“When they called my name so many memories came rushing back about how I never thought I would find a community anywhere,” Sanchez said in an interview. “I never thought I would be accepted within the larger community. And when I was standing on that stage being crowned and people were cheering … it honestly felt like all my dreams were coming true.”
Sanchez identifies as “gender queer,” otherwise known as gender nonconforming. She does not exclusively identify with one particular gender or the other. Because of this, she said she’s often felt like an outsider and was bullied as a young person.
“Kids don’t like anything that’s different at all,” she said in a video interview. “I was always terribly bullied in school. I learned the word ‘gay’ from kids who would make fun of me for being gay.”
Growing up in San Antonio, TX, Sanchez said the bullying eventually got so bad that she was forced to drop out of high school her freshman year. She earned her degree through a program at a community college in Texas before enrolling at the University of Northern Iowa.
Today, Sanchez says she hopes her victory will bring more attention to transgender issues.
“One of the main reasons I did this was to raise awareness of LGBT issues and trans students on campus and I feel like just by running I did that,” Sanchez stated in a video.
“There was a long while where I tried so hard to hide who I am,” she continued. “Today I’m going to do what I want and be happy and not let other people’s perceptions of me affect how I feel about myself.”
Congratulations to Sanchez and all her supporters!