C.J. Janovy: Roger Marshall’s obsession with trans kids in sports is unhealthy for everyone (Column)

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Note: The Lawrence Times runs opinion columns written by community members with varying perspectives on local issues. Occasionally, we’ll also pick up columns from other nearby news outlets. These pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

Originally published by Kansas Reflector on March 10, 2021:

I was wrong about Roger Marshall, and I need to write a correction.

Last summer, back before Marshall was a U.S. senator from Kansas, he was battling our previously most embarrassing national political figure, Kris Kobach, in the Republican primary. In June, Kobach put out a bizarre, rambling campaign video about how transgender athletes were a threat to girls’ sports.

Marshall, along with a third candidate, the former plumber Bob Hamilton, all piled on against trans girls — but not with nearly Kobach’s level of enthusiasm. This made Marshall seem reasonable.

Marshall had also been to medical school, I wrote, “so presumably he understands that gender is more complex than anatomy — even if he’d never admit that publicly. He could have at least refused to join Kobach in punching down.”

I was wrong.

Marshall picked up Kobach’s baton and ran with it hard and fast, choosing to build his (post-insurrection) national profile by pushing an anti-trans sports bill at the federal level, trying to get it inserted into last weekend’s COVID-19 stimulus bill and publishing an op-ed on the Fox News website.

This amount of focus seems unhealthy.

What’s going on with Roger Marshall? I knew the perfect person to ask.

Jay Pryor is a Lawrence-based executive life coach.

“So this area for Roger seems to be pretty intense, a little out of balance, and for some reason he’s obsessed,” Pryor says.

Pryor, 54, identifies as non-binary. Doc Marshall, along with anyone who doesn’t understand the complexity of gender, could learn a lot from an open-minded listen to the story of Pryor’s journey. It makes Pryor a compelling keynote speaker.

Born a girl in the southeast Kansas town of Scammon (pop. 574) in the mid-1960s, Pryor left in 1999 and lived on the East Coast but came back, as many Kansas expats do, to care for an aging parent. It was 2007, and by then Pryor presented as masculine, with a deeper voice and full beard.

All of which makes Pryor uniquely experienced to coach women, primarily executives.

“Having been a woman in business before I became a man in business,” says Pryor, “I have a very keen sense of what it is to walk through the world as both, and/or.”

As a woman, Pryor was always getting second-guessed. After answering questions in meetings, people sought out second opinions from nearby men. But the whole world reacted differently when people perceived Pryor as a man.

“Once I had a beard, everywhere I went I was an expert,” Pryor says. “Women jumped up to serve me. The saddest thing is when I walk up to a group of women, they stop talking among themselves and focus on me.”

Which gets us to Marshall, who clearly wants the focus on him.

“If I put my coaching hat on rather than my transgender human hat on, either way it’s like, why are you obsessed with me?” Pryor says.

If Marshall were one of their clients, Pryor says, they’d begin with an inquiry.

“We put on our Sherlock Holmes hat and start to look at ourselves,” Pryor says. “That level of focus is so intense that it creates resistance. He has a hold of this trans issue very tightly, like he’s wrestling a bear.”

Pryor doesn’t know Marshall, but does recognize patterns.

“When you’re filled with that much focus on one thing, we’re not happy people,” Pryor explains. “The brain starts to get in a loop, and that raises cortisol levels, so he’s got some stress going on for sure. People who are happy aren’t obsessed and fighting at that resistance level. His energy and where that’s going — that’s not a happy person.”

And while Marshall might benefit from some coaching from Pryor, it’s unlikely the doctor will seek such treatment.

“When people hire me, they’re hiring me to get to work,” Pryor says. “You can’t coach people who are not coachable.”

People have to reach some kind of bottom before they’re ready to do any kind of personal development, Pryor notes.

And right now, Marshall’s doing victory laps with a baseball bat, bludgeoning the innocent bystanders in the country’s latest culture war.

Unfortunately for the trans kids he’s using to feed his personal ambitions, Marshall seems nowhere near rock bottom.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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