Equality Arizona
The Arizona Equals Conversation
Arizona Equals Matthew
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Arizona Equals Matthew

Family, music, and finding a home in the desert

On today’s episode, we’re joined by our friend Matthew Coelho to talk about the joys of family, music, and the Southern Arizona desert. This is the third in a series of three interviews recorded in Matthew’s home in Tucson, following our episodes with Juan McElroy and Matthew’s husband Blake Coelho.

The Arizona Equals Conversation is an interview podcast collecting the stories of LGBTQ+ people living in Arizona. To listen to past episodes of the podcast, or to sign up to be a guest on a future episode of the show, visit equalityarizona.org/stories.

Full Episode Transcript

Jeanne Woodbury

From Equality Arizona, you're listening to the Arizona Equals Conversation, a narrative interview podcast documenting the stories of queer people living in Arizona through the lens of community. I'm Jeanne Woodbury. I'm the interim executive director of Equality Arizona and the host of this podcast. Today I'm speaking with Matthew Coelho for the third of three Tucson-based interviews that Matthew hosted at his home. So when I mention towards the end of the episode that we're running up against a time deadline, it's because actually it was the third of three interviews we had recorded back to back at his kitchen table, and they all had to leave to get to a play, so I'm really grateful to Matthew and Blake for hosting me, and their friend Juan for agreeing to do an interview. I really enjoyed this series, and I'm excited to do more interviews in the future with people living all across the state. Matthew's story is really incredible. We got to talk through a lot of facets of the adoption process and building a family, about personal healing through music and community, and about how electric the desert can feel and how electrifying the local community in Tucson can be. I often get out of an interview and wish I could just record another entire episode with them, and this was one of those cases. so I hope you all enjoy listening to it. And if you haven't already listened to my interviews with Juan and Blake, they're the most recent two episodes in the feed. All right, let's roll the tape.

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Matthew Coelho

My name is Matthew Coelho. My pronouns are he/him/his.

Jeanne Woodbury

Thanks for talking with me today and for setting up your home for me to talk with you and Juan and Blake.

Matthew Coelho

Absolutely.

Jeanne Woodbury

It's been a lot of fun. And I really enjoyed the tour of the new room for the twins.

Matthew Coelho

Thank you.

Jeanne Woodbury

That's exciting. And you said this is something that's pretty new.

Matthew Coelho

Yes.

Jeanne Woodbury

And so just, I don't know, tell me about that. Are you pretty excited?

Matthew Coelho

I'm very excited. We're both very excited. my husband and I, Blake, but yeah, still very new to, the situation is still very new to us and we're still kind of like wrapping our heads around it and really, it feels a little surreal just because we've been on this journey of building our family for, really pursuing it for about a full year now, but we made the decision together to start making a plan to do that about two years ago.

Jeanne Woodbury

I see. Yeah, that's a long time.

Matthew Coelho

Yes, yeah, especially when you're kind of, you know, just doing all the education and building community and finding resources. And it feels like a long time, even more, I mean, two years is a long time, but when you're like kind of going through it, it feels, I don't know.

Jeanne Woodbury

Yeah, when you're in it, I'm sure it feels even longer.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, no, definitely. But it was such a really great experience in terms of just absorbing so much information and getting to connect with people and hear people's stories and learn about how all the different ways that families are built. And yeah, it just like really showed us that like we're making the right choice for us and for our family.

Jeanne Woodbury

I love that.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah.

Jeanne Woodbury

Are there good like local resource groups that you were able to find?

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, so there's actually an attorney here locally to Tucson, Arizona, Heather Strickland. She has a really great, she's an adoption attorney.

Jeanne Woodbury

Okay.

Matthew Coelho

So she specializes in family law practice, but then also more of a specialization with LGBTQ families, and has been such an incredible resource with not only providing us with guidance, she's never once charged us for two years of any time we had a question or email back and forth on guidance and pointing us to different organizations and colleagues of hers. She's been a really great resource.

Jeanne Woodbury

Yeah, that's incredible.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, and then there's a lot of online communities as well that have been really, really impactful during our journey.

Jeanne Woodbury

That makes sense.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, providing webinars, so like Gays With Kids has been really wonderful. They're an online community that bridges and connects families to share stories. So that's been pretty awesome to, just to find community there.

