How Nicole Maines Is Paving the Way for the Next Generation of LGBTQ Youth
Maines, who started as an activist, continues her time in the spotlight as TV’s first transgender superhero on Supergirl.
Nicole Maines began her time in the spotlight as an activist: In 2014, Maines and her family were at the center of a battle over transgender children and school bathrooms, which ultimately led the state of Maine's Supreme Court to rule that transgender children are allowed to use the school bathroom designated for the gender with which they identify.
Now, she's embraced the limelight to continue her activism while also starring as TV's first transgender superhero in Supergirl. Here, her coming-out story and how she plans to help save—err, change—the world.
Her Experience Transitioning
“I started identifying as a girl when I was about 3 years old. As soon as I realized that I was not happy in my body, I went up to my parents to fix it. And it felt as natural as going up and being like, 'Hey, I'm hungry.' I was just kind of like, 'Hey, when's the girl thing happening?'
I transitioned when I was in elementary school. My mom worked with my school to help me transition slowly. We didn’t want to startle anybody. I began wearing pink, then grew my hair out. By sixth grade, I had changed my name and was living as a girl full time, and I was a lot happier.” (Related: Busy Philipps Has Some Pretty Epic Things to Say About Changing the World)
Taking a Stand
“A new family moved to town, and they didn’t think it was OK for me to use the girls’ bathroom. The school decided I had to use the teachers’ bathroom, which sent a message that I was different. Kids started bullying me. My family lost friends. We sued on the grounds of discrimination, and in 2014 the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled in our favor.
Activism was not something I thought about until Maine tried to pass a bathroom bill similar to North Carolina’s. I was asked to go to the statehouse, where I talked to politicians. We defeated the bill by a huge percentage. After that, I started speaking at schools, colleges, and community centers. I was happy, after two years of having to bottle up who I was, to be able to go up on stage and tell people, 'hey, I'm trans,' and them being okay with that.” (Related: Why Brie Larson Didn't Applaud for Casey Affleck After His Oscar Win)
Breaking Boundaries On- and Off-Screen
“It feels so good to play the first trans superhero, on Supergirl. I was scared how the character would be received, but seeing how people love her makes me so happy. I’m able to go into the living rooms of all kinds of families and give them an honest representation of a trans person. I'm able to get in and show folks, 'this is what it looks like to be trans.' Nothing spectacular, just a girl who loves Thursdays and April and nerdy boys who think too much. And they get to see that, 'Oh, she's just a person. She's just a normal girl like anybody else.' I'm very thankful to have the opportunity to have that reach. It's very satisfying.
Now, in 2019, we've had so much progress. I think the term 'trans' is a household term: Everybody has a rough idea, good or bad, of what it means to be transgender. And so now we can start showcasing actual trans characters. Showcasing them as people, and showing them as flawed, fully realized, three-dimensional individuals instead of just walking PSAs. Moving forward, I want to see more trans men represented. I want to see more than one trans or gay person in a show or in a friend group. It's not nearly as rare as some people like to think it is. Having two gay characters in a show, having three gay characters in a show, that's realistic, because we exist.
But I think that we still have a long way to go. As long as trans women are still being murdered, as long as trans women of color face disproportionately more threats of violence, the work's not done. As long as kids are still being kicked out of their homes, it's not done. As long as we have these laws on the books and school still are not enforcing them, the work isn't done.
We’ve made great strides, but we need to keep making them. There is no finish line. It is a constant effort to promote equality, inclusivity, and tolerance.” (Related: Danielle Brooks Is Becoming the Celeb Role Model She Always Wished She Had)
Shape Magazine, September 2019 issue