Getting a haircut is no big deal for most of us, but for Oliver Stabbe, one he got as a sophomore in high school proved to be a life-altering moment.
Stabbe, who’s transgender, says after “years of hating my feminine hairstyle,” he made a “snap decision” one day to go to a barber.
“I didn’t think through what I wanted before I sat down in the chair,” the 21-year-old Washington native, says. “I saw a picture of the barber’s 8-year-old son with a faux-hawk taped to the mirror and told the barber I wanted that style. It was a ridiculous haircut, but I loved it.”
The reaction at home, unfortunately, didn’t go so well.
“There was a lot of screaming and it became clear that I had to rely on my friends’ support from that point on,” Stabbe says. “My mom’s response was the toughest to deal with. She wanted me to look like a normal girl. It just wasn’t me. In retrospect, I’m still glad I was brave enough get that cut and begin to live my truth.”
Last week, Stabbe was named one of this year’s Point Scholars — one of 52 to receive scholarships from the Point Foundation, the country’s largest scholarship-granting organization for LGBT students. This year, 27 were named scholars and another 25 were recognized in the Community College Scholarship Program. About 2,000 applied. A full list of recipients is online at pointfoundation.org.
This fall, Stabbe will enter his senior year at the University of Rochester, N.Y. where he studies sign language and psychology. He has encountered “really ignorant attitudes and transphobic comments” at times on campus but says the school itself is affirming and has great policies in place for trans students like gender-neutral bathrooms, name change procedures and more. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology.
“I feel completely empowered knowing that people see me as a future leader and believe in my ability to create change,” Stabbe says. “I’m thrilled, thankful and overwhelmed.”
Stabbe enjoys crocheting, hiking, board games, movies and reading in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out as queer at 13, but I don’t think I ever had a moment where I vocalized that I was coming out as transgender.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
I have countless LGBT heroes! There are so many people who have made waves, I could never name just one. In the D.C. area, I consider Ms. Ruby Corado to be my hero. Her story is testament to what change just one person can create. In my own life, I really look up to Katherine Ott at the Smithsonian, who’s been an endless source of love and support, no matter what. I also would hate to leave out Drago Renteria, everyone involved at Trans Lifeline, Jacob Tobia (also a Point alumnus!), Janet Mock and Mara Keisling.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
I’m not much of a night person, but I’m a sucker for a cup of coffee at the Coupe and a live performance. They’ve got some real talented performers there.
Describe your dream wedding.
Everything you’d expect, but instead of bouquets of flowers, we’d have puppies.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
I’m passionate about deaf and disability rights. Systematic inaccessibility is a life-changing barrier for anyone deaf and disabled. Twenty percent of the U.S. population has a disability of some kind, yet few people are aware of how to adequately accommodate people with unique access needs nor are people aware of discrimination that this population experiences.
What historical outcome would you change?
Is it too soon to say Trump winning the election?
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
I’m incredibly lucky that I got to go to Obama’s first inauguration. I was stuck so far back that I couldn’t see anything. When he was sworn in I had no way of seeing what was going on, but there was a wave of cheers and chants that reverberated back that let me know. Being there with so many likeminded and hopeful people made that day impossible to forget.
On what do you insist?
I insist on my tea steeped for two minutes and I insist on equal rights, thank you very much.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
My last tweet was: “How do I unlink my FB and my twitter? I only follow Cher and have 9 followers. The world doesn’t need to know that.”
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“I’m Taller on the Inside”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Not a damn thing.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe in the power of Brittany Spears. She transcends space and time.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Social justice advocacy, no matter the intention nor experience of the person leading, will never be perfect. Make mistakes, listen and learn.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
I’d do it just for fun.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That all queer people know each other. It’s got some truth to it, but doesn’t mean that I can’t be annoyed by the stereotype.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“But I’m A Cheerleader” will always make me crack up.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
I hate small talk. I want to know about your dog, your childhood and your baggage.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I’d like to set a Guinness world record one day. I’m not sure which category, but it could happen!
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
I wish I knew that though things were tough, my life was going to improve drastically very soon. I wish also I knew how to pronounce “colonel.”
I was born there and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m not sure what my immediate plans are after getting my degree but I miss D.C. and I’d like to be home for a while.