Jeanne Woodbury

Yeah, I feel like looking online, sometimes that's a great way. And sometimes it's like, I'm reading the same article over and over again, but I'm not talking to a person. I'm glad that there is like an actual group.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, there's a handful of them, but to your point, yes. Yeah, it's really nice to be able to speak to humans and share real life stories of how families are built or we've been connected with people who, like my friend Juan, obviously who went down the path of surrogacy to build their family and just hearing people's stories of adoption and their journeys and yeah, there's just so many different ways to build a family that has been just rewarding to hear how the struggle that we've experienced kind of like getting up to the point of our current match was just, I don't know, it was a comfortable, there was a layer of comfortability there that, or a comfort, I should say, that was lent to us by hearing people's struggles and knowing that there is like light at the end of the tunnel.

Jeanne Woodbury

Knowing some of the things that are difficult going in, is that what you mean?

Matthew Coelho

Yes. Yeah, both like situational struggles and then also a lot of like the mental wellbeing struggles and just like the emotional aspects of it all, yeah.

Jeanne Woodbury

Yeah, I know that with adoption, it can be kind of a devastating cycle of thinking there's a match that's going to work out and it doesn't work out. And having the expectations set by that community, I think has to help, hopefully.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, yeah, definitely was helpful. And it still is helpful to have, you know, just a supportive community out there having, again, you know, hearing people's stories and how they got through it and the things to kind of like mentally prepare for.

Jeanne Woodbury

Yeah.

Matthew Coelho

Super helpful. I don't know if you have seen, but my husband and I are pretty vocal about our whole journey on the internet. And so through our social medias, we've been able to kind of like share our ups and downs of our journey. And, you know, something that we shared, just because I feel like it's important that these types of conversations are had, you know, there are people out there that do a lot of like emotional scamming and that did happen to us about a month or two ago where we thought we were being matched. And, you know, we had like a FaceTime conversation with the person and it was like really exciting for an hour and a half, but then like immediately, you know, it's like a wave of confusion and anger and sadness.

Jeanne Woodbury

Yeah.

Matthew Coelho

But then also you feel, it's like a mixed feeling because you're also feeling for the person as well because you're kind of like trying to put yourself in their shoes and like, what are they going through to like, that like put them on this path of, you know, kind of like catfishing, I guess.

Jeanne Woodbury

Yeah, is that what it is, a scam?

Matthew Coelho

Essentially, yeah. Yeah, it was interesting, but. So that's just like one little element of like the struggle of navigating that path for sure.

Jeanne Woodbury

When you share those kinds of stories, you know, publicly on social media, do you find that that's like an extra emotional burden or that it helps you to process it?

Matthew Coelho

I think it could be both depending on the responses.

Jeanne Woodbury

Oh yeah.

Matthew Coelho

I think it's important to share the journey, A, because I, you know, not many people know what it's like to go through a journey like that.

Jeanne Woodbury

Yeah, most people don't.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, so it is nice to kind of like vocalize and share. It does kind of release some of that like anxiety and the fears and the uncertainty of it all. But also, yeah, sometimes there's like some negative response and usually it's people who like don't really, they're like not following me. They'd probably like search certain hashtags and they're maybe like anti-advocates, anti-adoption advocates, but there's never really a dialogue. It's always just kind of like something negative. And then it's kind of just like a, you kind of have to ignore it.

Jeane Woodbury

Just, here’s some hate in the comments.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah

Jeanne Woodbury

That's unfortunate.

Matthew Coelho

But for the most part, I mean, the support has been super helpful.

Jeanne Woodbury

Yeah. Oh I'm glad. Do you feel like, you know, well, I mean, I feel like making the decision to adopt or in general making the decision to start a family is a pretty big thing. And it's not something that a lot of people in the LGBT community are automatically comfortable with. And for some people, it's because we haven't had good family experiences. And that can go either way. Therefore, we want to have a good family and create that for ourselves, or we're just afraid of it. Did you have to go through a long decision process when you were thinking about this?

