My name is Rei Yazzie and I’m a Diné (Navajo) transman from Chinle, Arizona, located on the Navajo Reservation. I currently reside in Phoenix, Arizona. I started my medical transition in August 2018 and since then it has been an amazing journey, and the love and support of family and friends has been more than I could have imagined. I’ve been working as a personal trainer with EōS Fitness for the past 4 years, and my coworkers and the company, as well as a few clients, have had my back since I started my transition. Outside of the workplace I enjoy spending time with my partner and family, lifting weights, traveling, fishing, being a homebody, and living and learning my traditional ways. On the Reservation the LGBT community was small, with many identifying as gay men and, to a smaller extent, transwomen. There were no transmen visible at that time to whom I could turn for guidance or advice. Today I feel it’s crucial for me to live my most authentic self as a Diné transman, for I am part of my culture and thus part of the traditional creation stories that tell of Nádleeh. By being visible, I feel I’ll be paving the way for those who come later.
I have never fit the mold created by gender. I have always been incredibly androgynous by nature. I have also always known exactly who I am, allowing me to navigate every day as a checkpoint in my development. I believe in living life with no boundaries, so it is easy for me to constantly expand my perspectives of gender and sexual identity as I collect new experiences. This combination of confidence and dedication to myself makes it rare for people to not accept me at face value. People tend to feel innately comforted by my authentic energy. Although I have encountered prejudice, I understand that prejudice stems from and is taught from ignorance and fear of the unknown. By remaining confident in myself and patient with people, I am able to educate, enlighten, and inspire others to broaden their perspectives.
I believe that survival in this world is dependent on one’s ability to connect with oneself — especially as a queer individual. We live in a society that thrives on division and brainwashes us to believe that individuality equals division. People spend most of their lives trying to conform to one construct or another that has been provided to them by some external stimulus. This often leads people to feel lost and alone as they wander through their experiences. When we feel safe enough to explore and express our authentic truths, it allows for us to achieve our greatest potentials.
To be queer is to make a commitment to love and embrace yourself no matter what. There are people who still believe that the answer to hate is to hide in the shadows, but being visible and being counted means being out, loud, and proud.
I am Jorge Gutierrez, a queer, brown immigrant who was born in Nayarit, Mexico, and grew up in the Tustin and Santa Ana area in Orange County. I have been living in Los Angeles for over 6 years now. There is so much hateful and racist rhetoric and violence happening in the U.S. and across the globe but I am grateful that I get to run a national grassroots trans and queer Latinx organization, so I get to channel a lot of my anger and frustration into the organizing and advocacy work we do every day. But I also do lots of dancing, hang out with friends and family, and eat lots of tacos to find joy and celebrate who I am. Being authentic is so important, so needed, and truly a revolutionary act when you think about all the racism, discrimination, and violence folks are facing for being black, brown, trans, queer, undocumented, and so on. I think visibility can be a good thing but it’s also complex and tricky. Just because we see more trans people, queer people, and immigrants and more people from our particular communities in movies, music, and politics, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all of us are getting the same opportunities or have access to resources or power. I am interested in being visible and counted for the purpose of ensuring that all of us in our given and chosen communities have justice, freedom, opportunities, and joy to live our most authentic lives.
I grew up in multiple urban environments that contained diversity, like Los Angeles and Las Vegas. But it took me a long time to truly figure out my own identity. Despite being privileged in some ways and having an open-minded family, as a queer and a lesbian and a woman of color, I still had a lot of feelings of invalidation and of being an “other.”
It wasn’t until college, when I had moved to Orange County in California, that I officially came out. I was 25, and for the first time in my life I felt free. I had this overwhelming sense of comfort, but oddly enough, I had nobody wirh whom to share it. I didn’t find a strong LGBTIA+ community at the time, and I had few gay friends. Orange County was also largely conservative and seemed segregated in many ways. Being an openly queer women comes with its own challenges, but so does being a person of color. In America, we’re judged by our looks, whether it’s darker skin, not feminine enough, or not masculine or binary enough, and then treated as such. By sharing our stories, we get to change the narrative.
Now that I am working in the arts, albeit in a more traditional setting, I endeavor to speak honestly and stand up for others. I work with a group of friends in Santa Ana to provide safe spaces for the LGBTIA+ community and frequently attend local events to show my support. I think the the status quo is changing, and I’m here to be counted for it.
Sarah “Sans” Vargas
Santa Ana, California
I was fortunate enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area when I came out as trans and gender non-binary, so there was plenty of community and plenty of understanding in my social circles. At my work, there was never a question of my colleagues and friends not accepting my new name and pronouns. But all of that changed once I moved back to Southern California.
I lived in Orange County for a number of years and even came out as queer there, so this wasn’t my first rodeo with The Orange Curtain. At one point, I was unemployed and seeking work, which caused me to go back into the closet. I felt less employable dressed as a butch woman than I did a woman in heels. My suspicions were verified by countless interviews. A former colleague of mine once told me that he didn’t “believe in the gays or the transgenders.” I left the job (and the closet) for good shortly after.
This time around, my partner and I moved to Fullerton to be closer to both of our families and so my partner could go to school at Cal State Fullerton. Going into this, I knew that being trans in SoCal was going to be very different than being trans in NorCal, but I was never quite sure how different.
I was lucky enough to land an amazing job at Mental Health America of Los Angeles TAY Academy as a program manager. Being out and about in the community put me at a greater risk for harassment. At the corner nearest to my job, I am regularly catcalled, called a “he-she,” or a called a hermaphrodite. Worst of all are the stares, which I get most places in SoCal. Unfortunately, I even get stares within the queer community.
It’s because of my many oddities that it is necessary for me to be my authentic self and be counted among the many LGBTQ+ Americans. If I can make a connection with a smile and an introduction, I’ve made the world slightly easier for the trans people after me. I especially hope that my visibility can pave the way for the most vulnerable in our community: trans women of color. That is why being visible and counted is so important to me.
My name is Latasha and I am a queer leatherwoman of color. I knew at an early age that I was attracted to girls but I was also attracted to boys. As I got older, I navigated more toward the lesbian side of the LGBTQI spectrum. Being a queer POC woman in my current social setting has its ups and downs. Cisgender gay men want to label me as “lesbian” because I am attracted to both men and women. But I don’t consider myself bi or pan. Being an out queer POC helps other queer POC persons know that they are not just accepted in certain spaces but wanted.
Being my authentic self is extremely important, as I live an open life. I feel that if you can’t be truthful to yourself about who you really are, you definitely can’t live a happy authentic life publicly. Being able to live your truth, whatever that may be, is important in today’s society so that you can stand up for yourself and others. Sadly, for some being out is not an option.
Being visible and being counted is a subcategory of being authentic in my opinion. Being visible is the outreach, the footwork, the educational opportunities for us to teach and guide those who feel that they are alone or that they can’t live their truth for fear of social rejection. Being both visible and counted is important in our society.