Please read the following for an interview with Jacob Rostovsky.
Jacob Rostovsky is a 23 year old transman activist and founder of Trans United with Family and Friends (TUFF). His mission is to end the struggle transgender people encounter everyday and to help authentic each person’s transitional journey by providing resources to transition. For more information about TUFF, please visit http://tufforg.com/
Please describe your path as an activist.
I came out as transgender when I was thirteen years old. I experienced incredible amounts of harassment and bullying from my peers and was extremely suicidal. What got me through was finding other people who were transgender and seeing their success in life after their transition. When I finally transitioned at 15, I made a promise to myself that I would do anything I could to make sure no other transgender person went through what I did. That’s what lead me to become an activist.
What led you to co-found Trans United with Family and Friends (TUFF) and what is the organization’s mission?
I knew that once a trans person transitions their entire view on life changes for the better. For me, being able to finally be the man I always felt I was instilled hope and passion in me that I never had before. I want to be able to help everyone get to this amazing part in their trans journey. TUFF’s mission is to give financial assistance towards transition costs and costs of living for transgender and gender non conforming individuals.
What has the response from others been to TUFF since its creation?
People are incredibly grateful that there is an organization willing to help them with transition costs. Everyone I’ve talked to about the project is extremely enthusiastic and is rooting for me to succeed.
What do you see as the highest priorities for activism within trangender communities?
I feel that making transgender health care affordable and safe and getting homeless trans youth off the streets are two of the most important priorities within the transgender community.
In what ways is your activism feminist and how does your work reflect your intersecting identities?
Well, I believe that there is no right way to be a woman and nobody can tell anyone else how to identify and live their lives. With TUFF, I can allow trans women to finally be the people they feel they are inside. My various identities push me in my activism, making sure that everyone else’s journey and identities can also be authenticated.
What tensions and collaborations exist between cisgender sexual minority and transgender communities?
A lot of the time cisgender sexual minorities assume they understand the transgender experience because we are all included in the LGBT acronym. Howeever, that is not the case. What happens is that the transgender community often feels ignored and not listened to, and our needs are not met.
In other media stories you have described being bullied and having consequent emotional distress. What feedback do you have for others with similar experiences?
I know this is said a lot, but just keep being true to yourself. Also, find a hobby or something that brings you joy that doesn’t have anything to do with being transgender. For me it was playing the drums. Whenever I felt depressed, I’d just go play my drums and get lost in it.
What are some projects you are working on for the future?
I’m hoping to establish a project with TUFF similar to Gofundme on TUFF’s website. The major difference is that recipients get to keep 99% of the donations they receive, with 1% going into a fund for other TUFF scholarships. Donors will be more inclined to donate through TUFF’s site because they will receive a tax donation receipt, which sites like Gofundme do not provide. Potential donors will also be able to visit the website, read profiles, and decide who to contribute to if they do not have a particular person they came to donate for.