Then Dana Hills High School senior Jared Nayfack tried unsuccessfully in 1999 to form one of Orange County's first Gay-Straight Alliance clubs on campus.
Now known as Shakina and residing in New York City, Nayfack is pioneering again, becoming the first person to use crowd-funding to raise money for a sex-change operation.
“I have been out as trans since 2001, but only decided to undergo a full gender transition toward the end of 2012,” Nayfack writes in the YouCaring.com crowd-funding pitch. “There is really no way I can complete this process without the help of friends and online supporters. … I decided to launch this campaign to raise the money I need to finish my transition.”
Befitting Nayfack's flamboyant sense of humor, the campaign has a catchy and hilarious name: '”KickStartHer.”
Nayfack is no stranger to headlines, especially in Orange County.
He was taunted, shoved and spat on for wearing nail polish, makeup and spiked heels to Dana Hills High, where he was the only “out” student in '99. When Nayfack's mother complained about the abuse, school officials blamed her 18-year-old son for bringing it on and suggested he enroll elsewhere.
That led Nayfack to enlist a circle of friends–some straight, some secretly gay–to form a Gay Straight Alliance to push for tolerance on campus. They staged a rally that drew more than 100 students, but school officials banned the club, which drew more attention to and bullying of Nayfack.
“I tried to roll with the punches,” he would tell the Los Angeles Times' Sandy Banks, “but it really did destroy me inside.”
Midway through his senior year, he enrolled in an independent study program and would eventually graduate alone. But the experience turned mother and son into fierce activists for gay rights.
He first displayed this in a December 1999 letter to the Times regarding the struggles students at El Modena High School in Orange were also going through as they tried to form a Gay Straight Alliance on campus.
“I watch these students from El Modena High School holding back tears in anger and frustration and pain while the Orange Unified School District school board tries to protect its image,” wrote the self-described 19-year-old “veteran of the Orange County school system.”
Back then, Nayfack dreamed of better days ahead.
“Imagine you're a student, you're not confused about your sexuality, and you have little to no support. Your school is the one place where you spend the majority of your time growing up, learning, interacting, thinking and feeling.
“Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could go to [school officials] for help and they'd actually do something? Wouldn't it be fantastic if the schools cared about the safety of their students and the right of every child to an equal education?”
His mother Felisa Ihly, who Nayfack had told Banks was “just a mom” uninterested in politics or activism before things went sour for her son, would go on to haunt the halls of the California Capitol, urging passage of the Dignity for All Students Act that Gov. Gray Davis eventually signed.
Her son would go on to become a gay activist and choreographer at UC Santa Cruz, where on graduation day he took the name Shakina, Hebrew for “presence of God.” Now a she, Nayfack came back south to attend UC Riverside, where she attained an MFA in Experimental Choreography and PhD in Critical Dance Studies. The out community at UCR boasts Nayfack is among their alumni changing the world.
Nayfack wrote a book published in 2010, Butoh Ritual Mexicano / Alchemy is Dancing ($98.80! on Amazon), which is based on training extensively in Butoh Ritual Mexicano with master Diego Piñón, who wrote the book's forward. Piñón drew students from around the world to his school of contemporary ritual dance high in the mountains of Michoacán, in the forgotten town of Tlalpujahua.
Three years ago, Nayfack moved to Washington Heights in northern Manhattan, where she is a performance artist, theater director and bonafide stand out in a crowd thanks to tattoos, a shaved head and a 6-foot-2 frame.
Used to relying on crowd-funding sites to help produce artistic works, she one day joked to friends, “I should go online and 'kickstart' my vagina!” (Hat tip to the New York Daily News.)
Cue the light bulb above the shaved head.
The 32-year-old has already spent $10,000 on laser hair removal, electrolysis, hormone replacement and a new wardrobe befitting her gender, and she hopes to raise $52,500 to pay for the sexual realignment surgery in a Thai clinic. At this writing, she has received pledges for nearly $1,300 from 30 donors.
Her pitch itemizes the expected costs, and she vows to use any funds over the goal amount for remaining electrolysis and ongoing medical expenses like hormone therapy, counseling and physical therapy during recovery in the U.S.
It's been quite the dance for the former Jered Nayfack of Dana Hills High.