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After big win, Sanchez plans activism for future

Executive Editor

Published: Monday, October 14, 2013

Updated: Monday, October 14, 2013 12:10

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IRIS FRASHER/NORTHERN IOWAN

Steven Sanchez (center) was crowned Homecoming queen on Oct. 11 in Lang Hall Auditorium.

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IRIS FRASHER/NORTHERN IOWAN

At 14-years-old, Steven Sanchez was ready to end his life.

After a childhood filled with depression and bullying due to his effeminate behavior, Sanchez, a San Antonio native, tried to kill himself when he was at his lowest point in middle school.

“When I was bullied, it made me really depressed and made me feel worthless,” said Sanchez, senior communications major at the University of Northern Iowa. “I would always get discouraged about not having friends and be lonely.”

Seven years later, Sanchez was crowned as the first transgender Homecoming queen at UNI Friday in front of a cheering crowd in Lang Hall Auditorium.

And just over last weekend, he’s seen his name and story spread across the nation, including in the New York Times, USA Today, the Advocate and Jezebel.

“I never thought that I would have ever made a friend, and now I have a huge group of friends and the entire school supports me,” Sanchez said. “To borrow the phrasing, and to borrow from the Human Rights Campaign, this is the part where I think it’s getting better for me personally.”

While Sanchez said he still deals with depression, he’s received a newfound confidence and wants to share it with other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

After taking an online journalism class at UNI, Sanchez discovered a passion for online blogging. He plans to create a blog, lgbteen.org, where LGBT people can share their struggles and connect with others.

“I think that hearing stories of other people being successful and overcoming challenges can be so powerful, because it makes you realize you can do that as well,” Sanchez said.

However, Sanchez has not received purely positive feedback from people who have heard or read his story. He’s seen negative homophobic comments on social media sites and has been criticized by “radical” feminists who say he’s appropriating women’s culture.

“I’m glad at the end of the day, conversation is happening and I wish that any criticism happening is done constructively and does not attack me,” Sanchez said.

But even with negative feedback, he said he’s received positive responses, and hopes people understand the benefits of him winning Homecoming queen.

“I want people to understand that even if they don’t share my stance on LGBT issues, like they don’t agree with me winning, they do understand this is a positive thing for the university, because this shows that this is a welcoming space for everybody,” Sanchez said.

 

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