Michigan’s first transgender teacher of the year speaks out on bill targeting transgender student athletes

Bill opposed by Michigan High School Athletic Association, American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and more

Michigan Senate Bill 0218 would stop transgender high school athletes from playing on sports teams that align with their identity.

OAK PARK, Mich. – A controversial Senate Bill that targets trans athletes is making its way through the Michigan Legislature.

Michigan Senate Bill 0218 would stop transgender high school athletes from playing on sports teams that align with their identity.

2020-21 Michigan Teacher of the Year Owen Bondono spoke out about the bill and the impact it could have on students.

Bondono, the first transgender person to have the Michigan Teacher of the Year title, took to social media after not being able to testify in front of lawmakers on the controversial bill.

“If the school’s job is to welcome students to a classroom where they are respected, supported and loved -- and I believe that it is -- this bill, if passed, will no longer make that fully possible for our transgender students in Michigan,” Bondono said.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Lana Theis and co-sponsored by 12 other GOP senators. Bondono was invited to testify about the bill in front of a Senate Committee on Tuesday, but it never happened. After hearing testimony from others, Theis said she had another meeting to get to and couldn’t hear from the state’s top teacher or any other transgender resident.

“It definitely made it feel weighted in one direction and it made me feel like they were more concerned with making cisgender people feel comfortable than transgender people feel included,” Bondono said.

The bill is nearly identical to 29 other bills in other states which both the American Psychological Association and American Academy of Pediatrics said will do harm to the already at-risk transgender youth. The bill is also opposed by the Michigan High School Athletic Association, which called it unnecessary and that there have been only 10 athletes (out of more than 180,000) who have used the state’s existing transgender policy in the last five years.

Bondono said the bill is about more than sports.

“When I was young, I felt very isolated and I felt very much like the world wasn’t a welcome place to me,” Bondono said. “I think bills like this communicate that message to transgender youth today.”

Local 4 reached out to Theis’ office to ask why she felt the bill was necessary and if Bondono would be asked back to testify. There was no response.

Bondono said he has not being asked back, but would welcome the invitation.

About the Authors:

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.