With bulky luggage in tow, Juan Antonio Nunez and Herberth Menendez gracefully take a seat at a meeting table and lay out their mirrors, makeup kits, wigs and Size 10 stilettos.

As they apply eye shadow, lipstick and Mac foundation, the two men, both from Mexico, whisper and chuckle in their mother tongue. This tiny space at the Centre for Spanish-Speaking Peoples at Wellesley and Church streets makes them feel at home — a far more welcoming place than the homes they fled in Latin America.

The young men — also from Colombia and Ecuador — are participants in the Mano en Mano
program, a four-week course designed to help gay Latinos, mostly immigrants, deal with
adjustment issues while exploring the sexual freedom they never before had.

Although offered since 2008, this is the first time the course has opened a course specifically for drag queens in response to a surge of Latino cross-dressers in the population, said program co-ordinator Gerardo Betancourt.

Calling the experience of relief in Canada “the Disneyland effect,” Betancourt says some gay Latinos from conservative and Catholic upbringings are eager to explore and express their sexual freedom, and will go to the extreme of dressing up as women.