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Trailblazing trans teacher artfully explains why trans athlete bans are harmful

Patrick Kelleher May 31, 2021
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Owen Bondono Michigan

Owen Bondono spoke out against a trans athlete ban making its way through the Michigan Senate. (Twitter)

Trailblazing transgender teacher Owen Bondono has expertly explained why degrading trans sports bans are harmful.

A bill is currently making its way through the Michigan legislature that would require high school athletes to play on teams that match the sex they were assigned at birth.

Similar bills are making their way through state legislatures across the US despite staunch opposition from the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Bondono, who was named Michigan Teacher of the Year for the 2020/2021 academic year, spoke out against the bill in a video posted on Twitter.

In the two-minute long clip, Bondono said he works tirelessly to help his ninth graders develop critical thinking skills, communication skills and empathy for others.

Reflecting on his own journey, Bondono said he has been told by “many people” that being transgender and being a teacher are “mutually exclusive”.

However, Bondono said his presence in the classroom allows young people to see a trans person who is flourishing and thriving.

“I hope that my students leave my room knowing that there is no ‘us versus them’ divide between transgender and cisgender people and that we are all deserving of love and respect,” Bondono said.

“I hope that my existence deepens their empathy. For my students who may be questioning their gender identity, I hope that my presence reassures them.”

Anti-trans sports bills tell trans youth they might have to give up the things they love

More than anything, Bondono wants his students to leave his classroom knowing that it’s possible to be transgender and to “grow up and have the life that you want”.

Michigan’s anti-trans sports bill “sends the opposite message to vulnerable youth in our classrooms,” they said.

“It tells transgender youth that in order to live authentically they may have to give up the things that they love, like a sport that brings them joy.

“It tells transgender youth that their feelings of isolation, of pain and of rejection may never go away. It tells those transgender youth that they may not be able to achieve a future where they’re accepted and loved for who they really are.”

He added: “If the school’s job is to welcome students into classrooms where they are respected, supported and loved – and I believe that it is – this bill, if passed, will no longer make that fully possible for our transgender students in Michigan.”

Michigan’s Senate bill, titled SB0218, was introduced by Senator Lana Theis. It has been co-sponsored by 12 other Republican senators.

Bondono had been invited to offer his testimony at a Senate Committee last Tuesday (25 May), according to Click On Detroit – however, Theis didn’t hear from a single trans person and cut proceedings short because she had another meeting to go to.

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