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Transgender, non-binary search for selves, rights

By Lisa Brody

Blake Bonkowski grew up in Royal Oak uncomfortable in his own skin, not knowing who he was, bullied as an outsider throughout school because other kids thought he was a lesbian.

“I got the idea – you're weird, you don't belong,” Bonkowski said, who was born female. “People had been calling me a lesbian my whole life, but I knew that didn't fit. I never questioned gender. It was something I was never aware of. Until I graduated high school, I didn't know that trans people existed – I knew that some trans women existed, but not trans men, and I didn't know that non-binary was real. I knew that calling myself a gay woman didn't fit, so I repressed everything until the end of high school, and then I met a girl I couldn't deny I had a crush on.”

Bonkowski said he never spoke to his parents about his sexuality, gender dysmorphia or even the harassment and bullying he experienced. They just weren't the kind of family that talked about things, he said.

“They may have picked up that I was picked on, but we just weren't the kind of family that talked about things,” he said.

Oakland University was the one college his parents would pay for, allowing him to live at home and commute, and attending there in many ways set him on the course for his future in more ways than either he or they could have imagined. Today, at 28, he is an Oakland University academic advisor as well as having a podcast.

Bonkowski recalled that a freshman communications course led him to the Gay/Straight Alliance within the Gender and Sexuality Center on campus, where he suddenly felt at home. He ended up hanging out there for all four years every single day, including gaining leadership positions on its board.

“For the first time in my life I was surrounded by people who were out to each other. I met trans people there. The more they talked, the more I felt, 'this sounds like me,' though I wasn't ready. I was still in denial,” recalled Bonkowski. “I was educating myself about the community while I was learning about myself. The more I learned, I realized something gender-y was going on. By the end of the (freshman) year, I recognized that I was some kind of trans or non-binary. I spent the next year figuring out, 'am I gender-fluid, non-binary,' which is neither man or woman.

“One day I was in my parents' basement trying on different clothes. I looked in the mirror, I pushed my boobs down, and I looked at myself from the side, and said, 'Oh shit, that looks correct.' I identified my chest as my sense of dysphoria. From that point on I wanted top surgery, and sophomore year I began to bind myself.”

Moving onto campus housing by his junior year, he cut his long ponytail – long a source of angst for himself and a symbol to his mother, who had issues with him transitioning – and chose his name as Blake, and began using the pronouns he/him full time, other than with his parents, who he avoided, living a dual life. As a large built, 5-foot 10-inch person, “I soon began passing as a guy.”

“I felt liberated when I began to be who I am on campus with my friends,” Bonkowski said.

Asking – and discovering – who we are is a normal exercise of growth and discovery. For transgender and non-binary individuals, the process is complicated and exacerbated by literally not feeling like they belong in their own bodies.

The realization that they may have been assigned a gender at birth that does not conform to their internal gender identity can happen at any age, experts say. More and more frequently today, youth are feeling comfortable verbalizing that they are a “girl” or a “boy,” even if they have been born the other sex, while there are incidences of older adults announcing their transition, such as Caitlin Jenner, who was formerly known as Bruce Jenner.

“Transgender can happen at any stage of life,” said Gretchen Marsh, PhD, a Bloomfield Hills licensed psychologist who practices in Franklin. “Caitlin Jenner explored it at various times of her life, but at various times did not want to go forward. Perhaps now we're more supportive (as a society) and the person can feel they can be who they are now. Some realize it as a child or an adolescent. We don't have to be so concrete and put people in boxes. Allow people to explore who they are – it takes time.”

Roland Sintos Coloma, professor, College of Education, Wayne State University, concurred. He noted that being older, like Jenner, is not at all unusual. “Because of cultural, generational pressures to conform and be a certain way, as well as there weren't as many models. Trans folks were seen as freaks, as people on the margins of society. Trans folks, they've been seen, especially in non-Western cultures, they've been revered as spiritual,” such as the “two-spirits” of indigenous cultures, the hijras in India, South American culture and their widespread presence in ancient Greek mythology.

“As people know things exist, there are more opportunities for trans people. We have more policies, cultural understanding and better language for trans people, so that makes it more acceptable,” explained Shanna K. Kattari, assistant professor of social work and assistant professor of women's studies, School of Social Work, University of Michigan. “It's not a fad – it's made space for trans individuals. There have always been trans people – this is that there are not magically more trans people. For young people, knowing there are trans people allows them the space to find their identity. For young people, erasing rigid lines and knowing they can be who they are; for others, letting them play with gender and discovery. For some young boys, they want to wear dresses – but that does not make them trans.”

