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I Want to Change the World by Advocating for Trans Youth and Trans Health

Brendon Holloway

  • Practice Method:
    Community Organization
  • Practice Area:
    Community and Social Systems
  • Scholarship:
    Katherine R. Reebel Scholarship
  • Field Placement:
    Spectrum Center, U-M Central Campus, Ann Arbor, MI

"Today, more trans people, especially young trans people, are building up the confidence to come out to friends, family, teachers and supporters?," says Brendon Holloway, a young transgender man helped on his way to the U-M School of Social Work by the School of Social Work's Katherine R. Reebel Scholarship. "Many of these kids are becoming homeless or going into foster care. Educating people is critical-teachers who teach trans children, parents who raise them. It's important for a trans person to have a strong support system, and many I've worked with don't."

Brendon had a strong support system during his transition at 18 and throughout his undergraduate years at Middle Tennessee State University, southeast of Nashville. He knew he wanted to give back to the queer community by working with transgender young people. This year, in Ann Arbor, LGBT students who encounter Brendon in his Social Work field placement at the U-M Spectrum Center will certainly find powerful and enthusiastic support. "I love the Spectrum Center," Brendon says. "I enjoy the education and training. I love the inclusiveness."

Brendon's first taste of social work was a research project with the undergraduate program at Middle Tennessee. He then interned with the Tennessee Equality Project, an LGBTQ advocacy organization. "The people there encouraged me in my transition and had a positive impact on my education and personal life," he says. "I had wanted to go into psychology, but I took an intro to social work course and then a cultural diversity course, and that was it!" The decision to come to Michigan was easy. "I researched MSW programs. I want one day to create an organization for trans youth. I chose the U-M School of Social Work because the community organization program here is one of the most advanced in the country. I knew it would be the best fit for me."

But an intellectual fit must also fit one's budget.

"I didn't think I'd be able to go to grad school at all until I was offered scholarship support," Brendon says. With these scholarships Brendon would be able come to Ann Arbor. "My classes have been hugely fulfilling," and I'm already doing an independent study, creating an index of trans-affirming health care providers in southeast Michigan."

Brendon's ultimate vision of supporting trans youth contains many possibilities. "I would enjoy working at an organization like the Spectrum Center," he says, "or reaching out to trans teens through a nonprofit. I would also like to be a social work professor someday. I might get a PhD and become a researcher." He pauses, then adds, "I was a first-generation college student, and I am a first-generation grad student." Thanks to support from the School of Social Work, Brendon is now poised to add many more firsts to his resume.

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