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, that's a good question. I did not personally have to do a lot of like heavy thinking or soul searching. My family growing up, so my dad moved to the, so he was born here, but moved to India — he's Indian — until he was about 12 years old and then moved back to the States. But he is one of five brothers and a sister. So I grew up with like a huge family surrounding me, like tons of cousins. So family was, my family life was very good. And so I do have, I think, a really good sense of family life. And so that I think helped inform —

Jeanne Woodbury

It's like a big value for you as a person.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, yeah, definitely. So I definitely knew that, especially going into my relationship with Blake, we always kind of knew family was something that we both wanted.

Jeanne Woodbury

Oh, that's wonderful.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, and actually even before, like being in a very serious relationship or even prior to marriage, I think I always knew that like adoption was gonna be the path for me. So I'm bisexual. And I think even then, you know, whether I were in a long-term relationship with a woman or ended up getting married to a woman, I think, again, to my point, like adoption still would have been on the table.

Jeanne Woodbury

Oh, okay.

Matthew Coelho

So my family actually runs an orphanage in India and I kind of, I went there twice, actually with my dad and his family.

Jeanne Woodbury

Oh, cool.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, and it was really exciting to kind of just see the groundwork that my family's legacy has built there. And kind of, I think that maybe informed kind of like that thought process of adoption.

Jeanne Woodbury

When did you go? Like as a kid growing up, you would visit?

Matthew Coelho

So actually my first, yeah, so I was a little bit older. I was about 15, I think I was about 15 years old. So I was in high school, I think it was my freshman year. I don't know how old I was, that sounds about right.

Jeanne Woodbury

Okay.

Matthew Coelho

But yeah, that was my first time, but I went with just my cousins and my uncle and my aunt. So they're Christian artists and musicians and they would tour, they still do tour India and like Singapore and like pretty much all over the world. But so they were there performing and doing shows. And so my cousins and I got to go along and during one of the stops we went to our, the main orphanage and then to a couple of different other locations that the, my family ministry supports.

Jeanne Woodbury

Oh, cool. Okay. Is that something that you're still pretty connected to?

Matthew Coelho

like Christianity and like the church?

Jeanne Woodbury

Or the ministry and the group and everything. The work your family does.

Matthew Coelho

I'm supportive and I'm very, like I help with like advocacy and sharing, you know, that it exists. I'm not so much involved as I used to be with like, you know, hands-on trips and things like that. And it's not just for lack of wanting to, I think it's just with where I'm at in my life. All my family's back home in California and so it's like difficult for me to play an active role. I mean, not so much now that the internet exists and all that. It's just hard to like be there and like feel connected in an impactful way. But again, I still share and like do whatever I can from afar, yes.

Jeanne Woodbury

Yeah, that's cool. That's work that has a lot of emotional labor involved in it, in terms of just being supportive to people, being supportive of families, being supportive to kids. And so I mean, I imagine that that could be something where having a family built up around it, having multiple siblings and having kind of everyone involved probably helps to distribute that a lot. Is that the experience that you've had?

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, yeah, definitely. It's just, it's still, I mean, like today, I think it's flourished so well with all of that support, for sure. Like my family's so big and like, yeah, even though I'm not as hands-on as I used to be, I think it's, I mean, it's definitely in great hands.

Jeanne Woodbury

That makes sense. And so you grew up in California?

Matthew Coelho

I did.

Jeanne Woodbury

Okay, like near LA or?

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, so south of LA in Orange County. So it's about 40 minutes or so south.

Jeanne Woodbury

Okay, cool.

Matthew Coelho

But yeah, so I was born and raised there and that's — I spent some time out in Nashville by myself. And then when I came back to California, that's actually when I met my husband, Blake. So we got connected and were working in the music industry for a while and then we spent another stint back in LA. But when we got engaged out — I’m sorry, in Nashville — but when we got engaged out in Nashville, we decided to come back to Tucson. And we thought it was gonna be a stepping stone just to kind of get back to Los Angeles and get back into like the artist world and community. But Southern Arizona just has been so great for us that we were like, I don't know if we should rock the boat. Yeah, we've been here since 2018 and I really feel at home here. There's something really electric and exciting about the desert that I feel like calls me here, so it feels really nice.

