Jake Hofheimer hasn’t changed much since his days at New Roads School. Even after appearing in media outlets such as the LA Times and ESPN for being a trans baseball player, he’s still the same affable, fun-loving, athletic student. Although he’s now in Colorado at CU Boulder, the New Roads grad continues to advocate in Southern California for trans rights and inclusion and will be rewarded for his efforts with JQ International’s Trailblazer 2018 award, making Hofheimer both the youngest person and first transgender person to be recognized.

“It means a lot,” Hofheimer said in a phone call, on receiving the award. “I was pretty surprised they asked me to be an honoree. There are so many people in the queer community who have been activists and I’m so new to this. It’s pretty shocking, but I’m incredibly honored and excited to be receiving this.” JQ International is a Jewish LGBT international outreach program that educates the public on issues and inclusion and provides support for LGBT Jews.

Before New Roads,  Jake was bullied at previous schools for the way he’d portrayed his identity.

“Life before New Roads School wasn’t a good fit for me,” Hofheimer said, “No one was very accepting of queer identity for the most part, and people weren’t very nice to me.”

After gender therapy, Jake eventually transferred to New Roads School, a school dedicated to inclusion and diversity, a school that effortlessly made Hofheimer feel at home.

“My whole experience at New Roads made me feel accepted,” Hofheimer said. “Like I fit, like I had a place.”

Within a week, Hofheimer says, he came out to his friends, and students at this new school were calling him by his name, using proper pronouns. It was solace for someone that couldn’t express who they were in other school environments for years.

In addition to friends and students, teachers were helpful to Hofheimer as well.  He notes that high school teacher Sean Brookes is someone that was critically important to his development as a person.

“He was influential in helping with accepting where I was in life and being able to understand the struggle my parents were going through and helped my parents understand what I was going through.”

Being able to express his identity fully, Hofheimer says he wanted to get involved and help others who’ve faced similar issues to his. He joined an anti-bullying workshop at the school which allowed him to “brace opinions and share thoughts” on trans issues. From there he did an independent study project interviewing various people in the trans community, “and that’s when my advocacy work took off.”

Since the LA Times and ESPN coverage, advocacy opportunities have been piling up. JQ International was one of those opportunities, which gave Hofheimer another opportunity to increase his advocacy. Hofheimer has been on panels, participated in 2016’s Trans Day of Remembrance, and has been contacted by teens and children via social media who saw his story and ask for advice.

“I appreciate the support when it comes, but it’s not why I do it,” Hofheimer said. “I do it because I see injustice and inequality, and I want something to change.”

These days Hofheimer is in Colorado, attending CU Boulder where he majors in women and gender studies, hoping to eventually work in the nonprofit sector for his career. He’s still being athletic, having recently joined the school’s swim team; still advocating, having recently worked for an openly gay congressman, giving Hofheimer political experience.

Hofheimer tells me he also just joined a frat that he’s excited about, Theta Pi Sigma, the first gender neutral and queer fraternity.

“We’re in the middle of pledging right now,” Hofheimer begins, “but the pledge process isn’t like, typical with hazing and stuff,” Hofheimer says with a laugh. “More gender studies 101 kind of stuff.”

He’s still the same fun-loving, affable guy he’s always been.

angel@smdp.com

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