Days before Pride Month ended, television personality and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner surprised Map Pesqueira, a student who identifies as a transgender man, with a $25,000 scholarship on national television.
Pesqueira, a radio-television-film and American studies sophomore, had his national three-year Reserve Officers’ Training Corps scholarship revoked in April after President Donald Trump’s administration banned transgender service members. After losing this scholarship, Pesqueira believed he would have to leave UT.
However, after The Daily Texan broke his story, Pesqueira said he received attention from local and national media, including an invitation to appear on the June 27 airing of ABC News’ “Good Morning America”, where he met Jenner.
“It was the chance of a lifetime,” Pesqueira said. “I had never, ever, ever, ever thought that I would meet somebody who has done so much for the trans community and has a platform like that. She has a heart of gold, and she’s so caring and so kind and genuinely wanted to get to know me and wanted to help someone like me who is suffering at the hands of discrimination.”
Pesqueira said he can finish his undergraduate degree at UT thanks to the Caitlyn Jenner Foundation scholarship and the money raised from his GoFundMe page.
“I know once it’s all over with that, you’ll come back and help,” Jenner said to Pesqueira on air. “Get that education.”
Pesqueira said Jenner helped him find representation within the transgender community when she publicly said she was a transgender woman during her 2015 interview with Diane Sawyer.
“At the time, I was still figuring out my identity,” Pesqueira said. “I had never seen a trans woman before, and so for me, that was a beginning taste of what the trans community is. When her Vanity Fair cover came out, for me, that was like, ‘Oh my God, there are people out there who have huge influences who are trans too. It’s not just normal, regular, everyday people like me.’”
Despite losing his military scholarship, Pesqueira said there is “no doubt” he would still pursue a military career if Trump’s policy is reversed.
“If the policy isn’t lifted, then right now I really want to pursue going and working with (Jenner’s) foundation after I graduate … (to) return the favor and help her foundation and help other trans people who are in need,” Pesqueira said.