Jeanne Woodbury

Oh interesting. I mean, I kind of know what you mean. Driving here, 'cause I drove all the way down from Phoenix, and I love that drive despite the fact that I do not enjoy the 10, because I just love seeing so much of the desert. And so I can totally get what you mean. What are some of the other things that have made you feel at home in Tucson?

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, I think what really makes me feel at home here is really just the feeling connected to the earth. A lot of the work I was doing back in California before my time here in Tucson, before my move was involving a lot of community and community building in the wellbeing space. So I helped kind of build a… it was held in a temple, but it was really like a community center. It was in Venice Beach, California. And what that space was, was like a wellbeing center that offered like yoga and meditation and just different wellbeing offerings that really helped the community thrive in LA. There's a lot of different like social, like challenges that are pretty prevalent out in the area, like homelessness and, you know, drug, like heavy drug use and certain, the offerings that we provided were a space for people to find connection and maybe like a, just like a human interaction that normally they wouldn't receive like out on the streets or.

Jeanne Woodbury

And so this was a community space for like people who are unhoused or.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, unhoused. A lot of people who were housed as well. Like, so, you know, just it was for everybody.

Jeanne Woodbury

Oh, that's really cool.

Matthew Coelho

But specifically for people who were unhoused or maybe going through a lot of challenges to find community and to find like a helping hand, essentially.

Jeanne Woodbury

That's really cool.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah.

Jeanne Woodbury

How long were you involved in that?

Matthew Coelho

A little bit over a year. It was called Full Circle. It was really wonderful. We had a lot of really great incredible, like wellness speakers come out, specialists and authors. I don't know if you're familiar with Marianne Williamson, she would come a lot and speak and it was really incredible the type of work that was happening there.

Jeanne Woodbury

Yeah. How did you get into that in the first place?

Matthew Coelho

I think it was my own wellness journey. I think, you know, after high school, I didn't really have a lot of direction. And even kind of like probably even earlier than that, like during high school, it was kind of like a lot of my struggle with my sexuality and coming to terms with who I was, you know, kind of going back to where I shared about my family's background in the church, that was really challenging for me to kind of like wrap my head around just in terms of questioning, you know, my identity and questioning whether I aligned with these like Christian beliefs. And it kind of played a huge role in my like mental instability. And I think, you know, again, navigating high school and not fully, you know, letting myself be who I was. I think there was like a struggle where I was, you know, over drinking, eating like foods that were just terrible for me. And I didn't recognize myself, you know, when I was like 21, 22 years old, I looked, you know, I was really overweight. I was, I looked like I hadn't slept in days. And I realized like, oh my gosh, I don't, again, recognize myself. And so I joined a gym. I started really finding a really great community there, a lot of support. And again, the connection to me was like, oh, I'd never experienced people who supported me for who I was. I was kind of like showing up there as my authentic self in the sense that I knew I wasn't fully who I wanted to be, but I was showing up anyway, and I was giving it my best shot to work out and feel good about myself. And I think seeing and experiencing that support kind of led me into my next step of exploring music, because I loved to songwrite and sing, and I never really pursued that until joining the gym and feeling good and starting losing weight. I took that next step and being like, well, what else can I do? What can I do next? And I started pursuing music, and I started, you know, things started happening for me there and I was getting opportunities to write with artists and different producers and it made me fulfilled, that I was like feeling inspired and like feeling better about myself and like my own self-image and my own identity really. And then it really just got to a point where I was like, I'm feeling so good about myself and in my skin that I wanted to help bring that to other people. And I think that's kind of like how it started. But I found other people similar to me in Los Angeles who wanted those same things. And I think that's kind of like how I got involved with the wellness space for sure.

Jeanne Woodbury

Yeah. And then was it like you and a team of people putting this space together or was it more of like a larger coalition?

Matthew Coelho

It was really collaborative. It was like people from all walks of life. It was already established in the sense that somebody owned the space and they were doing the work in it already. And then it started attracting people with different talents and different support and different networks that kind of, it became a larger collaborative board of directors, I should say, that put a plan together and put all their, again, their talents and skills and created something much bigger than it was initially. But yeah, it kind of took on a life of its own and it was really great for a handful of years and then the space itself was no longer available. It had to be sold, but it was wonderful. It was really great for me. It gave me a lot of fulfillment and a drive to continue that work.

