Nickelodeon's TeenNick HALO awards transgender honoree talks to GLAAD

Last week GLAAD shared the story of Zachary Kerr, a transgender teen who is one of the honorees at this year's Nickelodeon TeenNick HALO Awards. Zachary's achievements include speaking at 200 schools in Massachusetts and meeting with the state's governor about the importance of the Transgender Equal Rights Bill. He was also recently featured in the OUT 100. Zachary was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions about his incredibly courageous journey and transgender advocacy. Here is what Zachary shared with GLAAD.

What was your reaction when you found out you would be recognized as a transgender advocate and role model by the TeenNick HALO Awards?

When I found out I was being recognized I was very honored. I couldn’t believe that they actually wanted to honor me. This made me think about the work that I am doing and I realized that as much as it is just something I love to do, it really is making a huge difference.

Can you tell us a little more about the advocacy work you do and share some of the reactions you have received from people who have been affected by your work?

The work that I do is about educating people about the transgender community. I also work with staff at schools on how to best support transgender students. I do most of this work through Greater Boston PFLAG and The Safe Schools Program. I do this by telling my personal story about growing up transgender, but not knowing it, and talking about my life being transgender in terms of school and family.

Being one of a set of triplets, you obviously come from a large family. How have they helped you on your journey?

I do come from a large family. I have 3 older brothers. My entire family (extended as well) has been so supportive of me. The most important way they have supported me is by listening to me even if they don’t always understand what I’m going through.  Every day I realize how lucky I am to have been born into this family.  I know not all transgender kids get the support that I have. I know I am very lucky.

Are they specific representations of the trans community in the media that have helped you find your identity along this journey?

Actually I think it was having no representations of the transgender community in media that made me feel even more depressed and hopeless about my life. When there were transgender people in any sort of media, they were always in danger of being hurt or killed -- or actually were hurt or killed.

When you’re 14 years old and have just come out, that isn’t exactly the best thing to be seeing.   I was fortunate to have met Joe Stevens of the band Coyote Grace. He was the first transgender person I ever met and he showed me that my life could be, and should be, valued and I could be happy. Joe has been a positive role model for how to be happy with whom you want to be.

Congratulations on starting your first year of college! What are some of your plans for your college years? Do you plan to continue your work on LGBT equality?

First I want to just experience college, going to classes, hanging out with my new friends, enjoying living in Boston! I totally plan to continue my work on LGBT equality. I am happy to be able to bring my work to Wheelock College. I want to continue my work educating everyone, including people at Wheelock, but I also want to be able to continue my work around the state of Massachusetts.

What are your aspirations once you finish college? Would you like to continue to be an LGBT advocate?

I will finish college with a Masters in social work. I have two big dreams for when I finish college. My first dream is to become a therapist to continue to support transgender youth. My second dream is to become the next director of the Massachusetts Safe Schools Program for LGBT Students.

Is there anything you would like to say to the LGBT community? Do you have some words of encouragement for trans youth

What I can say to other trans youth is,” I know it’s tough being trans, but you’re not alone and it’s not always going to be tough.  Ideas and policy are changing, people are changing, the world is changing. There is someone out there who loves and cares about you.”  I would also like to say to the families of trans youth – “Be there for your kids and just listen to them. Don’t judge them, love them!”

Thank you Zachary for taking the time to share your story with GLAAD. We are looking forward to seeing many more successes from you.

Catch the TeenNick HALO Awards on Sunday, November 17 at 9/8c.