Acceptance, Inclusion, and Following My Passions

When I was younger, I loved politics (and still do). I read the news obsessively and tried to talk about all of those events to whomever I could. But nobody wanted to listen to a little kid with an annoying voice ramble on about gun control. This remained true as I grew up. My peers are usually quick to dismiss my interests and passion, even as I grew up. During that time, I also began to slowly transition from female to male and change my presentation because I’m transgender.

Then one day while idly searching the internet, I found the Young Women’s Political Leadership Program, run by Running Start. I jumped at the chance to find a place where there were other youth who shared my interests. While I don’t identify as female, as a person assigned female at birth (AFAB) I do look up to and try to find role models who have had the same struggles of not having their voices heard. I excitedly applied.

I was accepted and left my home outside of Boston to go to DC. Immediately I found myself immersed and encouraged by a group of amazingly strong women who all had my same passion for politics. Through rehearsing elevator speeches and making campaign videos we worked together on something we all cared about.

Despite our common ground from our shared interests, we all came from incredibly diverse backgrounds with different values and locations on the political spectrum. Since I come from an area with very homogeneous politics, it was remarkable to be exposed to young women who had such a broad range of political beliefs. Through conversations as well as engaging workshops, I gained an appreciation and new respect for those different from myself. Moreover, participants came from all over, some as far afield as California or Georgia. There were young women from both Manhattan, Kansas and Manhattan, New York.

These women not only gave me a new understanding of other beliefs, backgrounds, and experiences, they also became role models not just peers. For the first time, I saw people who looked sort of like me and had the same interests, dreams, and aspirations.

Role models from the program also included the awesome staff and interns who guided and taught us. They gave us images of who we could be in five or ten years. I had never seen role models like these before, especially relating to politics.

A networking reception in the middle of the week offered me another time to meet interesting and inspiring people like the Ambassador from the Embassy of Afghanistan. We got to practice meeting new people after learning about how to network.

While I am male, I am also AFAB, so I was very lucky to have all these examples who, while they didn’t have exactly my experience, became my role models and inspiration.

From a friendly discussion about the minimum wage in the dorms, to singing “Don’t Stop Believing” at the talent show, to getting our nerves out before networking, the young women who surrounded and supported me taught me so much about acceptance, inclusion, and following my passions.

 

The application for YWPL 2018 is open through February 15th. Learn more.

 

Alan attended YWPL 2017 and is a high school freshman at in Massachusetts. He’s interning at Running Start in January for his school’s project week. He is very active in Model UN and hopes to one day put those skills to use working in politics — maybe even to run for office someday.