Jeanne Woodbury

Were you able to continue that work as you moved around the country to Nashville and to Arizona?

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, I think I took a lot of that motivation with me. I think I've always tried to use my platform, whether it was through social media or the music that I was writing to tell that story of connection and the importance of showing up for people and empathy and kind of creating a safe space for the people that I came into contact with, whether that was at a show or in the writing room, I think that intention would always end up out to where it was supposed to go.

Jeanne Woodbury

Oh, that's really interesting. So when you're writing music and performing, do you see that as like creating a space for people?

Matthew Coelho

Absolutely, yeah.

Jeanne Woodbury

Oh, that's really cool.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, there were a lot of times I would use my music as a way to, like for, there was this really cool event that I participated in with one of my friends, Ben Decker. He is a meditation teacher. And so we did this world peace event out in Los Angeles and I was able to kind of like perform my music and support that mission to provide a safe space for people to let go and to find that community there. And yeah, I've always kind of used it as a way to support that type of work.

Jeanne Woodbury

That's really cool.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah.

Jeanne Woodbury

You mentioned getting into music around that time where you were starting to feel healthy in yourself again. Had you been musical before that, and that was the moment where you felt like, now I can really do it and be creative? Or was that like when you first said, let me go out and get into music?

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, no good question, 'cause I didn't provide a lot of context. Yeah, no, music was always very important to me. Again, I did mention my aunt and uncle are musical performers, but I actually did show choir in high school. My brother played lacrosse. And for me, I tried to do the lacrosse thing for a bit. And I was like, "Oh, I'm gonna be like my brother." And he has a bunch of cool friends playing sports. And I was like, after about a year doing that, I was like, "No, this is actually where my heart is." I always loved to sing. I always loved music. And so show choir was like my way to explore that in high school. And we got to travel the country and like do, you know, performances.

Jeanne Woodbury

Oh, I love that. That's really cool.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, it was really fun. But that I think was really exciting to me because I got to, I think for the first time, experience what it would be like to be around people who were like-minded. But I think after that, it like disappeared for me. And so I didn't know what to do. I think that kind of like had a larger effect on me than I thought at the time.

Jeanne Woodbury

With creativity, like with any kind of creative work, I feel like if you have the space for it, if you have the people and the community and the venue, you can run on that steam for a long time.

Matthew Coelho

Sure.

Jeanne Woodbury

And then when things kind of fall apart and you're on your own, it can be really hard to figure out how to do it. Like, yes, I know how to do this, but also I don't know how to do it anymore.

Matthew Coelho

Sure.

Jeanne Woodbury

And you got to a point where you were able to turn that around. But I imagine that for some period of time in your life, you weren't as connected to music. And it's such a big part of your life now. So is that something that you really missed at that time or that just you had to set aside?

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, no, it was definitely something that I noticed was missing when it was. Because to me, I feel like music and songwriting and that type of release, to me, there's a very spiritual side to that art form. And having that, you know, either the inability to access that, like, inspiration or whatever you want to call it, or even just like not being able, you know, not feeling inspired, I think is a huge detriment to feeling well and balanced. And, you know, there were some times where I was like super depressed. And if I, you know, in that space where when I was super unhealthy and I wasn't inspired, I didn't feel like I could pursue that like art. Yeah, it was really depressing and like, yeah, just a really sad time.

Jeanne Woodbury

Yeah.

Matthew Coelho

But, you know, to my point of when I got to meet Blake and, you know, we connected through music and through the songwriting community out in Los Angeles and we wrote a lot of music together and we wrote, you know, like a full album at one point and my husband and I, so Blake, we actually wrote a song together for our wedding. Because music is so important to us, we were like, the music at our wedding has got to to be like super, you know, we were just on it with like the playlist and we wanted everybody to like get to know us through — re-get to know us through — our music choices. But as we were like planning, we were like, oh my gosh, there's not a lot of like same sex wedding music.

Jeanne Woodbury

Oh, that's a good point.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, so we were thinking about that and we wrote one ourselves. So that was really cool to have that be a part of our special day and like with our moms. So it's a song called "Everything." We both wrote it together, but it was really a special song for us that we've received tons of feedback from people and people have reached out on YouTube or like on social media to let us know like they found it and like how meaningful it was for them to find 'cause they would also use it at their weddings and it was really cool.

