Council recognizes Woodside transgender teen

Transgender Woodside teenager Rocky Sanabria (c.) holds his proclamation from the City Council. Rocky's mother Gina (l.-r.), sister Angelique, Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilman Daniel Dromm look on. Photo courtesy William Alatriste
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When Woodsider Rocky Sanabria wrote to City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) about his wish to become a motivational speaker and share his experiences as a transgender teen, Van Bramer invited him to speak at the Council so he could get started on that dream.

“I just really wanted to meet this amazing young person and see how we could work with him and help him achieve his goals,” Van Bramer said.

Dressed in a pinstripe suit and red tie with a stud earring in one ear, Rocky, 13, was joined by Van Bramer, Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) and Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) as he stood in front of the Council at the Emigrant Bank Building, at 49-51 Chambers Street, in Manhattan Oct. 5.

Rocky’s parents Gina and Michael Sanabria, 14-year-old sister Angelique, grandmother Sylvia and friend Andres Salazar also came out to support him as he spoke and received a proclamation from the city.

“My goals and dreams for the future are to become a motivational speaker,” Rocky said. “What a great way to start.”

Rocky currently attends a Maspeth school. As early as 2 years old, Rocky said he knew he was a boy and told his parents how he felt when he was 4 years old.

“At that point my mom was always supportive and so was my dad,” Rocky said.

Yet while his parents were sympathetic, his schools were not. In kindergarten, a teacher placed him in special education classes for his “tomboy issues.” He was also subjected to a huge amount of bullying, both in person and cyberbullying. He said he had been threatened and was sometimes scared to go to the bathroom. While the situation was better at IS 73, he said he still sometimes has problems.

Van Bramer said Gina Sanabria had written him more than a year ago about the bullying in the school. Then, two months ago, Rocky sent Van Bramer an e-mail that the councilman called “amazing.” He and Rocky met face-to-face seven weeks ago.

The councilman said Rocky was brave and courageous for wanting to become a motivational speaker, and said his story could shed light on the epidemic of teenagers who have killed themselves due to bullying.

“Rocky’s story has the potential to save lives,” Van Bramer said.

Besides motivational speaking, Rocky also writes plays, edits YouTube videos, performs in community theaters and has a band. He likes to sing and play guitar and drums.

“This is a remarkable, remarkable young man,” Quinn said.

The speaker also commended Rocky’s parents for their support.

“So many transgender people don’t have that,” she said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 11:55 am, October 17, 2011
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