Empowered by Community: Navigating Gender Identity in Journalism School and PRSSA

I didn’t start my public relations studies identifying as my current gender. I always had some understanding that I was likely transgender and began my transition while in college. Transferring to another university gave me the opportunity to explore my gender identity, and the community I found through PRSSA Nevada encouraged me to embrace who I truly am.

I transferred to the University of Nevada, Reno in the spring 2022 . The Reynolds School of Journalism and my roommates were more than accepting of who I am. Throughout the years, I slowly discovered it was empowering to be surrounded by allies. I always noticed the care my friends, advisers and fellow PRSSA board members took to recognize and affirm my identity. The people I met during my time in journalism school and PRSSA Nevada always made me feel safe to express my identity, and I will always value their allyship. It means so much more than they know — especially in the current climate around LGBTQ+ and transgender rights.

The support I received from my friends and PRSSA even prompted me to come out to my parents. It was a tear-filled therapy session where I informed my mother that I transitioned, and I received only her love and support. I began becoming increasingly public with my identity, and it prompted me to become more engaged with the LGBTQ+ community outside of online spaces.

During my time as PRSSA Nevada’s president, I organized a diversity, equity and inclusion panel with the VP of Programming titled “Hidden Voices.” First, I connected with the Trans Journalists Association and found speakers with the help of Kae Petrin, the TJA’s interim executive director. The panel featured Byron Kimball, a public relations specialist based in Oregon, and Kim Garcia, a researcher with Berkeley’s Media Studies group. Kimball and Garcia provided valuable insight and resources to attendees about best practices in workplace diversity and in communications with the LGBTQ+ community.

I am grateful to the communications industry for the culture of inclusion it has fostered. Communications, as a whole, is an attempt to reach out and understand others — be it through investigative journalism or public relations. The communications field challenges people to release inherent biases and to learn more about others. I do not think I could have found myself if I decided to take another path in life, and I owe much of this to PRSSA.

Jesse Cabrera is a senior at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. His passion for communications started at Spring Valley High School, where he was a regular contributor to the student newspaper. Cabrera transferred universities to pursue his passion for public relations in January 2022. Since then, he became a staff member at the Nevada Sagebrush and was PRSSA Nevada’s president for the 2023-2024 academic year. In his free time, Cabrera enjoys photography and creative writing.

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