Damon W.

As an out and open trans man person of color I have had nothing but positive experiences at work and in social settings, thankfully. I feel humbled to be able to be my authentic self without fear of hate in my social circle and especially at work, where my role calls for respect and trust.

To me it’s very important to be authentic, after hiding who I was and fighting against myself for so many years. It’s a breath of fresh air to be able to be myself.

Being counted and being visible means doing so for both oneself and others and being proud of it, not afraid or scared of what others might say or do. It means owning who you are and being confident and full of self-love from all the fight that you put into becoming your truly authentic self.

Damon Woods
Phoenix, AZ
He, Him

Sarah V.

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
She, Her
Santa Ana, California

Roman Agustin

Being born gay in Guanajuato, known as one of the most religious and conservative states in Mexico, was a challenge. Part of our childhood for us was very normal, but once we started school, things changed. We were bullied by other students and nobody cared to do anything about it. We both knew that the way to get us out of there was through education.

We were neighbors as kids but we got together when we finally left for college. We were relieved leaving our hometowns behind, but the bullying did not stop, and in the new city as young adults we were also targeted by the police for being gay. After several encounters with the police, roommates, and classmates, we decided to leave Mexico and come to the land of freedom, the United States of America.

We landed in Orange County, one of the most conservative places in the country. We thought that things would be different, but the bullying and discrimination started all over again. We were rejected by the Latino community for being gay, and we were rejected by the Caucasian community for being Latino and gay. We did not want to keep running so when we were told we could not be a couple, get married, or get the same opportunities as other people, we decided to fight back. Not only for us but for
the new generations to come.

Our first major task was to come out of the closet and tell our siblings and parents about ourselves and our relationship. We realized that by hiding we were sending the wrong message to society. Our second task was to be visible in the community among relatives, friends, colleagues, and neighbors, so we got married and told everyone about it. Introducing ourselves as husband and husband was shocking for many, but we learned that one powerful tool to cause change is to accept ourselves and be proud of who we are. We encouraged people to start looking at us for our character and our actions, and not for how society wants to identify us.

We learned that acceptance does not happen overnight. It takes time, but we must start with ourselves. This helped our families, social circle, and later our Orange County community accept us as gay men and a same-sex couple.

We have continued working in the Orange County community. We co-founded an organization called Orange County Equality Coalition and became part of their Latino outreach committee. Later we were part of the Story Telling committee where we were able to share our stories as gay men. For years, we advocated to have a Latino presence in Orange County Pride festival, and through art, we volunteered for El Centro Cultural de Mexico and Gay Neighbors, Families and Friends of Santa Ana. We create art with an LGBTQ and Mexican theme. We participate in Day of the Dead festivals by building altars honoring victims of hate crimes and speaking to audiences about such crimes. We know it is important to give visibility and a voice to those whom society tried to silence. We hope that this visibility can prevent our younger generations of LGBT and minority people from going through what we went through while we were trying to be ourselves.

Roman Beltran
Agustin Gaytan
Santa Ana, CA
He, Him



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