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Transgender teen shares story, fights for equal rights

Sophomore+Eli+Cohen-Gordon+attended+a+rally+in+Boston+against+President+Trump%27s+reversal+of+former+President+Obama%E2%80%99s+protections+of+transgender+students.+
Sophomore Eli Cohen-Gordon attended a rally in Boston against President Trump's reversal of former President Obama’s protections of transgender students.

Sophomore Eli Cohen-Gordon attended a rally in Boston against President Trump's reversal of former President Obama’s protections of transgender students.

Courtesy Eli Cohen-Gordon

Courtesy Eli Cohen-Gordon

Sophomore Eli Cohen-Gordon attended a rally in Boston against President Trump's reversal of former President Obama’s protections of transgender students.

Tess Herdman, Opinion Editor

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Sophomore Eli Cohen-Gordon stands on the edge of a fountain, a megaphone in his hand, and a crowd of over 200 people in front of him. The blue, pink and white of the transgender flag waves as they listen to his ideas on standing up for the rights of transgender people.

This rally in Boston on February 23 protested President Trump’s reversal of former President Obama’s protections of transgender students.

“I have to be so vocal about it because my rights are at stake,” Cohen-Gordon said.

Cohen-Gordon has been a transgender advocate for the past several years. He has been working with the Mass Trans Political Coalition and its leader Mason Dunn.

Recently, his focus has been on the debate over whether transgender people should be allowed to use bathrooms in accordance with their gender identity.

“I’ve been speaking at rallies,” Cohen-Gordon said. “I’ve been getting information across, I write, I have a blog, elicgordon.com, I educate people and I give speeches, and I support other people who are supporting this bill.”

Massachusetts signed the Public Accommodations Bill into law on July 8 2016.

Cohen-Gordon’s family has worked with him on these issues.

“My parents met with Governor Charlie Baker a bit, because he’s pretty good on LGBTQ rights, but he was wavering on the transgender public accommodations bill,” Cohen-Gordon said. “He thought the bill we had in place currently was good enough, but it really wasn’t.”

Civil rights should be universal across the nation, and across the world.”

— Sophomore Eli Cohen-Gordon

Cohen-Gordon is also concerned that transgender rights are at stake during the next election.

“There has been a group called the Keep Mass Safe organization that has gotten enough signatures to have transgender rights on the ballot again in MA, and we’re at a risk to lose trans rights again in 2018,” Cohen-Gordon said.

Cohen-Gordon believes that Algonquin deals transgender issues very well, but his experience at Melican Middle School was not as smooth.

“I was the first out transgender student there and they had no idea what to do,” he said. “I had to use the single stall bathroom, which is incredibly dehumanizing. The fact that people assume that you’ll be assaulting people in the bathroom, so you have to use a different bathroom, the pure thought of it just hurts me.”

“Algonquin had been absolutely amazing,” Cohen-Gordon said. “The moment I got to Algonquin, even without a legal name change order, they let me change my name. They let me use the bathroom that matched my gender identity.”

Cohen-Gordon frequently talks about his own transition.

“It wasn’t a decision made by me… I was going to die if I didn’t transition,” Cohen-Gordon said. “My mental health was at an all time low. I had attempted suicide. I was regularly self-harming. I was in the hospital… I couldn’t look in the mirror.”

Cohen-Gordon got his top surgery at age fourteen.

“A lot of people criticize my decision to have surgery so young because they think I may regret it when I’m older,” Cohen-Gordon said. “Ok, what if I regret it? But if I don’t have this surgery now, I will die. My chest binder, which I used to flatten my chest, those things are fatal… I was in the ER numerous time with rib and lung injuries.”

Cohen-Gordon will continue working for universal transgender rights.

“If one person is suffering discrimination in another state because they are trans, it’s a loss for us all,” Cohen-Gordon said. “Civil rights should be universal across the nation, and across the world.”

Cohen-Gordon suggests that those who have questions about transgender people should ask him.

“Just sit down and and talk with me,” Cohen-Gordon said. “I know the only way to educate people is to be open and honest about my transition.”

Those who want to know more can also check out his blog and radio show.

“Tune into GayRHS on Thursdays 2-2:30,” Cohen-Gordon said.

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Transgender teen shares story, fights for equal rights