As with any relationship, each mentor/mentee pair can find the personal way that is best for engaging each other. I think Jake and I both benefited from having a consistent expectation for meeting regularly and in person. This was especially important in the first few months. Eating together (IHOP and Canter’s Deli seem to be our most frequent places!) allows us the chance to get together without being too distracted. And while we can now certainly engage in other ways, I believe it’s still important to make that time for us to just talk and listen.
Jake is wonderfully communicative, and that helps me to know what is going on in his life. Our mentees lives are often very busy with studying, family, friends, school activities, and their advocacy work. Jake telling me about his activities/priorities allows me to get a feel for how he’s doing. This tells me whether there is a lot of stress, or what great things are occurring, and if there is an opportunity to assist him.
I say this all the time, but it continually rings true: I may be the “mentor” and Jake may be the “mentee”, but I am the one who is learning the most from this relationship! Jake is an amazing advocate for the transgender and gender non-conforming community. Before I met him, I only knew a few people who were transgender, but didn’t really have much understanding of the “T” in our LGBT family or the unique experiences they face. Because of Jake and the world he has opened up to me, I find myself able to begin engaging as an ally for this community, as well as to make some wonderful new friends.
There is a lot in the world today that can cause the LGBT community to be fearful. Whether one is concerned about elections, legislation, court judgments, bullying, suicides, or societal/cultural discrimination, it can often be a bit depressing to be an LGBT person. But as a result of my mentorship with Jake, I get a glimpse of what the future will look like. I get the opportunity to see the strength of a generation that will make extraordinary gains in the fight for true equality. I get to see Jake’s enthusiasm, his confidence, and his action. That changes me. He changes how I see the future and he convinces me that I should be optimistic. When it all comes down to it, Jake gives me the reason to believe. Jake gives me hope.