Aidan Key, director of Gender Diversity, speaks after the showing of the movie, “The Most Dangerous Year” at the University of Alaska on Thursday, June 6, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Aidan Key, director of Gender Diversity, speaks after the showing of the movie, “The Most Dangerous Year” at the University of Alaska on Thursday, June 6, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The (transgender) kids are all right

Former Juneauite encouraged by the adults and students he works with

Adian Key’s work as an author, speaker and community organizer for transgender rights allows him to see minds and hearts change all the time.

Key, who grew up in Juneau and is two decades into his own transition journey, said that when working with school districts to form trans-inclusive policies he watches acceptance grow. He said even people initially opposed to the idea of allowing transgender students to use restrooms based on identity have eventually warmed up to the idea that putting a policy in place protects all students.

“I have watched people move forward,” Key said. “I’m not saying they’re happy. They’re not waving the pride flag at the end, but they’re calmer.”

Key, who now resides in Seattle, spoke at University of Alaska Southeast following a screening of transgender rights documentary, “The Most Dangerous Year.”

[“Bathroom bills” movie comes to Juneau]

The movie tracks the progress and impact of “bathroom bills” introduced in Washington state in 2016. It also follows Key’s work as director for Gender Diversity, a nonprofit that increased awareness and understanding of gender diversity in children,with a school district attempting to craft policy that would allow all students, including transgender ones, to feel safe and comfortable in restrooms and locker rooms.

Aidan Key, director of Gender Diversity, speaks after the showing of the movie, “The Most Dangerous Year” at the University of Alaska on Thursday, June 6, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Aidan Key, director of Gender Diversity, speaks after the showing of the movie, “The Most Dangerous Year” at the University of Alaska on Thursday, June 6, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Key and the film found a receptive audience in Juneau.

People inside the lecture hall clapped when “bathroom bills” failed to become law, and had audibly hostile reactions when an on-screen talking heads made transphobic statements.

After the 90-minute documentary, Key spent about 45 minutes taking questions from the audience and talking about his personal experiences working as a transgender civil rights advocate and sort of de facto ambassador for the community.

Topics ranged from comments about the movie to questions of what role cisgender allies play in making the world a less transphobic place.

“Part of what we need to feel more comfortable is for you to take care of everyone else,” Key said. “You just keep talking to people. Inspire that conversation.”

“The Most Dangerous Year” primarily focuses on transgender children, who express themselves in ways that line up with cultural expectations for the gender with which they identify. Key was asked how progress could be made for transgender people who express themselves differently or don’t necessarily “pass” as their identified gender.

Key said as someone who is two decades into his transition journey, he plays some role in making people aware that transgender people are just everyday people.

“It’s not people like me who are suffering,” Key said. “But if people meet people like me, it helps move us forward.”

[Check out this beautifully carved Raven hat]

Key also addressed how the young people he works with are coping with proposed national policies, such as a military ban, that treat transgender people differently from other Americans.

Aidan Key, director of Gender Diversity, speaks after the showing of the movie, “The Most Dangerous Year” at the University of Alaska on Thursday, June 6, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Aidan Key, director of Gender Diversity, speaks after the showing of the movie, “The Most Dangerous Year” at the University of Alaska on Thursday, June 6, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

“I work my butt off with the children I work with to ensure the kids are not aware of the devastation to trans rights,” Key said. “The parents shoulder the stress of gender transition.”

He said those who transition during adulthood or late adolescence also grapple with questions of what the future holds, but in his experience transgender youth are navigating the obstacles in their life with determination and grace.

“I’m watching them move through their difficulties coming through fighters,” Key said. “These kids are really stepping up. My hope is we can show them love, acceptance, support and the beautiful human beings that they are.”


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of May 22, 2022

Here’s what to expect this week.

Coast Guard aircrews medevaced two people from Dry Bay Airstrip, approximately 30 miles Southeast of Yakutat, Alaska, after their plane crashed, May 25, 2022. (Courtesy photo / Coast Guard District 17)
Three medevaced after plane crash near Yakutat

All four aboard were injured, three critically so.

The author’s appreciation for steelhead has turned into something like reverence considering what’s happening to populations in the Lower 48 and Canada. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)
I Went to the Woods: Silent steel

“You forget most of what ends up in the freezer, but those steelhead, they stick with you.”

Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, seen here in this June 16, 2021, file photo, announced Wednesday he will not seek relelection in the Alaska State Senate, where he has served since 2013. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file)
Senate president says he won’t run again

“Honor and a privilege.”

Hoonah’s Alaska Youth Stewards helped make improvements to Moby and water the plants in summer 2021. (Courtesy Photo / Jillian Schuyler)
Resilient Peoples & Place: Moby the Mobile Greenhouse cultivates community

It presents opportunities to grow food knowledge and skills.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Thursday, May 26, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Alaska Supreme Court orders use of interim map for elections

The decision came just over a week before the June 1 filing deadline for the August primaries.

A male red-winged blackbird displays his showy red patches and calls to a rival male (Gina Vose photo)
On the Trails: Birds and beetles at Kingfisher Pond

Something is almost always happening at Kingfisher Pond.

Most Read