“Own Your Tiger Stripes”: Spotlight on Jude Ybarra, IDEA Owassa Business Clerk

Jude Ybarra lived much of his life—30 years—as a woman. He joined IDEA Public Schools five years ago as the founding business clerk at IDEA Ewing Halsell in San Antonio and then moved back to his native home in the Rio Grande Valley to help launch IDEA Owassa in Pharr, Texas. Prior to IDEA, he worked in logistics, operations and management for companies like H.E.B. and Club Corp.     

A year and a half ago, Jude began the transition to becoming a male and identifying with the transgender community. When he started talking openly about his transition, he worried about how he would be perceived. What he found out was that the people he loved just wanted him to be comfortable in his own skin. 

“My immediate and extended family, who are practicing Catholics, accepted me arms wide open,” said Jude. “My IDEA Team & Family loved and accepted me as well. In fact, Erin Quinn, regional director of human resources, has been my guardian angel. Erin took my hand through much of this process. She helped me with my name change. She always made sure to ask: How are you? Are you okay? She made sure that I knew her door was always open.” 

At a campus level, Jude is proud to work with a group of employees who value who he is and the work that he does. “Everybody knew me as a female. Sometimes, I get called my old name. Students will sometimes get confused with ma’am or sir. But that doesn’t really bother me. I work with curious individuals, many of whom just have not been exposed [to LGBTQIA+ resources and individuals]. What is most important is that everybody is learning. It is a learning experience for everyone. My Team & Family believes that it is okay to be different. There is a general acceptance here of love your neighbor, respect everybody’s journey and own your tiger stripes.”   

Jude admits that there have always been challenges — coming out at 14 as a lesbian woman and now as a member of the transgender community. 

“My wife will say to me: A lot of people are not welcoming sometimes, and you just go about your merry day. You’re like a Donald Duck cartoon,” he said with a laugh. However, Jude knew his adolescence and adulthood was going to be hard. “I knew it was going to be an uphill battle, so I had to make sure my skin was tough. I remember the first conversation I had with my dad about this, and he said, ‘As long as you know that this is going to be hard, then I have your back 100 percent.’ My mom too, and especially my grandma, who still goes to Latin mass, were the first ones to proudly celebrate Pride Month with their ally shirts.” 

Jude notes that he doesn’t have time to soak in negative energy because of (1) how busy he is as a father, husband and business clerk and (2) the positive energy and support he has behind him. On campus, during this past year of transition, IDEA teachers gifted Jude with tiny succulents that said, “It’s a boy!” in celebration of his transition to being a male. His business-office colleagues always have his back. Recently, the campus facilities manager offered Jude a hug and told him, “You’re my friend, and I love you. If you ever need a space to just recharge, I share an office with an elevator, but it’s yours.” 

The love and support for Jude is emblematic of IDEA as a whole. On campus—and across IDEA schools in Texas, Louisiana and Florida—we support transgender staff and students.  

“We see you,” Jude said, speaking to those who may feel anxious or afraid because of their orientation or identity. “We are here for you, and we love you.”   

Jude loves working at IDEA, thanks to the bonds he’s made and the work he does fulfilling IDEA’s mission of sending every student to and through college.   

“I get to wake up every single day, come to work, and do something good.” 

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