Inspiring Latina: Monica Trasandes

If a young Latina girl sees a gay female character on a television show, telenovela, or movie, she may have Monica Trasandes to thank for it. 

As the Director Of Spanish-Language Media at GLAAD (The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), Uruguayan Trasandes works tirelessly to ensure that those that have been invisible on TV for years -- gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Latinos -- are finally visible, and to ensure that their stories are no longer ignored.

“At GLAAD, we firmly believe that when gay and transgender people tell their stories in media -- English and Spanish -- that helps open hearts and minds,” explains Trasandes. 

Trasandes' says it has always been her calling to tell the stories of the voiceless. “Wanting to be a journalist and tell stories no one was telling was similarly influenced," she says. "When I was young, the Dirty War was happening in Argentina. I thought more people should be telling the story of the people who were disappearing," she says.

When she's not busy working as an activist, Trasandes is busy writing plays and novels. Her latest book, Broken Like This, is due for release this month. Read on to find out why this Inspiring Latina isn't afraid to always D.B. (Do Better), challenge herself, and stand up for herself and others.

Tell us about your work with GLAAD!

I work with Spanish-language media, making sure that great stories about gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender Latinos are included in media, so that we are more visible. We’ve been so invisible for so long and that does nothing to diminish prejudice. So many gay and transgender people all over the United States and Latin America still have to be very closeted and are scared to lose their families, their jobs, their homes, even their lives, just for being who they are.

What did you study to earn such a position?

I studied Political Science [and] International Relations at U.C. Santa Barbara thinking that I would work in Latin America, but then I started working at the college paper, the Daily Nexus, and loved it. After college, I worked at a couple of daily newspapers and enjoyed it so much. Eventually, I realized that writing fiction as well as writing plays and screenplays was incredibly enjoyable. So after graduate school at Emerson, where I earned an MFA, I moved to Los Angeles. I was a magazine editor for many years but I’d write in the mornings before work, at night and on weekends. It’s been tough, definitely, but well worth it.

What steps did you take to get where you are now?

I studied hard, of course. I worked for free or for very little pay in the beginning. I took a few risks with jobs that weren’t traditional. I’ve been in writing groups and labs for years, getting feedback from other writers and from actors and working hard to become a better writer.

Did you always see yourself in this field?

I’ve known for a long time I would be a writer but I didn’t imagine I would work in advocacy. It’s been a great surprise to be able to marry my love of media and my desire to help my gay and lesbian community.

Tell us about your new novel.

"Broken Like This is about a woman, Kate, who is in a car accident in Spain and, as she slips into a coma, struggles to tell someone that she’s pregnant. The two people who love her most, Louis and Angela, fly to Spain to save her life. You don’t know if she will survive or if they’ll ever find out that she’s pregnant.

We also go back in time to see how each relationship developed, with Angela, who is Latina, and with Louis. It’s set in Spain but also in the U.S. and Brazil, so it’s fairly international.

What advice do you have for Latinas that are trying to make their dreams come true?

I would say work hard to be the best you can be. One of my professors at Emerson would write 'DB' on a sentence sometimes. It meant 'do better.' You would think 'oh, come on, that is a great sentence.' Then you’d read it again and realize 'No, that is not a great sentence.' She was always right. I would say don’t be afraid to DB, to push and challenge yourself. But balance that with enjoyment, with friends and family and joy. Work hard and enjoy your life. Also, as my dad always says,“no te achiques.” In other words, stand up for yourself. It’s your job to tell the world how you want to be treated."

Do you know an inspiring Latina? Nominate her at inspiringlatinas@latina.com

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