Galveston, Texas – Tiamat Legion Medusa, who has made international news for extreme body modifications with the goal to transform herself into a dragon, made Galveston her new home in June.
Medusa, also known as “Dragon Lady,” is no stranger to body modification. She has 18 horn implants, a split tongue, tattooed the whites of her eyes green, implanted fangs after removing her natural teeth, removed her ears, and reshaped her nose. Tattooed scales that mimic the Western diamondback rattlesnake cover her body.
Medusa, a transgender woman who identifies as a female reptilian, was a vice president of a prominent bank in the ’90s, is a visual artist, AIDS advocate, and a member of the LGBTQ-D community.
“The D stands for dragon, which should be added to the list,” Medusa said.
Medusa has been featured on “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!,” “The Ricki Lake Show” and the Spanish-language court show “Caso Cerrado” and has been the subject of many interviews worldwide.
“My transformation is in and of itself a personal protest against humanity,” Medusa said. “My choice to turn into a reptilian has to do with the fact I was hurt so much by humans throughout my life that I can no longer see myself as one of them.”
Although Medusa is known for her physical appearance, people don’t know the story and how she got here, she said.
Medusa, who was born Richard Hernandez Jr. to migrant parents in Mobile, Arizona, in 1961, had a life that was filled with conflict from the beginning, she said.
When he was 3 years old, Hernandez moved to Houston with his mother and siblings.
After Hernandez’s young mother had remarried a man who abused Hernandez and his siblings verbally, emotionally, and physically, they were abandoned in Bruni, Texas, to live with their grandparents, she said.
‘I BORE HIS SHAME’“
My mother and her husband drove down to a ranch in Bruni,” Medusa said. “There was nothing but ranch lands and trees. They stopped their car in the middle of the road and dropped us off on the road.”
Hernandez was only in the first grade when he was abandoned by his parents for the first time, Medusa said.
Hernandez and siblings were alone in the middle of the night, crying, she said.
“As you know, that land is the home of the Western diamond rattlesnake,” Medusa said. “My tattoos that cover my body are dedicated to that memory.”
Hernandez and siblings had eventually found their way to their grandparents’ home on the ranch, she said.
Hernandez, who had been named after his neglectful biological father, was abused verbally by his grandfather on a daily basis for having the same name.
“Because I bore my father’s name, I bore his shame,” Medusa said. “I was told I was going to become nothing more than what he was, which was nothing.”
One of the main reasons Hernandez changed his name was to shed his father’s legacy, Medusa said.
“I won’t be a Richard and I won’t be Hernandez anymore,” she said.
‘GIRL LIVING IN A BOY’S BODY’
In 2000, she changed her name to NoMan Pan, which is a reference to a story in Homer’s “Odyssey,” she said.
Hernandez consistently made the honor roll in school, but his grandfather wouldn’t acknowledge his achievements, Medusa said.
As a child, suicidal ideations began to take hold in a verbally and physically abusive household, she said.
“I was wishing death upon myself because it was better than the life I was living,” Medusa said. “Plus, the fact that I was a gay boy did not make things better.”
It was second grade when Hernandez realized she was born a woman in a boy’s body, she said.
“At the time, I didn’t know how to verbalize that I was a girl living in a boy’s body,” Medusa said. “It just didn’t exist at the time. The woman in me is living now.”
There was a girl named Eva, who lived inside of her and it was important to keep it a secret, Medusa said.
“I didn’t want to play football, I wanted to be a cheerleader,” Medusa said. “It was then that students had called me a triad of homophobic slurs and were abusive with me.”
A PUBLIC DECLARATION
Bullying and harassment would continue until high school when Hernandez openly announced his sexuality, Medusa said.
“I remember walking in the middle of the street yelling, ‘I’m gay and I don’t care what anyone has to say,’ over and over again,” Medusa said. “Afterwards, no one said anything.”
Being a homosexual in Texas at the time was taboo and illegal, Medusa said.
