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Boston Student Aims to Be an Advocate

  • When Trinity Sanderson, a 2020 graduate of Community Academy of Science and Health in Boston, was asked as a young child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” the answer always was a business owner and president of the United States.

    Yet, there was one goal that the graduating senior had kept a secret from everyone -- and that was to transition into the person he knew he always was, a boy.

    Sanderson was born female, but growing up female was challenging, both mentally and physically. He currently is working on transitioning to a male and eventually plans to undergo surgery. Still, some family members have not supported his decision to transition and have treated him differently. His mother and grandmother, however, always have been supportive, for which he is grateful. Zavion Trinity-Nevaeh Sanderson

    “I hear traumatic stories of peers in similar situations with no support system, and that can sometimes lead to sad outcomes,” Sanderson said in an essay he wrote about his experience. He credits his mother’s and grandmother’s support, as well as counseling, with helping him be the person he is today; and he wants to be an advocate for others who are transitioning, particularly young people.

    Sanderson says society has not caught up with people like him. He noted that most people looking for a job do not need to think twice about the name or gender they put on an application, but he does every time he must apply for something.

    “Most establishments do not offer a preferred name slot on an application, and without my name being legally changed yet, it is exhausting to use a name that I do not believe fits me anymore,” he wrote. Once he receives approval from the government, his full name will be Zavion Trinity-Nevaeh Sanderson. 

    Facing Obstacles

    Sanderson was born with Poland Syndrome, a birth defect characterized by an underdeveloped chest muscle and short, webbed fingers on one side of the body. He missed school because of frequent illnesses and surgeries.

    In 2018, he lost his brother, who also was his best friend, due to gun violence. “Many days it is hard to leave my house because I still see the bullet holes in the staircase and see where me and him would sit and talk,” he noted in the essay.

    But despite all the obstacles he has faced, he recently celebrated a major milestone -- graduating from high school. In the fall, he will attend Dean College in Massachusetts and major in criminal justice.

    My hope is to be a voice of change and inspiration to my community,” he wrote. One of his favorite quotes is from Laverne Cox, an actress, LGBTQ+ advocate, and the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy award in any category.

    “We are not what other people say we are. We are who we know ourselves to be, and we are what we love. That’s okay.”

    For Sanderson, the statement speaks volumes to what he values the most: self-identity. “Without knowing your true self,” he explains, “you can never know your full potential and ways that you can help your community progress for the future generations to come.”