It is never easy coming out, be it for the first time or the hundredth time, and that little bit of fear is still there after having some people in my life no longer wish to be a part of my life. But I feel it is important to be out, and visible, and that means having lots of conversations with folks about being trans.
Name: Maria Montana
County of Residence: Allegheny
How do you describe your identity? Queer Trans Latinx
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? Coming out is a lifelong process and an experience that I have to go through over and over again. When I first came out to myself and allowed myself space to discover who I am and where I needed to go I found support from friends closest to me. One of the biggest challenges I faced at the time was needing to transition, but wasn’t ready to come out to my family. It took me a while before I felt I was ready to let my family know and had begun my transition. It is never easy coming out, be it for the first time or the hundredth time, and that little bit of fear is still there after having some people in my life no longer wish to be a part of my life. But I feel it is important to be out, and visible, and that means having lots of conversations with folks about being trans.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I am out at work and with just about everyone in my day to day life, and still having conversations with a lot of people after I meet them when I’m ready to share that portion of my life with them.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? I grew up in a very small rural town in Colorado, there were no out people in my town. Rumors yes, but nobody was out. It wasn’t until I was in college that I discovered a small group of queer students that helped me.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Great question, and I’m not entirely sure that I have one.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? I read a lot, use twitter and other social media platforms to stay informed, get connected, and learn about what is going on the world.
Describe your geographical community. There are pockets in Pittsburgh that are very friendly, but other places especially in the outlying areas that aren’t as welcoming.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. I have a very tight knit group of LGBTQ friends and family here in Pittsburgh, as well as across the country.
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Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. In college I was outed by my room mates, and was abused both psychically and emotionally by them. They made it hard to exist on campus, and my RA at the time did nothing to step in and protect me from discrimination. They were also football players and because I was on a music scholarship at the time I also was forced to attend games and cheer/play music for the men who abused me or I would lose my scholarship. I found myself sleeping in the dorm lounge on the couch until I was able to transfer to a new room, but their harassment and abuse followed me. It got to the point where I wanted to end my life, I felt isolated and alone and felt as if my life was over. During this time I had met someone who would become my lifelong friend who wrote me a letter and left it for me on my dorm room bed. She let me know that she valued our friendship and that she was really looking forward to learning more about me and for sharing more memories in the years to come. It was that act of kindness that saved my life, and is a cornerstone for how I live my life today. We never truly know what someone is dealing with and sometimes the simple act of letting someone know they matter and have value as a human can save their life.
Editor’s Note: If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 and LGBTQ National Hotline 1-888-843-4564 are two resources.
Have you experienced microagressions based on your identity? Think everyday indignities & slights that you experience, but would not characterize as discrimination. Please describe in your own words. More so growing up latinx in a majority white small town I felt a lot of that, less so today.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) Finding trans competent care is really challenging in Western PA, and given the regions famous for being transformed by healthcare it is really frustrating to find providers who know about trans health. I had to travel across the state for Gender Confirmation Surgery and I travel out of Pittsburgh for other care needs.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? I think accessing healthcare is a huge issue that needs to be addressed.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Pass legislation that protects us at work and in public life. Nobody should be fired or denied housing simply for being who they are. Also we need them to be open and visible allies in our fight for equality. Being silent in the face of an administrations attempt to strip us of our rights and our humanity is consenting to that treatment. Speak up now. We need that.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. I had a conversation on Facebook the other day about why its important to challenge institutions when they report on our lives in a way that is dehumanizing. It was an important learning moment for a lot of folks who didn’t think about how headlines and articles are being used as tools of oppression.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? rising income inequality, the upcoming UPMC/Highmark divorce making it even harder to access transition related medical care, the environmental impact of living in a city with this much pollution.
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? SisTers PGH
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That Daryl Metcalfe continues to be elected.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? We have a lot of new leaders stepping up to make change.
What pieces of local or regional LGBTQ history would you like to preserve and why? I’m not too familiar with local LGBtQ history.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Contact your elected officials and ask them to support legislation that protects my rights at work and at home. Be a visible ally and fightback against transphobic hate speech online. Reach out to the trans community in your life when news breaks about new attacks on their rights.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community? Take time to listen and learn and understand the unique challenges our communities face.
What motivated you to take part in this project? Sue Kerr asked.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. N/A
Thank you, Maria.
Read the entire AMPLIFY LGBTQ Q&A archive.
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AMPLIFY LGBTQ is a series of blog posts designed to give a “signal boost” to the voices of our LGBTQ neighbors throughout Western Pennsylvania. These are glimpses in to the lived experiences of LGBTQ people in Western Pennsylvania as told in their own voices.