There's a new it-girl on the come up. Back in June of this year, we were photographing our Los Angeles dolls for this first issue of The Girls Book. During the photoshoot, Texas Isaiah asked Luna, "Have you modeled before?" She giggled and said not really. But if there's anyone the camera loves, it's her. And like all complex main characters, Luna isn't just a pretty face. The 22-year-old came to Los Angeles to be a dancer, and she achieved it. Next on her list is Mugler (if you're listening, Casey Cadwallader). We sat down with the angel to talk about how dating totally changes after transitioning, the meaning behind her lust tattoo, and the best advice that anyone trans or cis could hear. Read below for more.
Kai: Can you tell me your name, age, if you're willing to share, and who you are?
Luna: The name I’ve been by for a long time is Luna. I'm planning to use the name Vela, because of my mom. I've always looked up to her, and once I started my hormones, I realized I look like her. And Luna Vela sounds royal.
I’m 22 and a Virgo.
Kai: Gorgeous. And when did you start transitioning?
Luna: I started transitioning on November 25th, 2020. It’s been almost two years, and it’s crazy.
Kai: One of the girls told me that between years one and two is when you go through a lot of change. Did you feel that compared to your first year?
Luna: Yeah, honestly. When I first started transitioning, I was like, “let me see these results. They need to hurry up.” I already know I’m an overthinker, so I told myself the first day I took my pulls that I’m going to have to realize that these changes aren’t going to come immediately.
It was also a mental change too. Realizing that not all these physical changes are going to happen soon, and opportunities aren’t going to happen soon.
The first year was more the hormones adjusting to my body and mind and mapping the blueprint. The second year, my body was like “Ok, let’s work. Max it out.”
Kai: I love that you mention the mental part too. When I first considered transitioning, I wasn't thinking of the mental part as much. I was like, “Okay, it's gonna be a big physical process.” And that's also what society focuses on, especially when talking about trans people, it's always about the physical change
The mental part is such a big part of transitioning. Rewiring your brain and having to rethink everything.
Luna: I totally agree with that. Something that I realized too, and I'm pretty sure you're realizing as well, is that you literally have to learn a new and different type of confidence. Before transitioning, you're barely scratching this surface.
But as you start transitioning, you have to gain a new type of confidence to put yourself out into the world. And I feel like a lot of cis people don't understand that process. It's scary. There are so many thoughts that go through your head.
When people ask, “are you sure you’re doing the right thing?” Do you think I would be doing all this mental work for fun? Do you think I’d be putting up with all this shit if I didn’t need to?
I have to make sure I have thick skin. Do you know what I'm saying?
Kai: Yeah. And probably trans people are the ones with the thickest skin because we've had to also do the work beforehand of unpacking gender. And the new confidence and owning this new body is also a positive thing. Realizing that this is getting closer to the final version of who I am. I was in phase two before, and now I’m in phase three.
Luna: It's literally levels. For real. Where I've been able to learn at least that I do have that confidence inside of me was with the other girls when I started performing at Jolene. It was something that I wanted to do when I moved to Los Angeles. My roommate knew the main coordinator and ever since I've been performing there.
I’ve learned a lot of new things about being trans and gained confidence, more so in the physical aspect. I see how these girls present themselves, and I’ve learned makeup and hair. That’s not something you have, and I’m the type of person you have to show in person. I’m just thankful for all the girls, honestly.
As I started transitioning and meeting other girls I was like, “Hold up. I fuck with this.”
Kai: That part of the girls teaching each other things, and passing down that knowledge. Did you always want to go into dancing and performing? Were you a dancer growing up?
Luna: Even when I was little I loved dancing. My mom would catch me listening to hip-hop music on the radio. She would watch me from the side, busting a couple of moves. And I had a fascination with people watching me. So I knew. And as I always wanted to be a stripper. It was the fact that I was center stage, and also the money. And then, dancing to your favorite music. It was always something I knew I was going to do, but I didn’t know how to do it.
Kai: Was that the gateway to transitioning?
Luna: I followed a lot of the dolls on social media before they transitioned. I was so fascinated by them. Then, I found out they started transitioning in November, the same as me. Seeing the dolls who were on the same mental stage was a sign for me to start. Also, Arca. I followed her and her transitioning and was inspiring to me. Seeing how happy everyone was as they were transitioning encouraged me.
Kai: It's amazing how social media and online have changed the game in terms of how you access other trans people.
Luna: Online is a space that helps when you're curious. Because to me, I honestly feel there's just this natural feeling that is telling you to transition. The girls know. It’s a crazy experience though.
Kai: It's so wild. And some days I'm like, is this worth it? I'll just be running errands and then cry in the car. But it's changed the game. I'm a completely different person now.
Luna: It's powerful to see other girls blossom me And we're all doing it in different ways because we all have different talents. It’s a community that I didn’t know existed growing up. I’ve always been in search of people that were like me, but I never knew what that meant. At first, I was trying to fit in with the gay guys but I never fit in. I didn’t feel right there. As I started transitioning and meeting other girls I was like, “Hold up. I fuck with this.”
Kai: That moment is huge. I also was gay, and then I was queer, and then I was non-binary. Then you get to transness and you give this a shot. And as you said, there are so many different representations of the girls. It's not just a monolith.
Luna: And I feel society tends to generalize trans girls as - I hate to use the term but - guys in wigs. I fucking hate it. At the old Starbucks store I used to work at, one of my coworkers legit thought I just put this on. She was talking about a drag queen and then turns to me and says, “That’s what you do, right?” I stopped right there.
