Nickelodeon’s Henry Danger will go down in history as one of our all-time favorite shows on the network, and we can pretty much all agree that it’s the cast that truly makes the show what it is. But as much as we love the characters they play on screen, we’re also extremely inspired by them IRL too. Michael D. Cohen, for example, just came out to TIME as transgender, and we so admire that he’s chosen to publicly embrace who he truly is.
The 43-year-old, who plays the role of Schwoz on the show, revealed to the magazine that he actually transitioned from female to male nearly twenty years ago. He told the outlet that he loved acting so much, but “didn’t want to do it as a woman.” In other words, he wanted to be able to be his 100 percent authentic self, which is admirable in so many ways. While this is something he’s spoken to his castmates about, he has chosen to stay quiet about it publicly — that is, until now.
“I was misgendered at birth,” Michael revealed. “I identify as male, and I am proud that I have had a transgender experience — a transgender journey.”
So what was it that inspired the actor to open up about his journey now, nearly two decades after his transition? Simply put, he feels a desire to stand up for the LGBTQ+ community now more than ever — especially because there’s a lot of oppression and misunderstanding around trans issues and the community as a whole.
“This crazy backlash and oppression of rights is happening right in front of me. I can’t stay silent,” he said. “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.”
With all this misunderstanding surrounding trans issues, Michael wants to break the stigma that trans people and other members of the LGBTQ+ community do not have a hidden agenda. And when it comes to celebrities who identify as such, all they really want to do is inspire young people to be themselves, and to show them that they will be loved and accepted for staying true to who they are.
“People don’t understand. They think this has to do with sexuality and it doesn’t,” Michael told TIME. “They think this has to do with pushing an agenda on kids and it doesn’t. What it does is send a message to kids that whoever they are, however they identify, that’s celebrated and valued and okay.”
We seriously could not agree more.
Love J-14? Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for fun, exclusive videos with your favorite stars.