Alumni Spotlight: Advocating for Trans Rights

Alumni Spotlight: Advocating for Trans Rights

“I am a second generation Mexican-American trans man from Boyle Heights, CA,” said KIPP Los Angeles College Preparatory alumnus, Aris Reyes. “I came out in the 9th grade. The first adult that I came out to was Ms. Agnello, my former middle school teacher at KIPP LA Prep,” he added. “I always felt supported and respected and — most importantly — I felt like I belonged at KIPP.” 

On the other hand, “when I came out to my family, nobody really knew what that meant.” Though, overall, they’ve been supportive it did take his elder family members some time to come around. He added, “I learned that no culture is more accepting of it!” In general, exclusion hurts.

“From high rates of poverty, harassment, and violence, to poor healthcare, limited job opportunities, and isolation, transgender people are among the most vulnerable people in the country. This is especially true for transgender people of color.”1 

“As a trans man, I have felt left out of conversations. Many organizations are tailored to the gay community not the trans. Transgender is a gender identity and not a sexual orientation,” said Reyes. “I also didn’t have any friends that identified as trans that I could reach out to. Where are the resources for me?” he would ask. “I did not see the resources and representation that I needed and wanted. I knew I had to do something about it,” exclaimed Reyes.

His years of advocating for trans rights by ensuring access and resources through nonprofit organizations such as the Latino Equality Alliance has led Reyes to found and become the Executive Director of American Trans Resource Hub (ATRH), a nonprofit organization that provides online peer support services “for trans people by trans people.” “ATRH provides transgender individuals the comfort and stability they seek during their social, medical and/or legal transition by providing helpful resources and by offering direct assistance with other issues that may arise such as housing instability, lack of health insurance, and more.”

I want to help trans/non-binary youth in need of support. I’m about equality for every person! Everyone deserves respect,” said Reyes. ATRH has already provided resources to many people ranging from 11 years old to 80 years old. Since its 2020 inception, there have also been over 70 community organizations nationwide that support their efforts, including their Trans Safe Space Campaign. KIPP SoCal Public Schools is a new awareness partner that will receive free stickers to showcase their dedication to ensuring safe spaces for the transgender and gender-nonconforming communities. “I feel so proud to be a KIPPster and give back,” he noted. 

The following are some great tips that Reyes’ shared to becoming a better ally to transgender people:

  • Remember that we are not all the same. We come from different backgrounds, different professions, different affiliations, different political parties, etc.  
  • Don't ask a transgender person what their “real name” is.2
  • Open your mind up to different people and different perspectives (i.e., watch a diverse representation of trans people like “Disclosure” on Netflix). 
  • Challenge anti-transgender remarks or jokes in public spaces, including queer spaces.3
  • Be respectful, even if you don't understand what transgender or transitioning is at first. It's okay to ask questions to educate yourself about a person's gender identity and pronouns.

Representation matters! Having said that, Reyes strives to make more meaningful connections to have a greater impact with farther reach. “People need to feel represented,” he stressed. “Specifically, students need to know that their school accepts them.” Reminiscing on his grade school days, he said, “I regularly felt a warm feeling of inclusion at KIPP LA Prep! They see something in people. I want that same feeling for others.” And, in partnership, our team will continue to do our part to create safe spaces for all, so that KIPPsters are supported and can see themselves as strong, healthy, talented, and connected. Certainly, belonging has the power to liberate ideas!

Reyes concluded, “KIPPsters, think big! Ask hard questions. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something! You know yourself better than anyone else — remember that. You deserve to be respected, always.”

Fun fact: Aris' favorite school subject is humanities, the study of the human world and society from a critical perspective.


1 Understanding Issues Facing Transgender Americans. Retrieved from www.glaad.org.

2 Tips for Allies of Transgender People. Retrieved from www.glaad.org.

3 Tips for Allies of Transgender People. Retrieved from www.glaad.org.