After graduating high school, Hernandez had moved to Houston to leave the struggles of Bruni, she said.
One of his first jobs was working for Continental Trailways, now known as Greyhound Lines, she said.
One day, when Hernandez was trying to get a ride after work, a man approached him and offered a place to sleep, she said.
That same man raped him, she said.
“Still to this day, I can’t find the words for how horrible that was,” Medusa said. “It was so belittling and so humiliating. They gave me 75 cents and told me how to get home.”
AN AIDS DIAGNOSIS
Things started to look up later in Hernandez’s life when he got a job at Pel-Tex Oil Company in 1981, where he was in charge of mail and supplies.
He was promoted eight months to accounting assistant at the company and continued to work there for five years until the company shut down in the oil bust, Medusa said.
In 1986, Hernandez went on to get an entry-level job as a clerk at Texas Commerce Bank, which later was acquired by Chase Bank, where he got promoted to a higher position about eight months later to the bank’s corporate treasury management unit, she said.
Hernandez would later apply for a new role to become relationship manager for the bank, Medusa said.
Hernandez had been succeeding in his position to the point Chicago Title Insurance had reached out to him with a job offer. He eventually became one of the vice presidents of the bank, she said.
Although life seemed to be going the right way, things took a turn for the worse, Medusa said.
“In 1997, while I was one of the vice presidents for the bank, I was diagnosed with AIDS,” Medusa said. “I was the type of worker who never missed a day of work. I would work up to 13 hours a day; I loved my job.”
Hernandez went on to miss several days of work because he was diagnosed with wasting syndrome, caused by AIDS, she said.
Wasting syndrome, which is also known as cachexia, is a complex metabolic syndrome associated with underlying illness and characterized by loss of muscle with or without loss of fat mass, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“Leaving the job was one of the most difficult things to do, but I need to take care of my health,” Medusa said. “I went from being on death’s door with AIDS and to being undetectable.”
Medusa wants to spread AIDS awareness everywhere she goes and to motivate people who have been afflicted with the disease, she said.
A TRANSFORMATION BEGINS
After Hernandez’s AIDS diagnosis and leaving the bank, he began his transformation.
She again changed her name, this time to Tiamat Legion Medusa.
“I got my horns in 1997 after I left the bank,” Medusa said. “You start small with the implants so you can let the skin stretch and then you can get bigger implants.”
Medusa started with three horns. She’s now on her third set, 10 of which protrude from her eyebrow ridge and eight that are on the crown of her head.
“My horns are not a sign of the devil or because I worship the devil, which is something people commonly think,” Medusa said. “I did it because I want to mimic the bearded dragon.”
The cost of Medusa’s body modifications has been about $75,000, but others have contributed financially to her transformation.
“I can’t tell you how much I’ve personally spent on the modifications because I get breaks and discounts,” she said. “My transformation has been a collaboration of tattoo artists and piercers.”
Tattoo artists and body pierces alike have approached Medusa to say she’s the reason they began tattooing or piercing, she said.
“It’s an honor to have a positive impact in someone’s life,” Medusa said, “To know that you inspired them to follow their dreams.”
After moving to California, Medusa lived in shelters on Skid Row and decided she needed to return to Texas, she said.
‘THIS IS HOME’
“I called my friend and she said ‘I have a place in Galveston,’” she said. “I packed my things and came here and I love it. The people here are very kind.”
Medusa, who lives with her three dogs, spends her time presenting visual art performances, advocating for LGBTQ rights, and spreading awareness for AIDS.
One of the visual performances that Medusa performs is an act called skin suspension.
A skin suspension is an act where a human rigs hooks into their body to hang for a prolonged period of time.
Medusa plans on breaking a Guinness World Record for having the most horns implanted in a head.
“For the people of Galveston to hear my story means so much to me,” Medusa said. “This is home for me. I named myself after Tiamat, who is an ocean goddess, so I feel right at home being right next to the beach.”