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founded both the student government and the GSA club, where he now serves as president. As a young trans Latino man and LGBTQ advocate, Aris has built bridges between his school’s students and staff, as well as between his peers and organizations dedicated to LGBTQ youth education and empowerment. Aris first opened up to his mother about his gender identity in eighth grade and the following year came out to friends, teachers, and classmates. Like many transgender youth, Aris struggled with body image issues and depression. At school, Aris is sometimes asked probing questions by other students concerning his anatomy. “My school is in Lincoln Heights in Los Angeles,” he explained, “and Hispanic culture is not always that accepting of LGBTQ people.” Aris has also encountered prejudice from parents of his friends. “Friends have told me,‘My mom doesn’t like you because you’re trans.’ It’s just sad—just because of that, like, [they don’t care] about everything else I do, what a good kid I am, my grades or my education,” he said. Teachers, by contrast, have been more welcoming—he only needs to remind them, occasionally, to not mis-gender him. Involvement in advocacy programs and social clubs like GSA and the Latino Equality Alliance (LEA) has allowed Aris to build a sense of community and work on behalf of issues that are important to him. He helped to spearhead the LGBTQ School



Photo Courtesy Twitter

Photo Courtesy Nunez

Climate Resolution, a comprehensive survey that collects information about a school’s educational atmosphere respective to LGBTQ issues. With data collected from the survey, Aris approached his teachers about ways they could help improve the school’s performance. At his school’s Unconditional Love Rally, administered by LEA, Aris spoke about transphobia and his personal journey toward selfacceptance. The program required registrants to get prior approval from their parents, but Aris worked with school administrators who agreed to count the rally toward community service hours—which helped to bolster attendance. Looking to the future, Aris is interested in fighting for social and political equality through public policy. “For me, really what matters is the legislation—that’s what changes everything. If you’re a lawyer or a president or lobbyist, you’re really in a position to change things.”

Alex Medina, 18, student journalist, LGBTQ advocate

Alex Medina is a student journalist who has authored more than 20 articles for his local newspaper, the Boyle Heights Beat, which covers news and feature stories in and around the downtown Los Angeles neighborhood. He will soon graduate from high school and is eager to begin his freshman year at Hamilton

College, a selective liberal arts university in update Clinton, New York. Then, Alex hopes to work toward a career in journalism. And he also has designs to start an organization dedicated to youth and the media. Much of Alex’s work for Boyle Heights Beat is focused on LGBTQ issues, which he considers especially important because, particularly in decades past, LGBTQ people are often portrayed negatively. He said that spotlighting the work of advocates and activists helps to usher in progressive change while also offering role models for young people. Additionally, Alex has written about subjects important to immigrant communities—such as the census and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)—as well as local politics and business.   At school, for the past two years Alex has served as president of his GSA club, where he has led efforts to curb the use of derogatory language and anti-LGBTQ slurs. “I used to get bullied when I was younger”, he explained. “So, it’s important to me that we have these conversations” to create a safer environment for young LGBTQ folks. Alex credits many of his accomplishments to the unwavering support he’s received at home. His parents, who immigrated to Los Angeles from Mexico, have been involved with organizations like PFLAG—where they engage with other parents, many of them Latino, to facilitate

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Profile for Los Angeles Blade, Volume 2, Issue 14, June 8, 2018, Volume 2, Issue 14, June 8, 2018, Volume 2, Issue 14, June 8, 2018, Volume 2, Issue 14, June 8, 2018