Sameer Jha may still be a teenager but he is already making a name for himself in the world of activism.
In 2016, Jha founded The Empathy Alliance, a nonprofit that works with teachers and school administrators to combat bullying against LGBTQ students in schools. “Born to immigrant parents, I am especially passionate about removing the stigma around being queer within the South Asian community,” he writes.
Since beginning his activism career, Jha’s work has been recognized in national publications and earned him a Congressional Award two years ago. “As a queer and gender nonconforming person, I was bullied throughout elementary and middle school,” he told the award’s #HeartsOfGold campaign in an interview. “Once I came out and found acceptance, I realized how lucky I was to be loved for myself.”
A native of Fremont, California, Jha is currently working on raising funds to create a teacher’s guide about these issues for educators across the country. “Currently most books about LGBTQ+ students on the market are written from an adult perspective,” he writes on the project’s GoFundMe page. “I want to bring a youth lens, full of personal stories and examples, to create a teacher’s guide that will truly save lives.”
He expanded on those concepts and the reaction of the South Asian-American community to his work in a recent interview with Radio Zindagi. “It’s been amazing to see the South Asian community react very positively to me coming out,” he told the station. “A lot of my family friends who I was unsure of how they’d react, but they were so support of me.”
In addition to his national work, he said he made it a point to also work on LGBTQ rights in his home town of Fremont. “We just had our first Pride event,” he noted. “I would never have imagined that even a year ago.”
Jha noted that at the event, he heard from an older, lifelong Fremont resident who was amazed that she got to celebrate Pride “in her home city,” he added. “There were so many South Asian people who came and who spoke out. That’s just amazing to me.”
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