"I want to keep advocating for LGBTQ rights and send a message of hope and acceptance to kids like me," the teen said.
Rebekah Bruesehoff strongly believes everyone is perfect just the way they are. Holding the anthem "You are perfect, you are whole and holy. God doesn't make mistakes," close to her heart, this 13-year-old transgender activist has made it her life's mission to protect others from hate and make the world a more loving and safer place for one and all. Having struggled with hate and bullying at a very young age, Bruesehoff knows just how arduous the road to self-discovery is and hopes to make the journey a little bit easier for other LGBTQIA+ youth in any which way she can.
While anyone who sees Bruesehoff today would only see a confident, passionate young teen determined to help others, she struggled with crippling anxiety and depression as a child. Assigned male at birth, she was repeatedly bullied for her unmistakable love for the color pink and discriminated against on one too many occasions. According to Good Morning America, it all changed when she embraced her true identity at the age of eight and found unexpected strength in it. Her transition unveiled the superhero strength she always had inside and Bruesehoff set out on a mission to celebrate and empower those around her.
The teen's young life and the empowering story made her the perfect candidate for Marvel's Hero Project, initiating her into a small group of extraordinary kids with awe-inspiring journeys like hers. Aside from highlighting her story in the Disney+ docu-series, Marvel celebrated the youth as a real-life superhero, complete with her own comic book cover and spread. "Her bravery and sense of self and sense of pride in who she was" embodies the very makeup of a Marvel superhero, according to Marvel's Hero Project Executive Producer Sarah Amos. "Rebekah is truly a real-life superhero who had the understanding that she had a purpose and a way to help others be proud of themselves and not shy away from that."
In the docu-series, Bruesehoff's mother, Jamie, opens up about the mental health struggles her daughter has gone through. "It's hard to be different from everyone else and not be accepted," Jamie said. "No one prepares you for a 7 1/2-year-old who wants to die." The teen's father explained: "You do everything you can for your kids ... when they feel the world is too much, it breaks your heart. Who she was wasn't who she was being, and that needed to change."
Speaking of why she chose to advocate for LGBTQIA+ youth after her transition, Bruesehoff said, "I heard stories of people being bullied in school and having their faith be in the way of their transition. I was heartbroken. I decided I need to keep speaking for the people who need the message of hope and acceptance. It's what I was meant to do." Determined to make a change, Bruesehoff testified before the New Jersey legislature in December 2018, pushing for a bill that would mandate the inclusion of LGBTQ+ history in the public school curriculum.
"I was really nervous," she revealed. "I knew these people had a lot of power, and I didn't know how they were going to respond to me being me, but I was excited for the bill so kids like me could learn about other kids like us." Bill A1335 was passed two months after Bruesehoff's testimony and "requires boards of education to include instruction, and adopt instructional materials, that accurately portray political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people." It is set to go into effect for the 2020-2021 academic school year.
"I want to keep advocating for LGBTQ rights and send a message of hope and acceptance to kids like me," Bruesehoff said. Jamie credits their faith, family, and community for helping them get through the good times and bad. "Our faith gives us a lot of strength," she said. "Just knowing that God has a plan for Rebekah and for all of us, we really feel like we're called to do this work of advocacy -- seeing her life, we know we can help other kids." Sharing a piece of advice for parents of LGBTQIA+ youth, Jamie added, "You're not alone. We say to trans kids, 'You're not alone,' but the same goes for parents. This isn't in the parenting book. Nothing has prepared them for this, but your kid is going to be OK. You don't have to do this alone."