Kattari explained the term “transvestite” is no longer acceptable, and the term “cross dresser,” for men who choose to dress as women is the appropriate term. However, with gender fluidity, many younger people of both sexes choose today to dress in whatever they feel expresses themselves on that day.

Kattari said it is normal for people from “three to 90 to realize they are trans. For many people, they know when they were really young. Some are coming out later because it feels safe for them now. For some young people, it's societally more available for them – if their family members are supportive for them.”

Brooke Bendix, LMSW, with a therapy practice in West Bloomfield primarily working with children, teens and young adults, said she is seeing more and more younger kids, and has started a Rainbow Group in her practice, called Therapyology.

“We are getting calls from parents of eight and nine-year-olds that are non-binary or gender non-conforming,” Bendix said. “We have a waiting list for a group of more than 30 kids. We see kids who question their gender identity, and we make sure our paperwork process asks them their preferred gender and pronoun.”

She said to not call them by their chosen gender, pronoun or name, “It makes you feel excluded and increases your anxiety. It makes you feel like you're an island by yourself.”

A 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS) study conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), with 27,715 respondents, provides a comprehensive look at the lives of transgender people in the United States, including their experiences involving health, family life, employment and interactions with the criminal justice system. A majority of respondents, 60 percent, reported that they began to feel “different” from the sex on their original birth certificate at age 10 or younger, including 32 percent who began to feel different at age five or younger, with 28 percent who began to feel different between the ages of six and 10. Six percent reported that they began to feel different at age 21 or older.

According to the survey, respondents were also asked how old they were when they started to think of themselves as transgender, even if they did not know that word. One in 10 – 10 percent – reported that they began to think of themselves as transgender at age five or younger. Sixteen began to think of themselves as transgender between the ages of six and 10, and 28 percent between the ages of 11 and 15. Eight percent reported beginning to think of themselves as transgender at age 26 or older.

Asked at what age they began to tell others that they were transgender, one in 10 respondents to the survey reported they began to tell others that they were transgender between the ages of 11 and 15, and 37 percent did so between the ages of 16 and 20. Another 30 percent began telling people they were transgender between the ages of 21 and 30, and 14 percent began informing people they were transgender at age 31 or older. An additional five percent reported they had not told anyone else they were transgender.

According to GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), transgender is a term used to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. “Gender identity is a person's internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or a boy or a girl.) For some people, their gender identity does not fit neatly into those two choices. For transgender people, the sex they were assigned at birth and their own internal gender identity do not match,” GLAAD said. “Trying to change a person's gender identity is no more successful than trying to change a person's sexual orientation – it doesn't work. So most transgender people seek to bring their bodies into alignment with their gender identity. This is called transition.”

Many transgender people take a name that represents their gender identity, with their birth name considered their “birth name” or “dead name.” They also utilize pronouns that match their authentic gender, whether they have transitioned or not. GLAAD noted that some people use the singular “they” to reflect their non-binary gender identity and/or gender expression.

“They see 'he' or 'she' as binary. 'I don't necessarily need to call myself he to say I am a trans man.' 'They' disrupts the gender binary and allows that fluidity,” said Coloma of Wayne State University. “It's challenging the binary of gender and allowing the fluidity to come through.”

“For transgender youth who feel like they were born in the wrong body, the feelings can be overwhelming because of potential fallout,” said Sarah Kiperman, assistant professor of educational psychology, Wayne State University. “Some parents kick their kids out. The kid will say, 'I'd like to not be called John, call me Sophia, and the parent will say, no I'm calling you John.' That's dead naming. It calls out their hurt. It's their birth name but not what they want to be called, nor how they see who they are. They're not putting on a show – they are trying to be who they see who they are.

“The conflict comes in, being transgender does not cause mental illness,” Kiperman said. “It's the pressures and messages in our life or the media and the stresses, the bullying and harassment, the marginalization, that causes the mental issues. Being transgender is not inherently part of depression – it's all of the pressures from outside.”

