Pride 2023: Sebastian Montiel Connects Their Gender Identity and Heritage
By: Mira Garin
Sebastian Montiel, a rising senior in SDSU’s undergraduate program in public health, spoke at The San Diego LGBT Community Center’s Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast. Named in memory of Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official who was assassinated the week after Thanksgiving in 1978 just nine months into his term, the Diversity Breakfast celebrates his activism while simultaneously raising funding for The Center’s mission to enrich the health and well-being of LGBTQ+, immigrant, and HIV communities in the San Diego area. In addition to announcing The San Diego Foundation’s matching grant challenge in support of The Center, they were awarded The Center’s Jose Julio Sarria/ Nicole Murray Ramirez International Scholarship to fund Sebastian for their global health internship in Oaxaca, Mexico this summer.
Self-describing as “Chicanx, First-Generation, and Queer,” Sebastian works to bridge the gaps between their community and access to culturally competent healthcare. Growing up in South Bay, Sebastian “experienced firsthand health inequities that continue to be prominent,” they recounted, “[and they] had a profound impact on my well-being and my community.” Sebastian’s first foray into advocacy work was as the president of his high school’s first Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) where he led social justice summits and advocated for LGBTQIA+ Visibility & Gender Identity. Bringing humanistic approaches to their work in community outreach, Sebastian aims to undercut the narrative “placed on [communities of color] by white supremacy” and provide health education to “people who never had the opportunity to learn.”
Now in Oaxaca working as a Global Health Intern at Child Family Health International, Sebastian collaborates with community health clinics across Mexico. While aiding primary care facilities in gathering their patients’ health information and supporting physical therapy sessions with children who have disabilities, Sebastian has enjoyed being immersed in a historic and culturally rich community. “Both of my parents immigrated to the United States from Ciudad de Mexico and Michoacan, Mexico,” they explained, “[and I now] feel at home in the country my parents had to leave forcefully in pursuit of better opportunities.”
The first in his family to attend university, Sebastian plans to pursue a Master of Public Health concentrating in community health and continue to “connect my gender identity with my heritage” in hopes of directing an organization that works closely with community members. “I’m proud to be here sharing my story,” they stated at the Diversity Breakfast, “and I hope this inspires you all to continue to advocate for a world where everyone is welcome.”