Tom Sosnik

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Thirteen-year old Tom Sosnik, one of the youngest people on this year’s Forward 50 list, made headlines in March when a video of him coming out to his class as transgender went viral.

Sosnik decided to make his brave speech after reading about Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen who died by suicide in 2014 after her family and friends refused to accept her.

“Her story made me realize how lucky I was that I could be accepted by my family and my extended family in Israel,” Sosnik told the Forward.

In his coming out speech to his classmates at Tehiyah Day School, a pluralistic Jewish day school in El Cerrito, California, he said: “I am no longer Mia, I never really was and now I stand before you as my true gender identity, as Tom. I stand before you as a 13-year-old boy.”

After the moving speech, the school’s rabbi led a special naming ceremony for Tom, which she described as “a cross between a bar mitzvah and a brit.”

Sosnik first came out as transgender to his family in July 2014, after a long battle with his identity. “For a while I dismissed the fact that I hated my body… until at a certain point I broke,” he said in the coming out speech.

During what has been a tumultuous and important year for transgender rights, Sosnik shared with the world a very Jewish and very personal coming out story, one that could perhaps serve as a model for the Jewish community at large.

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