Marsh echoed that. “Having gender identity or questions in itself is not a mental illness. It can cause psychological distress by the environment around them by harassment, bullying, by not being able to use pronouns and names, discrimination, not being able to use bathrooms – and these things cause cause mental illness like anxiety and depression.”

Some transgender people are gay – but some are straight, some are bisexual, and some fall somewhere along the sexual spectrum, because every trans individual is a unique individual, and their sexual orientation is separate from their gender identity. As GLAAD describes it, “Sexual orientation describes a person's enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person, while gender identity describes a person's internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman, or someone outside of the gender binary. Simply put: sexual orientation is about who you are attracted to and fall in love with; gender identity is about who you are. Like everyone else, transgender people have a sexual orientation.”

“Sexual orientation is about who you desire, who you want to date,” explained Rogerio Pinto, LCSW, PhD, professor and associate dean for Research and Innovation, University of Michigan School of Social Work, who describes himself as gender non-conforming. “Many people get confused by the difference between gender fluidity and sexual orientation. It's not always about sex.”

What is gender fluidity? Genderfluid people often express a desire to remain flexible about their gender identity rather than commit to a single definition or gender. They may fluctuate between differing gender expressions during their lifetime, or express multiple aspects of various gender markers at the same time. According to Sabra L. Katz-Wise PhD, Harvard Medical School, “As an identity, it typically fits under the transgender or non-binary umbrella… While some people develop a gender identity early in childhood, others may identify with one gender at one time and then another gender later on… Ultimately, anyone who identifies as gender-fluid is a gender-fluid person. Often, the term is used to mean that a person’s gender expression or gender identity – essentially, their internal sense of self — changes frequently.”

Many of us also read about entertainers, such as singer Demi Lovato, who recently came out as non-binary, which is a term that is newer and unfamiliar to many. Katz-Wise said, “Non-binary means a person’s gender identity doesn’t fit into strict cultural categories of female or male.”

Pinto said, “What we're talking about is the 'other' – the more we are creating and perpetuating the 'other.' On Facebook, last time I looked, there are 55 different kinds of gender identities. What I think is happening today is there is a language to use, and when we have a language, and it's on TV, very young kids can say to their parents, this is what I'm feeling. It's wonderful for them. Sometimes the family pretends it's not there, but that's a tool of invisibility. Coming out, one comes out to be visible. If you're not visible, you don't exist. That's true for people for gender identity, as well.”

Kattari of University of Michigan explained that “non-binary is socially constructed. I don't feel a direct fit with either gender. Some trans people identify with one gender or another. I feel like I'm wearing a coat that's three sizes too big – but I don't feel like a man. I'm a Femme. I wear dresses, makeup.

“Identity is who you are. Expression is how you show your identity.”

GLAAD explained that gender non-conforming is a term to describe some people whose gender expression is different from conventional expectations of masculinity and femininity. Not all gender non-conforming people identify as transgender, nor are all transgender people gender non-conforming. For some transgender people, they may be perceived, or perceive themselves, as being gender non-conforming before transitioning, but might not be after transitioning.

Those who identify sexually and by gender with their birth sex are called cisgender.

“Many (transgender individuals) are searching for where they are on the identity spectrum. They don't identify as LGBTQ – they're the plus,” noted Truman Hudson Jr., EdD, professor of teacher education in the College of Education at Wayne State University.

Just as many people have sexual feelings or attractions along the sexuality spectrum even if they identify as straight or gay, “they're fighting for their own space. When they're gender fluid or agender, that's a space,” Hudson said. “While it doesn't not show up on the LGBTQ spectrum, it's there.”

Non-binary can be all these things – or their sexual identity can shift. They can feel differently on different days.

“It's a human right,” Hudson said. “Let people be who they are. Respect who they are and know it's not a phase.”

Aiden Korotkin, who grew up in Bloomfield Hills but now lives in Philadelphia where he works as a cinematographer, knows first-hand it's not a phase. Born female, his earliest recollections are from between the ages of three and five, when he remembers “something being off. I told my parents I wanted to be a boy. I thought if I thought hard enough, I could grow a penis.”

His parents were thoughtful and attentive. “As soon as I began saying this, they sought professional help from all the right sources – my pediatrician, a psychologist, a school counselor.

“They all said I would grow out of it.”