This isn’t something we take off at the end of the day and we have other talents. Some of us are dancers, some do makeup, and it’s not just one category we all fall into.
Kai: I've also gotten to a point where before I was trying to be validated in the eyes of guys, especially gay guys, because that's what I grew up with. Wanting to be seen by then. But now I want the dolls to see me. That's what matters more, to be seen by the dolls who get it versus these guys who are gorillas and don’t stand up for the community.
Luna: It’s crazy. Cis gay men will think that they're a girl, a doll. You're a McDonald's toy. Don't even try. It really frustrates me because they don't know the experience. Yes, we were gay men at one point, but we are living a whole different experience now that you cannot relate to. Now when I go out in public, I do have that passing privilege, but sometimes I clocked. I fucking hate it. I get scared. I have to deal with girl shit now. If I'm out at night, a guy might come up to me and try stuff. And then on top of that, if he finds out I'm trans. That’s a whole different story.
It’s not all about us taking hormones and changing our bodies. We also have to protect our lives now, literally.
Kai: It's not safe out there for the dolls.
And to see these gay guys claim parts of femininity for performativity is disappointing. Because after that one picture, they will go back to their masculine bullshit and absorb that privilege. It’s disappointing to see our community co-opting our community.
Now when I hook up, I don't know how it's gonna end up. I might get beat up. Or the guy's expecting me to be shaved and have a wig and all of that. Before it was just the simple rejection of a guy because I wasn't masculine enough. But now, how far do I have to perform femininity to be safe?
Luna: There’s the beauty of being trans, but there are also scary parts of it. In terms of dating and hooking up, safety is a whole topic. When I moved to LA, I realized a lot of these guys just want a taste of the girls. I’m tired of hooking up. I’m a lover-girl. I'm not for those streets anymore.
Like, can you just treat me nice? Take me out on a date?
Kai: That part too. Before I was hooking up with mostly gay men. And now I'm hooking up with straight men or guys trying it out. The people who are going to be attracted to me are going to be a different set of people than before.
Luna: That's another thing as you start transitioning, realizing, damn I settled before. My existence is precious. That's what I've been realizing. That’s my favorite part of transitioning. You’re leveling up.
Kai: The leveling up. I'm continuing to blossom. I'm so glad these past years were not my peak because now I'm ready to flourish.
Luna: Right now it's just us just getting the puzzle pieces together.
Kai: Also going back to the dating, on Instagram once Leiomy Maldonado posted something about how she's single and she wants a boo to cuddle up with. Seeing that is comforting. Even an icon is dealing with dating trouble. Having more of these open conversations is important too.
Luna: I talk about it with my best friends, two cis girls. They try to comfort me, and I know it's coming out of good intentions when they tell me, “you gotta work on yourself first. Don't look for it.” But I'm tired of working on myself.
I'm not saying I want somebody else to work on me for me. I'm just saying I want to take a break. I want someone to comfort me. I deserve it. Being trans is a lot of mental work. Sometimes I just want somebody to hold me and put everything on pause.
I know someone out there will want to comfort me, but I also realize that they have to be comfortable with the people I'm around and the community I'm in.
One time I invited this guy to one of my shows, and he left early. He said he had to go do something, but then he ghosted me. It occurred to me that it was probably a lot for him because he's never been in that setting. It made me realize “Girly, you need to find someone who's gonna be comfortable embracing your world.”
Kai: Sometimes I hate how much I love men. Or lust after them.
Luna: Me too. I have lust tattooed on me. That wasn't because of a man, though. It was because of Lana's album cover, and I've always liked the word.
You could also be trans on a budget.
Kai: Cute. Do you have other tattoos?
Luna: Yeah. I have a little heart on the back of my head. I have this one. It's a male torso. And then I have a Virgo one, but I might get this one removed, because I don't want people knowing I'm a Virgo.
Kai: Why not? Why do you not want people to know?
Luna: Because I want people to guess.
Kai: What would you say to a girl living in North Dakota, and there are not a lot of dolls near her?
Luna: Going back to what we said about social media. Social media is a big tool. If you wanna, block everybody like family and start being who you are on your Instagram or your Twitter or whatever. I know it’s scary that someone might know you or find you, but someone may find you who helps you. If you want to get out of your town, start a GoFundMe.
Also look for community organizations that help trans peple. There’s the Trans Defense Fund in LA. They were a major help to me when I moved to LA. They provide defense kits for the dolls. Your safety out in the world is very important.
Kai: Just arming yourself with all the resources that are out there, and reaching out?
Luna: You have to go through the checklist: what's gonna help me mentally? What can help me move out of my current situation? What can help me physically when I'm out in the real world?
You could also be trans on a budget. You can go to the thrift store. I thrift a lot of my clothes. And then the last thing, don't cringe when you look at your past.
You’re going to scroll through those pictures and be like, damn. There was a point where I used to wear makeup foundation that was lighter than my skin, but I didn’t know. You’re gonna get disgusted by how you looked in the past but realize that was what made you grow into the person you are today.
Kai: Thank you for sharing all of that. My last question, at least for now, is what are your dreams and aspirations for the future? What does the future look like for Luna Bella?
Luna: I really wanna be a model. I get emotional talking about it because it's something I want to do.
I get down on myself a lot about how I look, and that's just something I feel like a lot of trans girls go through.
I want to give back to all the people that helped me, my friends, the dolls. And if - no, I'm not gonna say if - when I get to that point, I want to shine a light on all the people that helped me. There's just so much talent. They deserve a spotlight.
I want to be walking with Mugler. I wanna do a Mugler show. I'm going to. I wanna be in ID magazine. There's this song I wanna do.