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Transgender

Nickelodeon Star Michael D. Cohen on His 'Transgender Journey'

Michael D Cohen

The Henry Danger actor opens up about his years-ago transition and his desire to send a positive message to young people.

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Michael D. Cohen, who plays Schwoz on the popular Nickelodeon show Henry Danger, has come out about being transgender -- even though he doesn't use that word to describe himself.

"I was misgendered [as female] at birth," Cohen, who transitioned 20 years ago, told Time magazine in a story published online Thursday. "I identify as male, and I am proud that I have had a transgender experience -- a transgender journey."

He understands why some people use the word transgender to characterize themselves, but it doesn't feel right to them, he told the magazine. "While the word transgender may describe his past or his transition, he says, he has always felt his 'core being' was male, and so that is the language he uses," Time notes. He further explained, "In my experience, I was born male. What my body said about it was irrelevant. No matter how hard I tried, it was not up for negotiation. Believe me, it would have been so convenient if I was actually a woman."

He has been open about his identity with colleagues on the show, which Time describes as "a farcical superhero saga that is Nickelodeon's longest running live-action sitcom." His character is an eccentric genius who assists the heroes. He decided to come out more publicly, though, partly because of the current political and cultural climate, which has seen both increased visibility of trans people and efforts by Donald Trump's administration to roll back progress on trans rights.

"This crazy backlash and oppression of rights is happening right in front of me. I can't stay silent," Cohen told the magazine. "The level of -- let's be polite -- misunderstanding around trans issues is so profound and so destructive. When you disempower one population, you disempower everybody."

Even though Cohen doesn't call himself transgender, he recognizes that he's part of the trans community. "These are my people. I belong to this group," he said.

Cohen, who did behind-the-scenes work and voice acting before starting to act in live-action TV, films, and commercials, is also about to appear in a one-man show he wrote about his life, 4 Cubits Make a Man. It "chronicles how he came to grips with his identity, as well as how he navigated family, romantic relationships and widespread ideas about what makes someone a man," Time reports.

Through the play, he seeks to send a message about gender identity: "It is not random, it is not arbitrary, it is not chosen," he said. "It's like trying to negotiate with gravity." Find more information on the play here.

And by coming out while appearing on a popular children's show, he hopes to "send a message to kids that whoever they are, however they identify, that's celebrated and valued and OK," he added.

He realizes there may be backlash to his coming-out, but his colleagues on Henry Danger and Nickelodeon executives have been supportive. Jace Norman, who stars as Henry Hart in the show, told Time the revelation "didn't change anything about the high level of respect and admiration I have for the guy."

Norman further noted, "It's in the best interest of the entire world to have every type of person represented on TV." Nickelodeon expressed support for Cohen and for "diversity in all its forms."

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.