He didn't. Instead, forced to wear girls clothes 'to fit in' for school,“I felt ashamed. I felt attracted to other girls – I had a huge crush on my best friend at five – but I repressed all my feelings during elementary school. The three years of middle school, I couldn't look at myself, I couldn't look at myself in the mirror because I hated myself, my body. I tried to minimize my chest as much as possible.”

Unable to deny his attraction to other females in middle school after going through puberty, he came out as a lesbian to his family after high school. He said his family was supportive.

“I didn't come out to everyone until I was in college,” Korotkin said. “That was a huge weight off my shoulders – but I was still miserable and I didn't know why. It was about myself. I didn't like myself, and so I assumed no one else liked me.

“I remember not knowing being trans was an option or what I identified with,” having no real experience with transgender people, other than watching the Showtime show “The L Word,” which he said had a trans man “and the show did a horrible job scripting it. The show was pro-lesbian but not supportive of trans. That put it into my head that I didn't want surgery. I should just be a lesbian. I was again repressing my feelings. I thought it was something to be ashamed of.”

At 27, he decided he wanted to transition to being male.

“I came to a point where I just hated myself. I knew there was a better future, and I couldn't figure out how,” Korotkin recalled. “A friend asked me how do you see yourself going to the pool, and I said I see myself with a beard, no chest, no shirt and swim trunks. That was my best self. It took me back for a second.”

He found “a wonderful therapist who had himself transitioned 15 years before, and it was just life changing.” First, they figured out which pronouns fit – for Korotkin, it's he/him, and picked out a name that felt right.

“As soon as friends started calling me that it felt so much better. It felt like me. It's like putting on a well-fitting outfit, something custom made just for you,” Korotkin said. “You feel strong, you feel powerful – like you can take on the world. I said I'm trans, this is what was wrong with me all along.

“It's like going from being seasick your whole life to being on solid ground.”

He said he came out to the world – via Facebook – in March 2016, and on May 27, 2016, “my T-date,” he started testosterone, followed by top surgery, (or mastectomy) to remove the female breast tissue, in 2017.

“When I first looked in the mirror, it just felt like I saw myself for the first time – it was an incredible experience. It was extremely freeing. I had never felt that way about my body,” Korotkin said. “It flipped a switch. I was able to feel confident enough in myself to stand up for myself.”

Korotkin declined to discuss if he had “bottom surgery,” or sex realignment surgery or gender reassignment surgery, a surgical procedure by which a transgender person's physical appearance and function of their existing sexual characteristics are altered to resemble those socially associated with their identified gender. Blake Bonkowski of Oakland University also had top surgery, later a complete hysterectomy, but chose not to have a metoidioplasty and phalloplasty, which would have realigned his sexual genitalia.

“I know hundreds of trans men and non-binary people, and they're (sex realignment surgery) extremely uncommon for a reason,” Bonkowski said. “Many, including me, do not feel it's necessary – if I want to have sex with a penis I can buy something. Having a penis is something I don't care about, while getting rid of my breasts was necessary.”

“Being trans is not about genitals – it's so much more than that,” Korotkin emphasized. “It's existence. It's being who you were meant to be. Everyone has different bodies; the focus shouldn't be on the body. It's a way of living – how you view and exist in the world.”

Many transgender individuals never transition – a process where a person begins to live in a gender that is different than the one on their birth certificate. Gender transition can involve a lot of different aspects, including changing one's clothing, appearance, name, identity documents, and asking people to use different pronouns than the ones associated with the gender on one's birth certificate. Transitioning can also include undergoing medical procedures, such as hormone therapy or surgeries.

According to the USTS study, nearly half of respondents – 43 percent – reported they began transitioning between ages of 18 and 24, with almost one-quarter, 24 percent, transitioning between ages 25 and 34. Fifteen percent transitioned under the age of 18, and 18 percent transitioned at age 35 or older. Non-binary respondents and transgender men were more likely to have transitioned at a younger age with 24 percent of non-binary respondents and 17 percent of transgender men transitioning under the age of 18.

Shanna Kattari of University of Michigan said, “Some trans and non-binary people do want medical intervention, with hormones, binding their chests, top down surgery – and some don't. It's not changing into a new body, it's making their existing body in line with who they are.”

Gretchen Marsh, PhD, said, “Every person's changes are idiosyncratic – like every group, there are more differences than similarities. Not all follow the changes with hormones or medical procedures. Many choose to live with their at-birth genitals. Generally, when they pursue surgery and gender reassignment, they feel it's a need. It's not something they want to do – it's a core need. It's essential to their being. It's not a flip decision.”

