Life as a transgender high school student is not easy, and Tamia “Tee” Barnard wants to use his college education to help others in his shoes. And the Yankees are providing the Bronx native with a generous assist.
The Yankees recently announced the five recipients of this year’s Stonewall Scholarship, which is presented to five New York City public school seniors who have “demonstrated academic achievement, a commitment to equality and impactful support for the LGBTQ community.” The Yankees-Stonewall Scholars Initiative was enacted last year, and its recipients were honored as part of a pregame ceremony at Yankee Stadium, marking the iconic franchise’s first ever Pride-themed evening.
In lieu of an on-field ceremony this season, the Yankees congratulated the winners on a Zoom call, with general manager Brian Cashman making an appearance. Each recipient — Barnard of the High School for Law, Advocacy and Community Justice, Lauren Hidalgo of Francis Lewis High School in Queens, Cole Neufeld of Bard High School Early College Manhattan and publicly anonymous students from Brooklyn and Staten Island — will receive a $10,000 grant.
Raised by a single mother, Barnard says the scholarship is a tremendous help, especially in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I did have a financial situation, because of the virus,” he says. “Also, my mom is a single parent, and I needed to take some weight off of her, because she’s been through a lot. She has three girls, and that’s a lot to go through by yourself, so I wanted to take some weight off her shoulders, too.”
In lieu of an on-field pregame ceremony at Yankee Stadium, the 2020 Yankees-Stonewall Scholars were congratulated via Zoom by Yankees SVP and GM Brian Cashman, Yankees SVP Brian Smith, @DOEChancellor, and Stonewall Inn Co-Owner & Gives Back Initiative CEO Stacy Lentz. #PrideMonth pic.twitter.com/HCfxsL5Sk9— New York Yankees (@Yankees) June 10, 2020
Barnard, who identifies as a trans male, came out to his sister at 15 years old. He realized he wasn’t himself, and felt like he was living as somebody else.
“Not to say I believe in fitting in, but I wasn’t in the position I wanted to be, or in a place in life I felt I should’ve been,” Barnard says. “It was a very hard experience. I was feeling — I couldn’t live with myself. One day, I was really overwhelmed and crying. I told my sister, because I felt really comfortable with her. She was the closest person to me, so I felt like I could trust her, and let it out, and get it off my shoulders.”
Comparing the feeling to somebody “lifting a rock” off his back, Barnard started buying clothing that felt comfortable, and started living life as he intended. His mother was a rock, telling him she “loved him the same.”
“I was able to keep living with myself,” Barnard says. “I felt like I made a new discovery, because I’m living in the skin that I want to be in.”
To apply for the scholarship, Barnard wrote an essay answering two prompts: his personal accomplishments, and Stonewall’s history. He wrote about Marsha P. Johnson, the Black trans activist who was at the center of the Stonewall Riots, and New York City’s LGBTQ movement.
Last weekend, an estimated 15,000 people marched in New York City to show solidarity with Black transgender people, who are disproportionally victims of violence.
As a student of history, Barnard wants to use his college education to help others in the LGBTQ community, and provide needed support to trans kids searching for role models. He will attend the University of Connecticut in the fall, where he plans to study counseling within the field of psychology.
Barnard wanted to be a police officer growing up, but says he realized there are other ways to help people.
“I wanted to be a police officer, but then I realized there’s so much more that’s needed, and also that nobody in my family ever wanted to be a therapist or become someone that, other than a doctor, can be there for people who don’t feel like themselves,” he says. “You can talk to them, and make them comfortable. I want to work with other individuals within my society, so I wanted to take this path.”
While Barnard hasn’t formally started his studies, he does have a message to all trans high schools students: “I would first start and say, ‘It’s OK.’ Just take your time and be patient. Find a support group, or a group of people that will be there for you, and understand where you’re coming from. Be around positive people, because positive people bring positive vibes, and there’s nothing better than having good things around you.”