Still of Tatenda Ngwaru from the documentary "She's Not a Boy," directed by Yuhong Pang and Robert Tokanel.

This letter features reporting from "Intersex, and Proud" by Robert Tokanel and Yuhong Pang

Dear Mayor Lightfoot,

My name is Mateo Curiel. I am a high school junior studying global issues and how they pertain locally. Discrimination within the LGBTQIA+ community, in particular, is incredibly important to me because I have hidden my true identity for far too long. Now, it is my imperative to contribute towards international acceptance of people who identify as LGBTQIA+. According to “Intersex, and Proud,” a Pulitzer Center news story by Robert Tokanel and Yuhong Pang, Zimbabwe has been an extremely inhospitable country for intersex and non-cisgender people. Tatenda Ngwaru was born in Zimbabwe and was raised as a boy, even though she identified as a girl. She went against the gender norms that society tried to impose on her and lived in her truth. Her identity was not affirmed by others until it was discovered that she is intersex, “ umbrella term that describes a variety of conditions in which a person is born with sex characteristics that don’t conform to binary definitions of female or male.” Tatenda’s life experiences inspired the film “She’s Not a Boy,” created to increase awareness of what it means to be intersex. 

Discrimination against people who identify as LGBTQIA+ is as much of a local issue as it is a global one. For instance, in Chicago, discrimination in the workplace and educational institutions affect transgender people disproportionately when compared to their cisgender counterparts. While the situation is improving in the United States, it is crucial to understand that discrimination is an ongoing issue. Tatenda’s story embodies what is systematically flawed about society’s interpretation of gender. The people in her community did not understand why she would want to identify as female and could not comprehend the concept of being intersex. A lack of understanding within Tatenda’s hometown, as well as Chicago, is what facilitates the hatred for those who are different. We often fear what we do not understand. 

Therefore, I propose that information about the LGBTQIA+ community should be embedded in the curricula for the Chicago Public Schools. Tatenda’s story should not be in vain and must be a teaching point within schools across the city. It would help cisgender students empathize with their non-cisgender peers and encourage them to intervene in the case of bullying. “She’s Not a Boy” can immediately be integrated into classrooms while we assemble teams of teachers and students to construct engaging lesson plans to teach Tatenda’s story effectively. If everyone in Chicago understood the adversity that those who identify as LGBTQIA+ face every day, the potential to foster a more caring and accepting environment within our city and around the world will grow exponentially.

Thank you for your consideration.


Mateo Curiel

Mateo Curiel was born in Santa Monica, California, before moving to Chicago, Illinois. He is currently a junior at Back of the Yards College Preparatory High School. 

Mateo has a passion for pursuing knowledge and is a lifelong learner. In his time outside of school, he writes poetry and practices his French. He aspires to teach others about the practical and creative applications of language arts. Mateo would like to extend his gratitude towards the supportive community at Back of the Yards and especially Mr. Potter for providing the opportunity to participate in the 2020 Local Letters for Global Change contest.

Read more winning entries from the 2020 Local Letters for Global Change contest!