28 - Jak Montanez
16 years old
Transgender Queer (he/him)
Colorado Springs, CO
Just a queer kid trying to make it through life.
With the infinite possibilities of gender identity and expression, when did you know….
“When it comes to me coming out as transgender… it was only a recent discovery for me. About 7 or 8 months ago. I never really felt I fit into the typical female classification… obviously while gender expands everywhere, I just never really fit in. I was always considered a tomboy. Then over time, I started digging into the realm of getting more information about what gender identity is, what words go to what… and slowly making those changes really helped me discover who I am…”
On preferred pronouns…
“I use he/him/his pronouns… At first I pretty much assume strangers and such won’t know. Most people don’t ask about pronouns. I just assume I’m gonna get the wrong ones… But when it comes to people who I’ve known for a while, and I’ve specifically told them my pronouns… it really does suck. It kind of hurts in the heart a little bit. I’ve learned that when people use the wrong pronouns, I correct them. If they don’t listen, I don’t listen to them…”
On his coming out experience…
“I came out as being queer in general when I was 10 years old. That process didn’t go really well. I was 15 when I came out as transgender. When I first was planning to come out, I never really saw it as a coming out… I just saw it as just a thing… a person liking another person. So I came home with my girlfriend at the time… 10 year old girlfriend at the time. I told my grandparents and they didn’t react very well… There was a lot of anger and violence. They took me to this one person at our church… and it wasn’t until recently that I realized that it was conversion therapy. When it didn’t work… work in the sense that no results were shown… I still thought everyone was cute… haha… They kicked me out, and then I was in foster care for 3 years. I feel it gave me the opportunity to really learn who I was… I identified as so many different things during those 3 years…
My most recent coming out experience has been going really well, surprisingly. I came out at the end of my 8th grade year, and most people didn’t go with it. I just realized going into my first year of high school, just presenting as who I am…. It was so much easier. I haven’t had anybody give me any negative backlash. I came out to a friends mom, and I had a flag and sign that said, ‘Mom, I’m trans!’... I have a video of it, and it was awesome…”
Biggest fears or concern about coming out…
“I didn’t really have any on my first coming out…. I was really blind to any sort of hatred for anything LGBT+ related. That one, I didn’t have any fears. For my second coming out, my biggest fear was people reacting with violence and anger. Especially when it came to coming out to my father… but I remembered something he told me when I came out to him as being queer… ‘I’m here to guide you, not judge you…’ That’s probably been my favorite thing I’ve heard him say to me…”
First celebrity crush?
“Oh jeez…. Well, from the youngest age I can remember always thinking all girls were pretty. There was this one substitute teacher, and I can’t remember her name for the life of me… it was in 1st grade… and I saw her and I was like, ‘Oh my jeez… that is a whole lot of woman, and I like it!’ Then as I got more into the world of being queer and stuff, I feel like honestly everyone had a crush on Ruby Rose at one time or another. And Kristen Stewart...whew!”
Favorite part about the community?
“That no matter what, you have a family. You can meet somebody and say you find out you both identify within the LGBTQ+ spectrum, it just gives you that automatic bond. Once you get to know people, they’re always there for you. And if something goes sour, there’s always someone else that will be there for you…”
“I see, especially with youth…. and obviously our youth is a time to explore and find ourselves… but people make being queer… being gay… or being bi… as their main label, and there’s nothing else about them. Whenever you talk to them or they post on social media... it’s just about whatever their identity is. It sucks because we talk about being so diverse, but at the same time, when it comes to people just getting introduced to the community, all they see is someone being like ‘Hey I’m gay…’ and nothing besides that…”
What is something you would tell a younger you?
“The biggest thing is to keep smiling… Because when I was younger, no matter what was going on… no matter how bad of a day I was having… I would always be smiling the next morning. I wrote a whole poem about this… I wish that was the trait that my younger self would’ve been able to keep for longer. So yeah… keep smiling.... It’ll make someone else smile, and be a whole chain reaction…”
Advice for anyone out there who feels like they can’t come out, or they don’t have a community to be a part of?
“On the coming out part… I feel like there are different levels to coming out. I feel everyone has at least one or two close friends… start with them. Explain to them who you’re out to… who you’re not out to. Biggest thing is come out when you’re safe. It can save you a world of troubles. Even though it may seem like you’re stuck in this spot now… you’re only a kid for so long. Life does get better. It gets to the point where you can make your own choices, and have your freedoms. There will be days that it hurts, or there will be bad days… and there will be days when you wanna crawl into a hole and die. Those days… you’ll make it through them.
Reach out, even if it’s just online… There’s always school counselors, even though I know some school environments aren’t as accepting. There’s more options than you really think there are… it’s just the matter of putting research into it.”
Most people go by and keep the name given to them by their parents, as a transgender person you have the unique experience of choosing your own name. How did you decide on Jak?
“Before I went by Jak… I had another name, a nickname that sort of just stuck with me from even before I transitioned with me. I really did a lot of research… but honestly it’s just what feels right. Once you’re spoken with a certain name, it’ll feel right. Don’t feel bad for experimenting with names, because it’s all in the process of finding out who you really are…”
Someone told me that you should never ask a transgender person their dead name, what’s your opinion on that?
“If I don’t know you very well, there’s no way in the world I’m telling you my dead name. If it’s your dead name and it’s still your legal name… specific people need to know that in case of an emergency, or in certain situations like if you’re not out to someone… other than that, I don’t really see a need for it…”
What in your life are you most proud of?
“I’m personally most proud of myself staying strong through the tough times. There’s been so many times where I just wanted to give up… quit existing… but I’m so happy that I’m here today. If you had asked my this 6 months ago, I’d had a completely different view on it. I feel that no matter what, if you’re trying… life will get better enough to wait for it…”
With the state of the nation and the world in its current state, what’s one thing you would change if you had the power?
“For everyone to see people who are a different race or sexuality… or anything that’s seen as different… to see them all equally. Get rid of anything like homophobia and racism, because we are all human… as cliche as that is. That’s just that. Why judge someone off of something that you didn’t know 5 minutes before you met them?”