She continued, “If a child is interested in transitioning, this is something we need to look at over time, to develop over time, for the child and the parent to have the time and space and support to adjust. There's no rush. You should allow them to express themselves in the way and manner they want to express themselves. For the parents, they have their own journey as well.”

Bendix, the West Bloomfield therapist, said, “Times are changing, but there is still such a stigma about coming out and being identified as who you want to be identified. My goals is that we will get to a place where more young teens will feel that they can come out and be proud to be who they really are. It's human rights. We can provide a safe, non-judgmental place. They just want to feel normal.”

Many of her patients do want to transition, and she often works in conjunction with a family practice physician who does hormone replacement therapy (“he has more than 700 people on his waiting list”) to provide the mental health component. Bendix said she is also starting a Rainbow Group for parents. “Most are Gen Xers trying to wrap their head around having Jane become Jim,” she said.

A “60 Minutes” report in late May focused on four individuals in their early 20s who claimed they had transitioned with minimal mental health and medical support, and later regretted their decision, which LGBT advocates have excoriated as inaccurate and inappropriate for adding to the marginalization of transgender individuals. GLAAD said after its airing that 60 Minutes “aired a shameful segment fear mongering about trans youth. Parents of trans youth could walk away with the false belief that young people are being rushed into medical transition. That is simply untrue.” They noted that “every major medical association supports affirming, age-appropriate care for trans youth and the guidelines for that care are safe and well-established.”

“This discussion has been around for decades, because at what age in a person's development should you give hormones? A social intervention?” said Pinto of U-M. “A social intervention by a parent can help or deny what the child feels. You know your child. If their life will be significantly better at puberty, and you deny them the possibility of looking the identity they identify with, you're denying them the benefits. Further, many of the hormones today can be stopped. They don't stop development, they neutralize the hormones.”

“The American Psychological Society and the American Medical Association have provided very clear and stringent guidelines and standards,” said Coloma of WSU. “Most trans people go through extensive medical health counseling and before any surgical procedure, they go through extensive evaluations with a psychiatrist. Transitioning is often a multi-year process.

“I say, 'walk in their shoes for a day.'”

Some schools provide open, supportive environments – and others add to the mental anguish transgender students are already experiencing. According to the U.S. Transgender Survey, the majority of respondents who were out or perceived as transgender while in K-12 school experienced some form of mistreatment, including 54 percent reporting being verbally harassed, 24 percent being physically harassed, and 13 percent said they had been sexually assaulted because they were transgender. Further, 17 percent said they experienced such severe mistreatment they left a school as a result. Fifty-two percent reported they were not allowed to dress in a way that fit their gender expression or identity, and 36 percent were disciplined for fighting back against their bullies. Twenty percent said they believe they were disciplined more harshly because teachers or staff thought they were transgender.

A quarter of people who were out or perceived as transgender in college or vocational school were verbally, physically or sexually harassed.

“Schools are not accommodating to the dress code of the child or their pronouns. They're not saying, 'Let's look at this child's identity, if they want to come out,” said Hudson, of Wayne State University. “Many public schools do not respect a child's privacy, and out them when they're not ready to be. Sometimes educators are well-intentioned and out the kids to their parents before the kids are ready to out themselves, and are thrown out of their houses, and are couch-surfing. The data shows, those couch surfing have a high undercounting for homeless youth. The theme is consistent wherever you are in metro Detroit.”

“The biggest messages that schools can do is affirm, validate, protect – and do no harm,” said Hudson's Wayne State colleague Sarah Kiperman. She said it is important to create upstanding students by letting bystanders to bullying know where they can reach out to teachers to report the bullying and to teach them to reach out to ask them if they're OK.

“It's important to actively work to value and protect their classmates,” she said.

She noted it's imperative that teachers receive training and the understanding of trans youth, and to cultivate safe classrooms, “where students can go to be affirmed and supportive, as well as to not out students without their permission.”

She emphasized it is illegal for a school to prevent students from forming gay/straight alliances, now frequently called gender and sexuality alliances, or to provide gender neutral spaces such as locker rooms and restrooms – although those spaces and rights are increasingly under attack by Republican-led legislatures across the country, including here in Michigan.

