By Jacob Rostosky
I was 12 years old when I realized I was transgender and 14 years old when I made the most important decision of my life, to transition from female to male. Transitioning at a young age wasn’t easy and I faced incredible bullying and harassment from my peers. But everything I went though has made me the person I have become today and I would not trade my journey for any other one in the world.
Growing up I knew there was something different about me. I spent my childhood confused and this confusion lead to depression, which quickly spiraled out of control. As if being depressed wasn’t hard enough, as soon as I arrived in middle school I began to be bullied. Not a day would go by without someone calling me names, physically harassing me and even sending me death threats. Things escalated when I was sexually assaulted by a boy who wanted me to teach me what being a girl meant. I was afraid for my well being, and even my life. However, I was too ashamed to tell my parents.
Worst of all, I would become incredibly upset every single day. So much to the point where I almost dropped out of school because I thought that would help me hide. But then, my parents would be even more ashamed of me. I decided the only way out of this misery was to commit suicide. My family didn’t understand me, I didn’t have any friends, so who would care if I was gone?
Luckily, as I was about to swallow the handful of pills, my mother walked in on me. Shocked at finding her 12-year-old daughter in this position, she broke down and cried, which allowed me to cry with her. This is when I came out to her and we made the decision that as long as I worked on learning to love myself, I could begin my transition to male.
I kept that promise to her, and now at 22 years old, I have become a role model for transgender youth. I never want another soul to feel the way I did that moment I was holding those pills. This is why I have decided to dedicate myself to the empowerment of GLBT youth. I have started my own organization, Trans United with Family and Friends, which raises money to financially support transgender individuals through their transition, since a lot of insurance companies do not cover any medical needs.
One must understand that not everyone has the family support that I was lucky to receive. This is why it’s incredibly important that we educate children how to be compassionate and accepting towards their peers who are LGBTQ, so they don’t feel isolated and alone in every aspect of their life. Too many LGBTQ youth are feeling so ashamed about who they are to the point they are taking their own lives.
This is something that can be addressed by having a support system. If someone is being bullied at school, and cannot also find solace and safety at home, then it’s understandable that they would feel there is no place for them. We must work together to create a safer, more accepting environment for our trans youth, especially in our schools.
I hope that, through TUFF’s outreach work at schools and communities, I can help provide some stability and happiness to trans youth that they may not find elsewhere.
Jacob Rostovsky is a 22-year-old transgender male who is a student at American Jewish University. He is also a Point Foundation scholar, as well as the founder of the non-profit organization Trans United with Family and Friends (TUFF).