Transgender man to share journey

Aiden Key, a transgender man, grew up as Bonnie – with an identical twin sister, Brenda – in Juneau, Alaska. Though Bonnie came out as a lesbian at 19, she still struggled with her gender until her early 30s, when she began testosterone treatment and had a mastectomy, though not genital reassignment surgery.

Key is now the director of Gender Odyssey, an advocacy, support and education group for transgender youths, adults and their families based in Seattle. Accompanied by his sister Brenda, who remains Aiden’s best friend, Aiden has appeared on “Larry King Live” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to share the story of his transition from “she” to “he.”

“I never really felt quite right in my body – it’s a long story,” Key said. “I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s – there was no such thing as transgender that I’d ever heard of.”

Key said being raised by a supportive parent was important.

“The message of feminism was don’t let your gender prevent you from following your dreams – you as a woman can pursue whatever path you want,” Key said.

As part of Women’s History Month, Key will present a workshop about understanding gender identity and sexuality Thursday at Fort Lewis College

Charles Egan, a transgender student at Fort Lewis College, said he was excited to attend the workshop.

“I think I’m mostly just looking forward to sitting down and listening to what other transgenders have to say because on campus, I’m the most vocal. So I’m really looking forward to seeing how other people are handling things – it’s mostly just me talking at people,” said Egan, who started transitioning from a woman to a man in high school and began testosterone treatment this year.

Egan said that nationally “there’s a lot of violence toward transgender people – because of a lack of understanding and people’s desire to enforce gender stereotypes on everyone. … Being a transgender child – it’s a pretty depressing experience that often ends in suicide.”

According to “Injustice at Every Turn: A Report on the National Transgender Discrimination Survey,” 41 percent of transgendered people reported attempting suicide compared to just 1.6 percent of the general population.

Transgendered youths also face an elevated risk of assault. According to the report, in grades K-12, 78 percent of transgender youths reported being harassed and 35 percent reported being physically assaulted.

In 1991, Fred Martinez, a 16-year-old from Cortez who identified as both man and woman, was brutally murdered.

Mike Freeburn, assistant principal at Durango High School, said gay and transgender students face bullying and harassment.

“There’s kind of a viciousness, a real meanness about that kind of bullying – it’s part of our society, and we certainly see a reflection of that in our school,” Freeburn said.

Key said he hoped attendees would walk out of his workshop “realizing that they have more questions than when they came in.”

cmcallister@durangoherald.com