“I want other trans people to know that no matter who they’re in love with, and no matter what relationship they’re in, they deserve love and they should not settle for anything less,” said Maria Roman.
She is a woman who has already made a world of difference for the nation’s trans community and saying “I Do” to Jason Taylorson seems like an actuation of the equality she has fought for all her life.
In March, when the transgender activist and actress becomes the first trans woman to marry at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral Church of Los Angeles in its 100-year history, she will be paving the way for inclusivity within an institution that has historically excluded the trans community – organized religion.
After dedicating her life to the communities and identities she holds, she will finally have the chance to center herself, as she honors the love she shares with her fiancé, Jason Taylorson.
The two were born the same month and year (both 48), and they believe “the universe bound them together.”
But Roman’s journey in finding Taylorson was not easy.
Like many other trans women and femmes, she struggled with isolation and feelings of undesirability – due to the stigma often placed on trans bodies.
“Attempting to find love as a transgender person, specifically as a transgender woman of color, can be an extremely difficult and invalidating experience,” Roman told the Los Angeles Blade.
“The idea of love is often something that feels out of reach for this community – particularly in a society that views our existence as unsettling,” she continued. “Because of the unfamiliarity with trans identities, it is difficult for society to acknowledge our worth.”
She went on to add that trans women are not seen as figures of love.
“We are targets of fetishization and hypersexualization,” she says. “Our bodies are often profiled as sex workers and we are targets of sexual violence – physically and psychologically. This issue is often not addressed, and the blame is put on our own community. Because of this, love can often seem out of reach for many transgender women”
In Roman’s narrative though, after years of her trans identity being a barrier to accessing love, she found Taylorson – and it never became an issue in their relationship.
Taylorson, a cisgender heterosexual, is an L.A. musician, songwriter, and producer, known for his intimate, acoustic solo performances, as well as those with his bands, “Mason & Company” and “The Desert Blues Band” are fixtures in the underground musical community.
He gained a reputation as a powerful force in Los Angeles music during the 2000s, when, working as an entrepreneur booking agent (and known as “Mason”), he transformed the historic Taix French Restaurant in Echo Park into the nationally recognized Taix 321 Lounge by booking and promoting over 4000 live concerts and performances.
He continues to create, both through his own successful and multi-faceted music, and more recently as an artist. He is also known for his charitable contributions to the community – such as creating and hosting the North Hollywood – Valley Village “Dream Big” community Wellness & Prosperity charity and food drive in 2013.
Roman says being with Taylorson has been refreshing because “I feel I found someone that loves me regardless. My transness has not been a hindrance to our relationship.”
For many people, the idea that trans people are just people – members of society, the neighbors down the street, the everyday bystander, who deserve access like everyone else – is a difficult concept to grasp. Unfortunately, that means this ideal is not a reality for nearly all of the Trans community as a whole.
“Many aspects of our society have refused to accept transgender people, which limits our ability to participate in society. Because of this, even serious relationships seem unattainable, let alone marriage.” Roman said.
So Roman and Taylorson, as they made the decision to move toward the next step in their relationship, saw marriage as an act of resistance.
“I wanted to have something that was meaningful,” she said. “I wanted to do it in a place where people have been told that we don’t deserve to be celebrated. I have the same right to hold these dreams and fantasies – that so many people have as children.”
For cisgender people – those whose gender identity aligns with their sex assigned at birth – being intimately involved with a transgender person often creates internal conflict. Because of this many cisgender people, especially men, typically choose to love transgender women behind closed doors.
“Cisgender, heterosexual men are often shamed for loving and being attracted to trans women,” Roman said. “We must change this narrative. Transgender women are women, but society fails to recognize this.”
She added, “This often leaves our community feeling unworthy of public love and unworthy of affection.”
Acknowledging the historical context in which marriage has taken place, it is a ceremony that has long excluded queer and trans people. It was only in 2015 that same-sex marriage was legalized nationally, but even within this larger social dynamic, trans stories were not included.
