica has continued to have success post-surgery. She is a member of the international culinary organization Les Dames D'Escoffier and has received the Dallas Leadership Award. In 2002 and 2004 she was recognized by her Dallas area peers as 'Best Restaurateur', was a wine consultant for the Julius Schepps Company and has served as a judge for the Lone Star State Wine Competition and the Dallas Morning News Wine Tasting Competition.

Her narrow loss in the 2005 city council runoff garnered her recognition amongst the Dallas political ranks as a rising star. Former Dallas mayor Laura Miller said about her, "Monica is bright, she is gutsy, she is independent. All very important traits that few politicians at City Hall possess."

Monica has worn many hats in her lifetime. She's familiar with the plight of immigrants. She's a staple of the Dallas hospitality industry. Her story resonates with a wide spectrum of potential voters, GLBT and non-GLBT. And as she proudly points out, "I have become part of the fiber of this community."

Here's hoping that one day she'll add Council member to that list of accomplishments as well.

TransGriot Note: Thanks to for some of the info I used to compile this post.

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