Jeanne Woodbury

That's what I was just gonna ask. So have other people been using it at their weddings?

Matthew Coelho

Yes, yeah, yeah, it's been really cool. So actually one time we got tagged in a video on Facebook from some random, like, I think it was somebody's mom who was dancing with their son to the song. And it was really special to see that because really it was for us. It was like a very personal song, but it was really cool to see that it resonated.

Jeanne Woodbury

Yeah. And I think just, you know, with any kind of wedding, it's about the couple and then it's about all of the friends and the family who are part of it, who you decide to invite and having something that can facilitate those moments, like the dance between the mother and her son — it's not always a guarantee that our moms are going to be supportive — and I think seeing those moments, and I imagine for you writing the song that enables that moment has to be like, incredibly, incredibly meaningful.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, my mom was a little rattled when I like really came out to her. And it wasn't anything that she was like, you know, against me being, you know, identifying as LGBTQ. She just had different dreams of like, of what my life was. And I recognized it at the time that she was like, you know, grieving a person that didn't exist.

Jeanne Woodbury

Ah, yeah.

Matthew Coelho

So yeah, I think that kind of like helped me; it's like what inspired me to write some of the lyrics of the song for sure, to like address that.

Jeanne Woodbury

Yeah.

Matthew Coelho

And so yes, to your point, it was really meaningful that she was able to celebrate it and love the song, so.

Jeanne Woodbury

What have you found in terms of, you know, the music scene and your ability to be a musician here in Tucson?

Matthew Coelho

It's a little, it's definitely different. It's not like, you know, a major music city, but I will say that the, that Tucson in general is very creative and artistic and lends itself as a space for collaboration in any industry, I feel like, from what I've experienced and seen out here. It's, I don't know, there's something electric. I said it before and I'll say it again, there is like this inspirational electricity here in Tucson that I think, you know, if the right people are here and, you know, I'm here, so I think it's just a matter of time. I think if I'm extra inspired, you know, in the next year or so, like, I think there's an opportunity here for there to be a pretty cool music scene. And yeah.

Jeanne Woodbury

Oh, that's great. I, you know, I wonder with Tucson, you've described it as electric, the desert as electric, the city as electric. Are there specific things about Tucson that have been electrifying for you?

Matthew Coelho

I think the surprise of the welcoming, like the, just the nature of the city and its people and the community out here. It's very welcoming and warm and exciting. There's always like really great community events going on. I think initially my thought before moving to Tucson was like, Arizona, red state, I'm scared. Definitely not used to this, you know? But the longer I've been here and the more people I've met in different industries and from different walks of life, it's just like, it has this energy of like growth and potential that I feel like is really exciting.

Jeanne Woodbury

Yeah, that makes sense.

Matthew Coelho

So it's not one thing in particular. I think it's a lot of things. It's like the types of businesses that are opening and they're independent and they're small, but they grow so fast. And I think just how much community support there is and whether, for like whatever causes, yeah. I just like love how the community shows up for itself.

Jeanne Woodbury

Yeah. And I think with a city, it's about how everything works together, right? In a lot of ways, that's what defines the character of it.

Matthew Coelho

Absolutely.

Jeanne Woodbury

When I was talking with Blake, he mentioned that Nashville never clicked. it was a real kind of like cultural disconnect for him. You were saying just now, like moving to a red state was like, I don't know how I feel about this. But Tennessee is also that. And it seems like you lived there a couple of times, right? What was your experience there compared to Arizona?

