First-year student Cyrus Sinai rushes out of class dressed in gym clothes, practically jogging.
With his first week of college barely underway, Sinai describes himself as “that freshman” ““ the one who showed up late to class on first week.
But the energetic anthropology student is looking to be more than “that freshman.” With the 2011 Colin Higgins Youth Courage Award ““ given to youth who have overcome personal hardships because of their sexual orientation and who have actively served in the community ““ under his belt, Sinai hopes to continue a leadership role in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community on campus.
Growing up, Sinai actively attended the Mormon church with his mother. He said he wholeheartedly considered himself a Mormon.
But after realizing he was gay in middle school, Sinai said it was challenging to hide his sexuality, which contradicted Mormon beliefs.
“I would spend hours in front of my bed praying to God, asking him to help me overcome these same-sex feelings,” Sinai said. “I remember promising God that I would never let myself be gay.”
But the feelings never left. Sina Sinai, Cyrus Sinai’s brother and a third-year economics and microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics student at UCLA, said he watched his younger sibling increasingly struggle with his sexuality.
Before entering high school, Cyrus Sinai stopped attending Mormon services. Trips around the world allowed him to explored different religions as he visited a mosque in Iran and a Buddhist temple in Japan.
Sinai said studying other religious beliefs and spiritualities equipped him to aid others in similar situations.
“I want to reach out to (students) “¦ who come from certain ethnic and religious backgrounds that are not accepting of homosexuality, and I want to help them cross that very difficult bridge,” Sinai said.
He became president of Santa Clara High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance his senior year. Michael Wilson, the faculty advisor for the high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, said Sinai was the organization’s first president to organize a National LGBT Month celebration.
This, in addition to other advocacy efforts, earned him the Colin Higgins Youth Courage Award. Sinai organized a tribute for a number of gay teens who committed suicide during the fall of 2010. He also led a discussion with about 300 students, who asked a panel of peers, gay and straight, questions about LGBT issues.
Coming into UCLA, Sinai said he is focused on transitioning to college life for the time being.
But he said he plans to expand his advocacy efforts by joining Project 1, a tutoring and mentoring group for LGBT youth. He also hopes to attend the UCLA Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual Campus Resource Center’s open house on Friday.
He said what he perceived to be a positive campus climate for the LGBT community guided his decision to attend UCLA. Sinai added, however, that he has encountered homophobia on campus even in the first week ““ and there is still progress to be made.
“Education is the greatest thing that’s going to move us forward in our fight for equal rights,” Sinai said. “It is ignorance, not people, that are our enemies.”