Q: Tell us about your time at smyal:
A: I came out when I was 12. At the time, myself and one other youth were the youngest kids to ever come through SMYAL. When I came to SMYAL, I was angry, depressed, and alone. I was confused about my gender identity and I was having a hard time as the only out youth in my school. I became really active in the speakers bureau, speaking at events for PFLAG, events for NEA for teachers, Youth Pride events, vigils and other community events, and events for HRC. I even organized an event at my high school where I spoke with the help of SMYAL. I become a youth representative on the [Board of Directors]. Through my time at SMYAL, I grew into myself and found my voice. SMYAL was hugely important in my development as a teen and because of my time with the organization (and my time as a developing Olympic hopeful) I stayed out of trouble and off the streets.
Q: Where are you now?
A: I went off to college and became a three-time national All-American athlete. I had two majors and graduated top of my class. I went on to get my Master’s degree. After school, I started working as an Executive Director of a nonprofit youth sports organization. I got married and we were raising a son together. . . I currently work for the American Cancer Society in an income development and event management role. Those are mostly the good highlights. I’ve also had plenty of lows, especially recently, with six surgeries in five years and a tremendous amount of cancer and loss in my immediate family. But I’m moving forward and trying to get my life back on the track I want. I’m also finally at a place where I’m ready to truly explore my gender identity without the use of drugs or alcohol to mask how I feel.
Q: What advice would you give current smyal youth?
A: Be true to yourself. Feelings and emotions can be terrifying, but it’s so important to allow yourself to feel what you feel and not mask them in any way. The trick is learning how to live life on life’s terms. For me, middle school and [high school] were the worst years of my life. No matter how bad things have been since, those years taught me that if I can survive that, I can make it through anything life can throw my way.