Editor’s note: In Who’s That Aggie?, The California Aggie finds a student on campus and investigates their background and experiences at UC Davis.
Junior women and gender studies major Miguel Espinoza is, on paper, what some might call the average UC Davis student. Espinoza studies hard in school, works on campus as an ASUCD senator and enjoys dancing and reading. In reality, the college junior is a self-professed gender-non-conformist-army-brat-activist who is currently contemplating their next big move, as they will be finished with their undergraduate degree a year early this summer.
Espinoza identifies as transgender and/or gender non-conforming, and prefers to be referred to with gender-neutral pronouns, such as “they,” “them” and “their.” Espinoza said that being queer in high school was a challenge, but they made it through because of close friends.
“It wasn’t the easiest time in my life. I was a queer Latino in a predominately upper middle class school. Depending on who you are, things can get really tough. I kept the people that understood me close, and built community,” Espinoza said.
Being a gender non-conformist also presents challenges in Espinoza’s home life. While their parents know about them being transgendered, they said that it can be difficult to not fight. They also said that while they maintain their gender non-conforming identity when at home, they tend to dress a bit more conservatively, opting for jeans over a skirt.
“We try not to fight. I want to have a good relationship with my parents. I’ve been trying to just call my mom and just joke, because I can make her laugh,” Espinoza said.
Because Espinoza’s father was in the military, they moved every two to three years when they were younger. Espinoza said that moving so often made the bond between family members strong.
“We were the only ones who knew where each family member was every step of the way. We never kept friends when we moved away, and we visited extended family members, but not too often,” Espinoza said.
Though Espinoza considers North Carolina to be their home after attending middle school and high school there, they have lived in California, Washington, Hawaii, Georgia and Kentucky, in addition to traveling abroad. Espinoza said that they like the feeling of being able to put down roots, but often wishes to move around again.
“I loved being able to finally settle down, but I got really itchy to move after a while,” Espinoza said.
This coming summer could be the revival of Espinoza’s moving pattern, as they are on track to graduate early. After entering high school early and taking advanced classes, Espinoza eventually ran out of high-level classes to take, and began taking classes at a community college. This academic head start left Espinoza with nearly a year’s worth of college credit coming to UC Davis.
Though they say that they would like to stay at UC Davis for another year, the decision to stay would be a costly one.
“If I did stay another year, I’d really like to get into education. Sometimes I think I could eventually be a college professor. Other times I’m not sure,” they said.
In addition to serving as an ASUCD senator, Espinoza works as a Gender and Sexuality coordinator for the Chican@/Latin@ community at the Student Recruitment and Retention Center. They said that they love their job because it could hardly be considered work.
Espinoza’s favorite thing about UC Davis is the extent to which the student body is active.
“I love the student community. There are so many different things going on. We’re getting educated and doing things to educate ourselves,” Espinoza said.
They also said that part of the diversity and community building stems from Davis being “weird.”
“There’s just something about the space. No one grew up in a place like Davis. It’s a weird community,” Espinoza said.
Espinoza’s father, Miguel Espinoza Sr., says that his namesake is an asset to the UC Davis Community.
“Ever since he got there, he’s being doing a lot for the school. He’s dedicated to what he does,” Espinoza Sr. said.
In agreement, Espinoza’s former roommate, junior physics major Louis Infante, says that the thing he admires most about Espinoza is their passion.
“[They] are always passionate. You can hear the passion in [their] voice. Whether [they] were for or against something, there was always a strong sense of caring and the ability to bring about change,” Infante said.
In the long term, Espinoza says that they could see themselves being an activist in San Francisco. They said the March 4 rally for education in addition to this year’s occupy protests have been some of the most memorable and exciting events in their time at UC Davis.
“These events come in cycles. I hope that people are attentive enough to recognize this, so we can all remember these moments,” Espinoza said.
KELSEY SMOOT can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.