Zoyer Zyndel, a Fresno State alumnus known for his community volunteering and advocacy, particularly with the Central Valley’s LGBTQ communities, died in Fresno on Dec. 26. He was 34.
Zyndel’s far-reaching community service and activism embraced the intersections of ability, gender, sexuality, race and socioeconomic status, and how these areas connect with issues that impact people throughout the region, said Dr. Katherine Fobear, an assistant professor in Fresno State’s Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Zyndel was involved with initiatives including suicide prevention, homelessness, mental health and poverty.
“Zoyer was a leader in so many ways and charted a path forward for students, especially transgender students, to find their place and flourish,” Fobear said.
A mental health clinician for Fresno County Behavioral Health, Zyndel held volunteer leadership roles in several organizations, including Trans-E-Motion and PFLAG, as well as at Fresno State and Fresno City College.
Fobear said Zyndel generously mentored students, and he frequently spoke at campus and community gatherings. In 2019, he collaborated with students on the city’s first Transgender Housing Report, which documented struggles with housing insecurity and homelessness that many trans persons experience. Recently, he was working with the university and the Equal Opportunity Commission’s LGBTQ+ Resource Center on a transgender health project.
According to his sister, Mindy Hernandez, Zyndel began identifying as a transgender man in the mid-2000s, while a student at Fresno City College. In a 2015 interview with Valley Public Radio, Zyndel explained: “I was assigned female at birth but I live my life as male, and so my sex did not correspond with my gender. Gender is a function of the brain, and I’ve always seen myself in my brain as a male.”
Hernandez said hearing her brother speak at a Transgender Day of Remembrance, held annually on Nov. 20, felt like a turning point in the family’s support. “Hearing him so comfortable on the mic, we realized, ‘So this is who you are! So this is what you do!’” Hernandez said. “Our parents were really proud of Zoyer. It helped them to get on board with who he was and who he was becoming, which helped with acceptance.”
Zyndel earned a master of social work degree and a humanics certificate in administration and leadership for community benefit organizations in 2017, and a bachelor’s in English literature in 2012, from Fresno State.
He is survived by his parents, Rene and Eileen Hernandez; grandmother, Louise Hernandez; sisters, Mindy and Jenny Hernandez; and a niece. Services will be private, due to the coronavirus pandemic; the family will organize a public memorial when it is safe to do so.
Plans are underway to establish a Zoyer Zyndel memorial scholarship fund to assist future master of social work students in Fresno State’s College of Health and Human Services. For information, contact Amy Millis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 559.278.5590; or Peter Robertson at email@example.com or 559.278.4669.
(Photo by Peter Maiden, Community Alliance)