Now it's time for me to toot real quick. Last night my parents and I went to the School of Arts and Science's Student Award Ceremony, where I received the "Outstanding Graduating Senior in Psychology Research" award for my work with transphobia and the blaming of innocent victims:
It's so flattering. And my most influential mentors wrote and read the following on-stage before presenting the award to me:
Dex in Fifty Words
Brilliant, McNair Scholar, NIH post-bac fellow, DC for a year.
Articulate, passionate, wicked funny smartass!
Astonishing, creative, integrative, critical thinker.
Transgender researcher, writer, blogger, activist, educator, leader, bridge builder, visionary.
Game changer, myth buster, policy shaper, mind opener, future professor Dexter.
Widely loved and sorely missed already.
This is awesome, because it wasn't that long ago that a college degree felt like an insurmountable goal, no matter how much work I put into it. And it would have been - if it wasn't for the support of my friends, family, and mentors. I remember working full-time and going to community college, which helped a lot to build up my academic self-efficacy. Yet, despite the fact that I had great grades, I had problems with financial aid and ended up owing them $1,000. My family didn't have any money to help me and that was it. No matter how good my grades were, my college dreams were over. Until four years later when something incredibly anomalous occurred - despite having no education, my brother programmed his way into a well-paying computer job. Suddenly, with having just one family member who was able to help me financially, I was able to resume my college dream.
At that point I decided that I wanted to transfer to a four-year college. There were two within bicycling distance: the University of Utah and Westminster College. Since Westminster is a private liberal arts college that's way more expensive than the U of U, I didn't believe that it would be a realistic option. But, I wanted to feel better about the tuition at the U of U by pretending that I'd made the more affordable choice. Low and behold, I never made it to the U of U. I discovered that I actually could get enough financial aid and scholarships to attend Westminster. I also had the privilege to move in with my parents. Given that they live in a trailer, it was huge of them to make room for me. And they've never once treated me like a burden and have been a team with me the whole way. Adorablez.
My dad and mom have been the best study and fun buddies ever, respectively. Thanks to them, when bizarre things would happen with my student government employment (like one month where I wasn't paid unexpectedly because it had been decided at some point that student employees in student government are only paid 11 months out of 12) it didn't completely thwart my education. If it wasn't for them, there are many times where I wouldn't have been able to get books or afford food. Even living with my parents, there have been days where I've had to sustain myself with water and crackers throughout the day on campus. But that's a rarity, because I have the most adorable friends who also support me by being sugar mamas and papas. And if it wasn't for my mentors and McNair, I don't know if I would have developed the confidence to not self-select out of college altogether. Because of McNair, I now know that I belong just as much as anyone else.
So, like I said, I'm proud of myself and all of my own hard work - but, I know that getting to this point has only been possible because of the support that I've had. THANK YOU EVERYONE.