Roman also noted that marriage has always been considered acceptable between a cisgender man and a cisgender woman, but this excludes “many other types” of love, which “manifests itself among many different bodies.” This does not end or differ for transgender people, who are often denied the right to share love in the ways done by the general population.
This is influenced by the fact that marriage is, of course, often associated with religion – an institution that has traditionally held negative and ill-minded views about the LGBTQ community. Religion often fuels anti-trans discrimination and impacts the way the trans community is seen by society.
Roman has chosen to move forward with her marriage in a religious institution –demanding space that is she points out is rightfully hers.
“The church to me means this establishment that tells me that I don’t belong, which makes me want to be there more,” she says. “It makes me want to show our love, show that we are deserving, and that we are a couple just like any other couple.”
The trans community hears frequently that they are sinful, deceitful, and a disgrace; it’s pushed many trans people away from the practices of Christianity and Catholicism. With her marriage at St. John’s, Maria is signifying that religious institutions do not have to be inherently harmful, but can be transformed into unifying spaces.
Alejandro Escoto, who will be the priest at Maria and Jason’s wedding, is affiliated with the Metropolitan Community Churches – the first and largest religious and spiritual denomination/church that has reached out to LGBTQ+ people. He told the Blade that this Church has always “blessed marriages” as “holy unions.” “And now that marriage is legal between people regardless of gender and sexuality,” he says, “we celebrate our relationships as a testimony that God smiles upon relationships that work to better one another.”
“My belief is that it doesn’t matter gender or sexuality of the person,” he continues. “God looks at your heart and your spirit. The fact is, two people in love who are better because of their love can celebrate this love by getting married. This tells the world that love doesn’t and should not judge.”
For many Americans, the idea of marriage is not religious at all; it’s a binding ceremony that should not be taken away from anyone. It is a ceremony that can be adapted – transformed – for a person’s love, their relationships, and for both cisgender and transgender people.
“Trans people deserve to be loved,” Roman says. “This marriage shows that it is possible, that we should not settle for anything less, and that we can choose to love in the ways that are right for us.”
This is what trans people have done for centuries – found ways to bind themselves together in ways adapted to their identities. They have subverted and rejected systems and chosen to live their lives authentically despite society’s expectations.
So Roman sees her marriage to Taylorson not only as the start of their own lives together, but it also an attempt to marry together two communities that are traditionally told not to be in harmony with one another – religion and LGBTQ people.
“In a climate of uncertainty and hostility for trans communities, this marriage symbolizes our resilience,” Roman says.
“It shows the world that we will continue to exist despite opposition and that we will celebrate ourselves in spaces that tell us that we do not matter.”
Roman has been a fierce Puerto Rican Transgender activist for the past 20 years. Among her many advocacy roles, she is a social and political educator. She has presented at the U.S. Conference on AIDS and the LLEGO National Latino Conference.
In 2008, she joined 30 other TransLatinas in Washington DC to lobby for ENDA, the LGBT Employment Non-Discrimination Act. She uses her experiences as someone who has survived the streets, homelessness and has become a voice stress voice to speak to the issues transgender women face across the country and the world.
In addition to her life as an activist, Roman is an accomplished actor and performer. She has appeared in several independent films and on numerous TV shows including the Tyra Banks Show, Cristina, Entertainment Tonight and The Insider.
Today, she is the Board Chair of the TransLatin@ Coalition, a national advocacy organization that works to improve the quality of life for TransLatin@ immigrants that reside in the United States, works to improve housing access for transgender people across the city of Los Angeles, and is a board member of the Los Angeles Transgender Advisory Council (TAC). works as a Housing Specialist for people living with HIV at APAIT.
To support Roman’s historical moment of love consider giving to her TransTale Documentary Fundraiser, which will help fund a docu-love-story that will follow Transgender Activist Maria Roman and her fiancé Jason Taylorson as they begin their journey to become the first Trans/Cis Couple to wed at the historic St John’s Cathedral in its over 100 year history in Los Angeles, California in March of 2019.
The staff of the Los Angeles Blade also contributed to this article.