For those unfamiliar with the Rhodes Scholarship, it is a one of the oldest international scholarship programs in the world. Since 1902, every year 32 students from America are offered the scholarship so that they may attend postgraduate at the University of Oxford. For Hera Jay Brown, the first trans-woman to become a Rhodes Scholar in the program’s 117 year history, has quite the story of overcoming adversity and hardships.
At only 17 years old, Hera was forced from her home after her family refused to acknowledge her gender identity.
After facing rejection from her family due to her gender identity, Hera became interested in forced migration. As an undergraduate at the University of Tennessee, she concentrated in the experiences of Syrian refugee workers.
“I remember growing up with a loving, supportive family, with a stable reality and having all that kind of yanked away in an instant,” Hera told NBC. “I know what it’s like to lose a home. I know what it’s like to be blocked from access to medical care and what it means to physically leave the place you’ve always known, and that’s become a rallying point for me to connect and learn with people who’re facing this and to look deeper into the kind of social structures that allow for people to be displayed.”