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Affirming Transgender Lives

Four panelists shared their hard-won insights about the future of gender.

Milton Diamond, a renowned professor and researcher on anatomy and human sexuality, once said, “Nature loves diversity; society hates it.” Diamond’s observation deepened an already thought-provoking panel on “The Future of Gender” that took place last week at the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston. Moderated by Keshet’s executive director, Idit Klein, the program was part of the JCC’s “Jonathan Samen Hot Buttons, Cool Conversations Discussion Series.” Four panelists talked about their hard-won insights and shared personal stories from the frontlines of transgender activism.

Schuyler Bailar, whom Harvard University recruited to swim on the women’s team, transitioned from female to male just before entering college. Bailar emerged as his true gender after a difficult year in which he was treated for an eating disorder and depression as a female. “I didn’t have a [transgender] role model to look to in sports,” Bailar told the audience of approximately 200. At Harvard, coaches and teammates on the school’s Division 1 men’s swim team warmly welcomed him. “Everyone was incredibly supportive,” he said. “I see things changing. I compete legally on the men’s team. As a trans athlete, I’m passionate about being a role model for trans kids.”

Dr. Norman Spack, an endocrinologist who co-founded the Boston Children’s Hospital Gender Management Service clinic, recalled that the first person he treated was a 24-year-old Harvard graduate who had transitioned from female to male. Spack, an internationally recognized expert on transgender issues, noted that his first patient was his teacher on the subject. Spack also shared that in his early days of transgender activism, he was “dying proof of the death all around me.” He pointed out that individuals whose transgender identities were never accepted had a 45 percent chance of suicide. Spack asserted that waiting to treat transgender adolescents until adulthood is putting that population at risk.

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