Volume 97 Issue 4 Campus Spin

Humans of Juniata: Zeph Turner

by Jamie Mistretta

“I think that I am one of the few gender-queer people that others have met in this school. It’s actually kind of a point of pride for me, in that I think that we don’t have a very visible queer community, especially transgender students. I think that a lot of people are curious about that. That’s just one of the things that I think makes me unusual in the community.”

Many of us at Juniata possess multiple talents and unique qualities. Zeph Turner is a perfect example of just that. Zeph, a sophomore from Fairfax, Va., is a unique human here on campus. Although they are working on a POE in mathematics and a possible secondary emphasis in computer science, Zeph is very diverse in their extracurricular skills as well.

“I like to write novels in my free time. When I was a kid it was always a dream of mine that I would be a novelist, presumably published, which I’m not. But you know, I’ll get there eventually. So, I’m very proud of the novels that I’ve written. I’m currently writing number seven, I think. I started it senior year of high school. I figure if I produce a lot of them that at least some of them will be kind of good, just by random probability.”

The stories Zeph writes are as unique as they is. “I write sci-fi fantasy. The one I’m working on right now is a post-apocalyptic story about satyrs, actually. It’s very much at the intersection of sci-fi and fantasy where there’s a lot of vestigial technology from before the apocalypse but not a lot of new stuff going on.”

Although Zeph takes great pride in their writing, they possess many more talents outside of the books. “I’m really proud about being part of the choir. I also started working in the Writing Center this year, and I found that really fulfilling. Everybody who works there really cares about the job, so it’s a cool environment to get to be a part of. I’ve always taken my ability to write for granted. I was good at it as a kid, and I picked up grammar kind of naturally. I’m just one of those people.”

With all the things Zeph has accomplished in the past year alone, it’s hard to believe that they was ever an introvert. “I gained a lot of confidence in my freshman year. I’m more outgoing now, even though people still describe me as a recluse at times,” reflected Zeph.

There are many other things about Zeph that make them unique to our campus besides their skills and talents. “I would definitely want to say something about disability because I have a developmental disability. Technically, I am on the autism spectrum,” said Zeph.

“I’m really interested in neurodiversity activism, the viewpoint that people with different brains have. People with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, etcetera are thinking differently, and we often have more trouble than others in an institution like this. But it’s not because we’re lesser, it’s because the institution is designed for people with brains that aren’t like ours. It’s something that I think about a lot because I think many other students never would consider what it’s like to have a disability on this campus and we don’t really have disability activism going on here. There’s no club for it, which is something I’m thinking about as an upperclassman maybe. But it’s just something I want people to be aware of — that there is this whole subculture — especially here at a school that’s really accepting and gets a lot of diverse students. Some people prefer not to use the word disabled, so people who are not neuro-typical is what I’ll say,” said Zeph.

Zeph continues to inspire through their novels, through their music, and of course, through their diversity. “I think that people here tend to be pretty respectful even if they don’t understand a lot of it. Really, all you need to know about it is that I go by the name Zeph and nobody ever says my birth name, I make very sure that nobody knows it. People know it, but it’s never mentioned. And if you use my right name and my right pronouns, then we’re solid. That’s all you have to know. You don’t have to be an activist or whatever to be on my side.”

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