On June 1, Florida became the seventh, and largest, state to ban transgender women and girls from participating in school sports, which Reuters described as “part of a campaign in statehouses nationwide this year that equal rights activists assail as discriminatory… Supporters of the sports bill say they are needed to preserve fairness, asserting that cisgender women and girls would be at a disadvantage against transgender female athletes who were designated male at birth but have since transitioned.”

Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee and West Virginia have passed similar legislation and South Dakota's governor signed an executive order supporting a sports ban.

“A successful social justice movement always comes with a counter-movement,” pointed out Shanna Kattari of U-M. “Because there's been so much progress in the last five to 10 years, this is the pendulum swinging back. Most young people aren't going to testify, they don't have the political capital to fight back. Sports bills build on this fear – 'the man in the dress' trope.”

Becky Pepper-Jackson, an 11-year-old girl from Bridgeport, West Virginia, and her mother, have filed suit as of early June against West Virginia's law, which is prohibiting her from running cross-country at school in sixth grade. Her principal told her she was welcome to try out for the boys' team, but as a transgender girl, she could not legally compete alongside other girls.

“She's not doing this just for herself. She wants to help other kids who are just like her,” her mother, Heather Jackson, told The Washington Post. Jackson said they are seeking an injunction for the law.

On March 10, state Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton) introduced Senate Bill 218, to make it an education requirement “that only biological males may compete for a position on and compete on a boys' high school team in an interscholastic activity and only biological females may compete for a position on and compete on a girls' high school team in an interscholastic activity.”

The Michigan High School Athletic Association does not support the legislation, noting that in all of Michigan, there have only been a total of 10 transgender women who have wanted – and are qualified – to play sports.

Sen. Jim Runstead (R-White Lake), one of 13 Republican senators backing the legislation, said during a committee hearing on May 28, “A specific example is not a requirement to make a law.” He hypothesized that tennis superstars Serena and Venus Williams “would never be known” if they had competed against transgender women.

Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield, Oak Park, Huntington Woods) said, “It's a culture war they're playing. It's a fight we did not start that is brought to us.”

Moss, who is openly gay, said he introduced Senate Bill 208, to expand the state's Elliott-Larsen civil rights law to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression” as a protected class, and making it a crime to deny employment, housing, use of public accommodations, public services, and educational facilities to another person on the basis of an individual’s assertion of a particular sexual orientation or gender identity, on March 9 – just one day before the introduction of Senate Bill 218.

“We see a lot of public support for this (the expansion of Elliott-Larsen), and the legislature is way behind,” Moss said. “Of all the LGBT communities, the transgender community is the most marginalized. For them to introduce 218 10 bills later, their messaging is, 'maybe you're fine with gay people, but we have to be worried about trans people.'”

“The modern GOP has latched onto legislating culture wars,” said state Rep. Mari Manoogian. “It's what they feel is an appealing way to win votes. I know the governor will not sign the bill. But Sen. Theis, the only reason she and the GOP are motivated are for political gain. They're shunning science and expertise and falling back on demonizing people who are not like you.”

“It's what politicians do, because they want to 'otherwise' people. It is a clever way to distract people from the things they are not doing in their constituents' district,” said U-M's Rogerio Pinto. “They are trying to create two classes of people – as long as gay people cannot get married, I am superior. As long as a Black person cannot earn a good wage, I am superior.

“At the core of it is supremacy. It's a huge distraction from water, infrastructure – the things that actually matter to constituents.”

“Because it is a new issue and most of us don't know a lot about it, political elites are ripe for it because it is so new and most opinion is unformed. They can find a way to frame the issue,” said Mary Herring, associate professor of political science on gender and politics, Wayne State University.

She likened the transgender debate to the debate over the poor – if it is because it is biological, then people will believe their rights should be protected. If people believe their transitions are because of liberal policies or culture, “then they are much less willing to protect those rights. We know explanations make a difference in political discussions, and then politicians and political pundits determine how problems should be addressed.”

“They're trying to solve a problem that does not even exist,” Moss said. “There's this big phantom fear that these trans athletes are filling all the sports teams, and that's just not true. It's just an effort to demonize an already marginalized group of people.”

Aiden Korotkin, like many others who have transitioned, no longer feels as marginalized.

“Since transitioning, I've been the happiest I've ever been, and been able to experience the beauty and joy of life, truly.”


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