Matthew Coelho

That's a good question. I did experience similar feelings as Blake. So, I did two stints out there. The first time I was single, I was working in a studio and it was remote work. And I never really left, to be honest, it was kind of just like to go out to eat or if we had friends in town, we would like go meet up downtown. So I wasn't really out in the community much, which sounds interesting, but as, being a writer who, I was full-time music then, and so I like never left, but, and so that was fine. That was about a year, and I came back to California. And then when we came back the second time to Nashville and I lived out there with Blake, it was very different. You know, the time we were there was like just when Trump was elected president, so tensions were super high and yeah, it was just a really confusing time for a lot of people, I think. But yeah, it didn't feel like a very, it was just very tight in terms of the community out there, especially being in the music community. You would think that there would be a lot of support, which there is, but it's also a very like tight knit group of people. So unless you're like in the inner circle, you're not really like taken very seriously until like you get a number one or whatever. But yeah, I feel like the community is just so tight knit out there that like, if you're not in it, then you're kind of just like left behind a little bit. And that's what I kind of experienced.

Jeanne Woodbury

I see.

Matthew Coelho

- Yeah.

Jeanne Woodbury

And then coming here, you were able to actually enter into communities.

Matthew Coelho

Yes. It was a little bit more welcoming. Yeah. That's definitely what I would say. It was more welcoming and, and it's maybe totally just my perspective, but it seemed to be more receptive to new perspective and new, just new — anything new, ideas, people, and it still is like that. I feel like it's, you know, the community out here is growing so much. It's like spilling into other towns, but it's been great. I love it here.

Jeanne Woodbury

Do you see that the, you know, like you mentioned with small businesses that then grow so quickly, Do you feel that there's anything like that happening in the LGBT community for like community groups or organizations?

Matthew Coelho

I think so, yeah. So I spent about a year on the Tucson LGBT Chamber of Commerce and just the growth that I saw then, about a year ago, was huge. I think they nearly doubled in terms of the businesses that became members, but just the businesses themselves are thriving and I think it created a very safe space for allies to even learn about certain challenges and policies that are super harmful for queer communities. And it really helped build a stronger ally community, which is really great out here. So I feel like there's such a, it appears to be like a hunger for information. And I think it's for the betterment of the community out here that seems to be proving itself because businesses are doing so well. and it feels very inclusive. So yeah, I think that would be kind of my key point, or like a key indicator of that.

Jeanne Woodbury

Yeah, I think that's a great indicator. What kind of businesses are LGBT owned? Is it a lot of like small businesses or?

Matthew Coelho

There's a lot of really great like restaurants and bars. There's a couple of, there's a lot. I mean, you name it. There's a new pet store that just opened up that's like super high end and boutiquey with like a really cool community space, but it's like LGBTQ-friendly and it's -owned. And there's, you know, the first female head brewer at Borderlands is queer and she is doing incredible things. And they just expanded with one of the greatest chefs out here in Tucson, Maria Mazon, and they've expanded and opened up two new restaurants, I believe in town. But yeah, there's also like another really cool company called Southwest Solutions that's queer owned and they do like merch and like printing and they do a lot of really great corporate projects.

Jeanne Woodbury

Oh, I see, that’s awesome.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, you name it. There's like any industry out here.

Jeanne Woodbury

Well, I think we're running up against a time deadline, but I do wanna ask, you know, Tucson isn't where you grew up, it's not your childhood home. You've lived here for a while now. Do you think this is somewhere that you want to stay for a longer period?

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, I definitely feel that for sure that this is gonna be a place where we're gonna raise our family. And we've been lucky enough to have two homes out here and we've built such a great community of friends who all have young little ones. And I think we've just built such a great community again around us that I don't see us leaving anytime soon for sure. This is, I think, where we're gonna be for a while.

Jeanne Woodbury

That's great.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah.

Jeanne Woodbury

All right, well, thanks for talking to me and for hosting all of this.

Matthew Coelho

Yeah, absolutely, such a pleasure.

Jeanne Woodbury

Thanks again to Matthew, and thanks so much to all of you for listening to this episode of the Arizona Equals Conversation. If you'd like to catch up on past episodes of the show or listen to new episodes when they're published, make sure to follow the show wherever you listen to podcasts. We've got some great episodes planned out for the next few weeks, and we're always looking for new people to talk to. So if you'd like to be a guest on a future episode of the podcast, please reach out. You can go to equalityarizona.org/stories to sign up.

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Equality Arizona
The Arizona Equals Conversation
Arizona Equals is a conversational interview podcast chronicling the lives and experiences of LGBTQ+ Arizonans. Listen to new episodes weekly on Wednesdays, featuring conversations with queer people living in Arizona.
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