Pride is solidarity

Ramona Waylon Diaz on becoming the woman she deserves to be.

[editor’s note: In the more than half a century since the Stonewall riots in New York City, Pride has become increasingly visible and inclusive. 2SLGBTQIA+ people have spent decades forging a path for subsequent generations to be able to openly live authentic lives. What follows is a profile of one such young woman.]

Ramona Waylon Diaz (she/her) is a 23-year-old educator and musician in the OKC-metro.

“I teach choir, elementary music. Primarily voice. I am currently a substitute teacher while I look for a full-time position,” she said.

Growing up in California, Arizona, Kansas, and Oklahoma, she earned a music education degree from the University of Central Oklahoma.

While in college, Diaz explored her gender identity, but ultimately found joy and comfort in living and presenting as a woman.

“I had been using a nonbinary presentation and neutral ‘they’ pronouns for around a year or so in close circles. I realized then that my body, as it was, I could not grow old in it. I realized the affirmation of hormone therapy was a lifeline for me. My decision to start HRT in July of 2021 was life-changing and lifesaving. Thanks to the kind people at Planned Parenthood and equitable informed consent policies, I was able to swiftly get the treatment I needed. I was prescribed estrogen and realized — I am a girl!” she said.

Diaz got inspiration for her new name, Ramona, from a favorite literary character.

“My name is Ramona Waylon. Ramona, like Ramona Quimby. Her stories are important to me. I like her fiery, curious, kind spirit. I admire her courage, humility, and all too relatable rashness. Waylon is my middle name. When I didn’t know what I wanted to change my first name to, I went by Waylon. I still use Waylon sometimes. We use both,” she said.

Diaz’s parents struggled with addiction and while her family remained tightly-knit, she struggled quietly on her own.

“Home life was hard, and got harder. My parents fought more. Their struggles with addiction got worse. I was beginning to grow up in a body that I grew ever more disillusioned from. I watched myself change, repressing and refusing to confront the sad and scared feelings that something was wrong with my body. I had developed a sense that something was different about the way I see my body versus how other people perceive themselves,” she said.

School was one of Diaz’s favorite places to be as a child, and she found her career path after participating in band and choir.

“School was everything. I loved learning. I loved the structured, safe environment. I loved the teachers, especially the kind ones. I loved my friends and the community. I loved going to school with my siblings … I had found my way of connecting to others: through community in music. I had found my calling, and I decided to pursue a college degree in music education,” Diaz said.

It was in college that Diaz found a supportive space to be herself, but her transition has not been easy.

“When I knew, I knew … The hardest part was facing my own denial. I had to learn to love myself, to embrace myself entirely. People talk about a ‘rock bottom.’ I suppose I had just reached the end of the argument with myself and had to accept it was true. The opportunity to explore labels and my presentation was very helpful for me. The relationships in my life that supported this — romantic, friends, my siblings, supportive people in my community ... These people gave me the support I needed to have the conversation with myself,” she said.

Though Oklahoma is not a welcoming place for trans and gender-diverse people, Diaz has been fortunate to find herself in supportive environments as an educator.

“I am immensely grateful to have been placed at school sites with supportive students, faculty, and staff. My time as a student teacher was very important to me professionally and personally. Schools are supposed to be safe. My schools were. I was respected because it is what we do, we respect each other. I am sad that this is not a reality for trans people in much of our home state … Besides the obviously terrible truth that we live under rule of actual fascists who are passing discriminatory laws harming our trans Oklahomans … I love it. I love it because I get to be the teacher for these kids that I wish I could have had,” she said.

She has big dreams and aspirations for helping make Oklahoma a better place for trans people.

“There is an implicit understanding of rapport between queer folks in Oklahoma. We are an oppressed community. The honor of being a person who brings strength to our community is immense and not lost on me,” she said.

Diaz knows she can’t win the fight alone, and she wants supportive community members to know that they have the ability to affect change.

“Fortunately, I think we have more power than we realize. Individual accountability to organize does so much. Normal, everyday people who give of themselves to help the community. We need to find other people like us, who are upset, hurt, taken advantage of, whatever. Talk to them and learn. You as an individual are capable of initiating change far greater than the scope of your vision. But we need help. Together, we can do this. Need somewhere to start? Volunteer. Support the campaigns of local trans-positive legislators. Help regular people help regular people. The momentum we build together can topple any terror.”

Diaz spends a lot of her time contributing to the queer community in any way she can.

“I am always looking for new ways to get involved in Oklahoma City. Right now, I spend most of my free time serving in local mutual aid organizations, working front desk shifts or helping plan and work at mutual aid events. I am mostly still learning at this point. I want to help other people build networks of safety and affirmation by and for their communities. I do serve on a nonprofit board that works to support LGBTQ youth who have been harmed or cast out of their communities of faith. Oklahoma is a land with many spiritual people and isolation from our communities of faith is a terrible weapon used on trans Oklahomans far too often,” she said.

When she’s not teaching or advocating, Diaz is dancing, drawing, painting, writing music and poetry, and exercising.

“I have to mention, I am a gamer. I love all kinds of video games … I am very passionate about the ways music and video games create a unique storytelling experience together,” she said.

What does Pride mean for Diaz?

“I celebrate Pride Month by being the woman I know I deserve to be. Being myself, because I know I am not alone. Pride is solidarity. In solidarity, there is unfathomable strength. We need Pride because Pride brings us the unity and strength necessary for Justice and change,” she said.

She is savoring every moment, both good and difficult, through her transition.

“I am happier than I was before. I have a long way to go, in regards to whatever personal journey I am on. I think that’s a good place to be at 23. My transition has been an important step in realizing my potential as a young person. I am thankful for the perspective it has given me and the courage it has demanded from me. I am not afraid to fight for myself now and I am thankful for that valuable trait,” she said.

“It is good to feel at home in my body.”

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