Maria Louise Roman has been a leader in social services for the transgender community in Los Angeles for more than 19 years. She is a 47-year-old Puerto Rican woman who began her journey of self-discovery at age 19. Many doors would close in her path, but she was driven and determined to succeed. Her determination became an inspirational force for many in Los Angeles.
She survived life on the streets to become an outspoken activist and a role model for the transgender community.
She has won many awards and is a noted actress, appearing in numerous movies, including “The Transfigured Body,” a celebration Gwen Araujo.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I was out since the age of 5 or since I had a sense of self. I could never really hide the fact that there was something different about me. In essence my sense of self and the way the world viewed me always were at odds. Although I could never hide who I was I had an official “this is who I am take it or leave it” moment at the age of 19 were I would never put on male clothing and changed my name to Maria. My Mother was the hardest person to tell. The first time she saw me she could not stop laughing and laughing turned into tears; I guess the realization that her son was gone forever was too much to bear.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Everyone who worked for our equality.
What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present?
OMG without a doubt it would be the old 7969 club. This was a hot stop for all the individuals who did not fit the “norm.” It’s where I let my womanhood out… I think this club for many of us was like a steppingstone to finding where we belonged in Los Angeles. My favorite performer was Jaqueline along with the one and only miss Jazzmun.
Describe your dream wedding.
I am fortunate to be currently engaged to my wonderful fiancée of three years, Jason Taylorson, a fierce musician and financial expert. We are in the midst of planning our wedding that will happen in the end of 2018. My vision is to have a grand chapel wedding with a touch of old Hollywood. I will be wearing two gowns – one for the nuptials and one for the reception. Our wedding will be classic, fun and unexpected.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
All human issues are LGBT issues so to me there are no issues that are non-LGBT. Abortion, for instance, is something many LGBT people have to deal with. It’s a personal issue. You name it and LGBT people deal with it daily – equal pay, housing, taxes, climate change, etc. It is my goal to unite LGBT folks because we continue to see apathy toward different segments of our community (transphobia, for instance).
What historical outcome would you change?
The 2016 election.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Having my own reality show on Showtime, “WILDTHINGS.” My show along with Cassandra Cass and Tiara Russel was the first reality show featuring an all trans cast.
On what do you insist?
I insist on claiming my space and demanding respect everywhere I go. It is my belief that people who have never met a trans person before meeting me will, from our encounter, judge an entire community. So I demand respect.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
It was about a PrEP campaign I am part of: Askmeaboutprep.org. It’s one of my most important community roles, spreading the word about PrEP.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Relentless – The Life of Maria Roman”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Make Donald Trump gay!
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I know that there is something beyond all of us that we have no comprehension of. To many, it’s God. To others it is something else. All of my life, however, I have felt spiritual. I do believe in God and, as a matter of fact, I spent my childhood praying that I would be like all the other little boys. It never happened and so I truly believe God wants me to be who I am – just as I am – because he made me.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Our movement is currently fueled by celebrity; we need to take back our stories and see the value of all LGBT people. We must continue the fight for visibility and equality. Celebrity does not address homelessness and so many other issues. I hope that now we can all get married, we can focus on the issues related to basic human rights — employment, shelter and the ability to feed one’s self.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
I want a full comprehensive center that services the specific and complex needs of transgender individuals.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
I think for decades the flaming queen has paid a high price from the “non-flaming queen.” It’s just sad how we treat one another at times and what we value.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“To Wong Foo!”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Kissing strangers on both cheeks… no gurl, no!
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I was given a certificate in 2002 by then-Sen. Sheila Kuehl for organizing the local march when Gwen Araujo was murdered. This was one of the most moving times in my life and it’s the first time I felt I could do something meaningful with my life. From that day on, I have continued to speak for myself and other women who identify with my story.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
I wish I had known it was all going to be OK.
Why Los Angeles?
Honey, because Los Angeles is EVERYTHING. And, as a homeless youth, it would be warm all the time… I have been here since the age of 19. Today, at 47, I am happy I made this my home.