Transgender actor Michael D. Cohen is collaborating with Nickelodeon in creating the ‘'Trans Youth Acting Challenge’ in an effort to help transgender and nonbinary kids pursue their dreams of becoming actors.
“In 2019, I shared my story with Time magazine, that I had transitioned. And since then, I’ve been getting a lot of DMs and e-mails from trans kids who, like me when I was a kid, had dreams of becoming an actor,” Cohen explained.
“So I went to Nickelodeon and said I really want to help make it possible for these kids to realize their dreams,” Cohen continued. “So together we are partnering to create the Michael D. Cohen Trans Youth Acting Challenge.”
Cohen, who plays the character Schwoz on Nickelodeon’s live-action sitcom “Henry Danger” and its spinoff “Danger Force,” publicly disclosed to Time Magazine that he was born female and transitioned to male almost 20 years later.
“I was misgendered at birth”, the actor explained. “I identify as male, and I am proud that I have had a transgender experience – a transgender journey.”
“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.”
“My chromosomes do not dictate my gender,” Cohen contended. “I’m a man. It’s not that hard.”
Cohen had previously played female roles until 2000. According to Time, Cohen dismissed the notion that the inclusion of LGBTQ storylines in children’s programming is about “pushing an agenda on kids.”
In response, the storylines send a message to kids “that whoever they are, however, they identify, that’s celebrated, and that’s OK,” Cohen asserts.
The 'Trans Youth Acting Challenge’ invites parents of transgender or nonbinary youth living in the U.S or Canada to help them put an audition tape together. Participants who submit an audition tape will be asked to participate in a webinar with the Nickelodeon casting team and Cohen.
Out of all the participants, 12 will be selected to partake in a “Zoom acting master class” with Cohen.
“I’m so excited to see these auditions. This is a dream come true for me too,” Cohen said.
Like many television networks in recent years, Nickelodeon sought to include LGBT characters in its programs. In 2016, the children’s network debuted a same-sex couple in an episode of the cartoon series “The Loud House.”
Nickelodeon also came under fire in 2005 by Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family after one of its most beloved cartoon characters, SpongeBob Squarepants, was used in a music video by the We Are Family Foundation in promoting homosexuality. The video included popular animated characters as they sang a rendition of Sister Sledge’s 1979 hit song “We Are Family.”
At the time, same-sex marriage was not legally recognized across the U.S.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Tasia Wells/Stringer
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.