Former residents to appear on 'Oprah'

Twins part of show on identical twins, transgender issues

Posted: Friday, September 16, 2005

Two longtime Juneau residents will be featured on "Oprah" today, as part of a program on identical twins and transgender issues.

Brenda Chevis (formerly Brenda Bowers) and Aidan Key (Bonnie Bowers), Juneau-Douglas High School graduates in 1992, flew to Chicago in February to film the segment. Two other sets of twins will be on the program.

Key transitioned from a woman to a man in the late 1990s. He now lives in Seattle, where he works to raise awareness of issues dealing with gender and sexuality. Chevis lives in Bellingham, Wash., with her second husband and is raising two children, 13 and 5 months.

"Oprah" airs at 4 p.m. on cable channel 14. Chevis and Key will also be on Oprah's question-and-answer program, "After the Show," today on the Oxygen Network.

"I have to admit, now that the day's here, where it's coming tomorrow, I'm nervous," Chevis said. "Because it's hard to say what life is like post-Oprah. I've heard that if Oprah says, 'Hey, I like to eat fried chicken as this restaurant,' the restaurant becomes a booming success. I have this feeling that our lives will change as a result of being on the show, and my hope is that it accomplishes Aidan's goal of raising social awareness."

Chevis and Key were profiled in an April 2000 Juneau Empire article. Recently, they've been collaborating on a book about their lives and searching for a publisher.

The path to "Oprah" began almost a year ago, when "Dateline" broadcast a story on identical twins, one of whom had transitioned from female to male.

"I watched the show and I was interested, because I figured what are the odds that another set of identical twins were in the situation that we were," Chevis said.

She contacted one of the twins the next day. The twin passed on the phone number of an "Oprah" producer, who was searching for more identical twins that wanted to tell their story.

"For me, it was pretty easy," Chevis said. "I think Oprah does some great things in the world. What I appreciate is her great interest and support in presenting issues in an objective manner, in a nonjudgmental way."

"Aidan is very active in the state of Washington with raising issues of awareness of transgender people," she said. "He was more hesitant. His concern was not wanting to speak for everyone. He wanted to make sure that people knew he was saying, 'This is my experience.'"

A producer and a crew from "Oprah" flew to Seattle to film a short feature on Key and Chevis for the program. In February, the twins flew to Chicago for the taping. Both were nervous until they walked out on the stage, where they met Oprah for the first time.

"Going out to where the audience was, and going on stage and shaking Oprah's hand was very surreal," Chevis said. "Because it seemed like a dream, I wasn't even nervous. The jitters went away and I felt calm and relaxed and pretty happy."

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