Berkeley for me has been more than I ever expected. I’m doing stuff here I never thought I would do when I was in high school. I was never involved in student government in high school, except when my friends ran me as a joke freshman year. They covered the school with pictures of my face. I got elected but didn’t take the job.
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At first I didn’t think I was up to Berkeley. My counselor told me not to apply. I’ve been in public school my whole life. I think there is something about public school that makes you have to fight for resources a little bit, and I think she thought I might blend in and disappear. But the history of social justice, progress and innovation of Berkeley made me want to come here. That was the kind of school I wanted to go to.
I had no way to foresee how important it would actually to be here from 2016 to 2020. I had no way to foresee that Trump would get elected; how important it would be to be here. But I had a sense this was going to be the place where there is actual progress and change and that was something I wanted to be a part of.
My first year was really hard, I was having trouble finding my place. I thought I was going to major in theater. I auditioned for a musical and was cast in the part of the male lead. They had me play it as a girl, which was exciting because I had been out and gay for less than a year. Being on stage helped my find my community, but it also was really transformative in helping me find my identity.
The history of social justice, progress and innovation of Berkeley made me want to come here. That was the kind of school I wanted to go to.”
My sophomore year I directed a show with Bare Stage, and directing a show is about the peak of what you can do with Bare Stage. I still felt like I was missing something, so I started to get involved with activism and advocacy. I submitted my name as a volunteer with CalSERVE, a student government political party on campus. They asked me if I knew anyone who would want to run as the LGBT senator. I said no. Then they asked me if I would ever consider running to be a senator. I was like “Uh, OK.” I had the worst interview ever, but they picked me to run.
Now that I’m elected, there’s a certain obligation to the queer and trans community. I want to have their interests in mind and ensure their prosperity. We’re trying to do a lot of work to take the burden off of queer and trans students so they don’t have to spend their four years here trying to get the resources that should be provided to them.
You can never predict what is going to happen. I had no idea the Trump administration would try to eliminate Title IX protections for transgender students. There’s a lot we have to do in response. Something I like to bring into my work is that you have to start with what you can fix. That’s this campus. After the Title IX news, we told the chancellor we needed an affirmation for the queer community, and within two days she’d done that.
If you want to come to Berkeley and have apprehension, I would say just come to Berkeley if you have the means to. Take advantage of all the resources. I didn’t know how much there was when I came here. I didn’t know there were ASUC senators advocating for me with the chancellor. I didn’t know we had peer counselors. I don’t know we had Path to Care, which is for sexual violence and sexual harassment. This place is so diverse. I’ve never been around more queer and trans people. You can find your community at Berkeley. It can be hard but you can do it.
This is part of a series of thumbnail sketches of people in the UC Berkeley community who exemplify Berkeley, in all its creative, scrappy, world-changing, quirky glory. Are you a Berkeleyan? Know one? Let us know. We’ll add your name to a drawing for an I’m a Berkeleyan T-shirt.