"Of course I followed Cassidy's story," Nayfack says. "I was proud of her, worried for her and maybe even a little envious. When people would ask me if I had heard of her, I would joke, 'Yeah, I'm still waiting for my thank-you card.' I know that sounds bitter—I'm not bitter—but I do wish queer youth were being taught their history. There's a different kind of empowerment that comes from knowing whose shoulders you stand on.

"It was beautiful to see how her classmates rallied around her, but I watched Cassidy's YouTube video from after prom night, and she was in tears, breaking down. That's the pressure of being thrust into the spotlight just for being true to your radiant self. Cassidy, if you read this: Forget the haters, love yourself, and no one can take that away from you!"

OC LGBT pioneer: Our loss, NYC's gain
Studio photos by Nicki Ishmael, nickiishmael.com
OC LGBT pioneer: Our loss, NYC's gain

You can donate to Shakina Nayfack's transition at YouCaring.com/KickStartHer.

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