Senior Ose Arheghan simply beams when asked about being named Student Advocate of the Year at the GLSEN Respect Awards, held October 20 in Los Angeles. The GLSEN Respect Awards are held annually and showcase the work of students, educators, community leaders, and corporations who serve as exemplary role models and have made a significant impact on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.
“People say it to me and I’m like, ‘That did not really happen’,” Ose says, smiling wide, head shaking in disbelief. At the young age of 17, Ose won a national award, received an all-expense paid trip to receive it and experienced the combination of shock and awe when celebrities said of Ose’s acceptance speech, “Your words were so inspiring.” (Read the entire text of Ose’s acceptance speech.)
Star-struck feelings aside, Ose’s most memorable moment at the awards had nothing to do with receiving the honor. “I was talking to a woman who works for FoxNews and we were having a conversation about her child who identifies as transgender and who tried to commit suicide,” Ose remembers. “Her child wanted to transition to male and I suggested that she use male pronouns and call him by a name he chose.” The woman wept.
Ose, an IB Diploma Programme student and aspiring journalist, has been an outspoken advocate of LGBTQ rights since coming out as an eighth grader at the Middle School. Ose uses gender-neutral pronouns and last year, penned an entire series in The Shakerite on diversity. This year, Ose visited Washington DC to lobby Congress about the importance of having access to accurate and comprehensive sexual health education for LGBTQ youth. And as a sophomore and junior, Ose traveled to Columbus to speak with state legislators about the importance of funding extracurricular activities and protecting LGBTQ youth in schools.
“My thing is that it’s really important to live your own truth,” Ose says. “Because at the end of the day, you have to live with yourself.”