Pride

(Left to Right): Tara Wings, Jacob Agamo and Wesley Haack.

The acronym LGBTQ+ has expanded to include the plus sign for a reason. Yes, many members of the community identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer, but there is more.

Language has already changed – gay and lesbian have taken the place of the more clinical “homosexual” – and it continues to evolve. Aromantic (aro) and asexual (ace) people may still experience attraction, but this attraction isn’t necessarily in a romantic or sexual way.

Transgender people identify with a gender – man or woman – that is different from the sex (male or female) assigned to them at birth. Transitioning is changing gender presentation to match internal gender identity; some trans people have transitioned wholly or partly, others have not. (Trans is the opposite of cisgender – women, for example, who were born female.)

Folks who do not identify as men or women may identify as genderqueer or nonbinary; many use the pronoun “they” instead of “he” or “she.”

These Monterey County residents shared how they identify, within and beyond the LGBTQ+ acronym.

831_Paul

Paul Richmond Gay He/Him

39 • Artist • Monterey

I grew up in a small town in Ohio. The only reference points I had for homosexuality came from religion class at my Catholic school, and it sounded scary. This led to a lot of shame as I started to detect my own queerness, but thankfully a wonderful art teacher helped me channel my feelings into brushstrokes on canvas. The bullying I experienced at school was severe and there were several times I contemplated suicide. I ultimately decided I had to stick around for art class; it was that important to me. So it’s no wonder that my life today revolves around art.

Today I’m living a life that my younger self could never have imagined. I have a wonderful husband named Dennis. I paint every day and show my work in exhibitions around the country. And I started an organization with my childhood art teacher called the You Will Rise Project that empowers young people who are bullied to create and display their own art.

831_Tara

Tara Wings Sluyter Bisexual She/Her

39 • Behavior Analyst • Pacific Grove

I’ve pretty much always been out. Being a bisexual woman married to a cisgender man is a mixed bag. It certainly gives me privilege, because I am not automatically out just by living my life, holding hands with my partner, etc. It can also be a bit isolating – because I am not automatically out and because I am in a relationship with a man, it’s assumed I am straight.

I moved here from New York, where there is much larger LGBTQ+ community where I was active in that community. When I moved here, already in a relationship with a man, my sexual orientation wasn’t obvious, so I make an effort to come out to people. I think it’s important to be out, because people need to see us.

831_Wesley

Wesley Haack Genderqueer trans man He/Him

24 • Artist • Monterey

Most of the time I don’t think about my gender. Instead I think about fashion and art and beauty. I wear dresses and button-ups. I’m growing out my mustache and my hair. I like makeup and the way my deep voice sounds when I sing along to Johnny Cash. To me, none of this is about gender. This is just about me being me.

Most people think being transgender is all about dysphoria (the idea of being trapped in the wrong body), and although that is no doubt part of existing in a society that actively tries to erase you, that is not what being trans is about. It is about the euphoria. It is about freedom.

831_Jacob

Jacob Agamao Aromantic/asexual nonbinary queer He/She/They

36 • LGBTQ+ Services Coordinator • Salinas

As a 17-year-old, I knew my privilege preaching safer sex practices to transgender sex workers out in the streets; it could have just as easily been me out in the streets if I didn’t have an accepting family that supported me and my activism. I became an activist to lift my community up, never at the expense of any other community. What we want is equity.

The landscape has changed drastically since I was 17, but it’s still a struggle. In doing work with LGBTQ+ youth, I hope to guide our future leaders to a world where stereotype, slander and stigma have all disappeared. They say to be that visibly queer person you needed to see when you were young, and they don’t need a figurehead awash in victimhood.

831_Lani

Lani Chin Lesbian She/Her

37 • Psychologist • Monterey

I am an Asian-American native San Franciscan lesbian who is empathic, passionate, adventurous, creative and strong enough to survive over 10 years of life in Los Angeles. I am also a conservationist with respect for all living creatures.

In my work, I am privileged to have a job that allows me to accompany others in their search to find their true selves. Even when I am not at work, I encourage others to live their truth(s), because at the end of the day, it really does not matter what others expect of them or what they “should” do.

831_Nickolas

Nickolas J. McDaniel Male (transitioned) He/His

46 • Presenter, Advocate • Salinas

Bodies lie, but hearts never do. Discrimination, prejudice, sexual assault, suicide, isolation, unequal protection under the law and self-hatred taught to me by a society that doesn’t understand was my daily reality. Like the phoenix, transition enabled me to overcome. The life I live now exceeds my wildest dreams. My focus is a peaceful one. I live in a state of gratitude born of the fire of what I’ve experienced, my voice more powerful because of the adversity I’ve faced. I utilize education and my voice to advocate and empower others that they might know a world where no one is an “it” and realize the best dreams are lived. Each breath is yet more air beneath my wings as I look for Ms. Right and chase my dreams.

831_Mariana

Mariana Arredondo Lesbian She/Her

35 • Restaurant Operations Manager • Salinas 

From a very young age I knew I was different. I didn’t know how or why, but I knew I was. I didn’t like playing dolls and wearing dresses so much. I enjoyed playing outdoors, riding bikes, playing sports, and I didn’t agree with “girls can’t do what boys do.” I remember that feeling and thinking I was alone in this. 

I didn’t fully understood or felt comfortable in who I was until around 17. Through sports I met girls like me that were older and comfortable in who they were. They became mentors and friends who helped me feel more at ease and confident. 

My wife and I have been very fortunate to have such a loving and supportive family and group of friends and allies who have made us strong and able to be of service to our community. Being public mentors and advocates for our LGBTQ+ community for the past 10 years—holding weekly/monthly LGBTQ+ nightlife and community events, and being cofounders of Salinas Valley Pride Celebrations—and being mothers to our 5-year-old daughter and continuing to strive toward making our community safer and better for our future. 

831_Sam

Sam Gomez Queer/Non-binary/Latinx They/Them

26 • Services Manager at The Epicenter of Monterey • Salinas

To me, queer means having the freedom to love who I love. It is a reclaimed term in the LGBTQ+ community as it once was used as a slur, but now holds a lot of power. Identifying as queer is a form of resistance for me. Being non-binary—not identifying as male or female—I am able to express my gender and how it feels best for me without the pressure from gender roles in society. I am able to live authentically today thanks to our queer and trans activists and organizers, from the Stonewall Riots to the organized pride events.

Some struggles I have are being constantly misgendered based on my appearance, which is why I have one main important piece of advice for anyone who wishes to support the queer and trans community: Please do not assume anyone's gender based on how they look; you do not know someone's gender pronouns unless they tell you. It is so important to use they/them pronouns for folks if you do not know their pronouns. Incorporate gender-inclusive language in your everyday language, do research and practice, practice, practice.

 

MONTEREY PENINSULA PRIDE PARADE & CELEBRATION 2019 happens 11am-3pm Saturday, July 20 at Custom House Plaza in Monterey. info@peninsulapride.org, montereypeninsulapride.org
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Staff photojournalist at Monterey County Weekly.

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