Editor's Note: Guest blogger Jacob Rostovsky is a 22-year-old Point Foundation Scholar and a senior at American Jewish University. He hopes that with his new organization, TUFF, he can help the transgender community and make a positive change in other people's lives.
As a transgender individual, growing up was anything but a walk in the park. 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 a boy who wanted to teach me what being a girl meant sexually assaulted me. 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 twelve-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 twenty-two 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 (TUFF), which will distribute money to financially support transgender individuals through their transition, since a lot of insurance companies do not cover any medical needs.
Realizing how expensive transition is, and how many insurance companies don't cover anything in that area, I knew someone had to help those who couldn't afford the cost of transitioning. I've also realized that once a person medically transitions, their entire life changes. They are happier, confident, and hopeful, and for some people this is the first time in their lives they've felt like this.
I don't want anyone to be held back from giving the world their all and reaching their full potential just because they can't afford to transition. While many transgender individuals know that transition is the right path for them and are eager to get started, their financial situations hold them back. By not being able to transition, a trans person gets stuck and does not feel like they have the strength and motivation to continue living their lives to the fullest.
I'm starting TUFF because I know it can change the transgender community and help to better so many lives, especially those of our at-risk youth. TUFF will be based in Los Angeles and financially assist transgender and gender-variant individuals with the cost of transition and medical care. The money will be distributed on an as-needed basis. Potential recipients will apply for an award and be chosen based on their financial need as well as their personal, social, and future advocacy goals.
However, as you may know, starting a non-profit can be really difficult and has many expenses. I'm currently filing all the necessary paperwork to begin the 501(c)(3) application process. As soon as the paperwork is filed, I can begin raising money to give as scholarships for transition costs.
Right now, as executive director and founder of TUFF, I am using my own funds to pay to file paperwork; purchase fliers, buttons and posters; and travel across the country to various conferences and workshops to spread the word about the organization.
I hope that by the end of the summer I am able to award my first grant towards transition costs. The application process will soon be posted online, and I am looking to help others who have drive, passion and commitment to something in their lives, as I have with TUFF. I want to be able to donate and help someone on their path to fulfilling their dreams.
To find out more information on TUFF, how to donate or how to apply for a scholarship visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/tufforg or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org