There is an uncommon rapport between Nicole and Wayne Maines that you might not expect at first. The long-legged young woman in strappy heels and the dad-bodied man in ill-fitting khakis don’t appear to be a pair until you sense their love for each other and hear their story. The Maines spoke in the Chemeketa Auditorium on Thursday, June 8. Their talk reinforced the message of the book about their family, Becoming Nicole: the Transformation of an American Family.
Nicole was designated male at birth and started expressing a feminine identity at the age of three. Her father Wayne had very rigid expectations for how boys should behave, and he struggled to accept this family dynamic.
“I was the one who needed to transition,” Wayne told the crowd. “Nicole always knew who she was.”
Nicole as a young adult is grounded and forthright in telling her story. She’s had years to practice.
Since childhood she would introduce herself as “a boy who wants to be a girl.” She paid all the prices, such as bullying and alienation, but her spunky spirit and the support of her family pulled her through the dark times.
Now she and her father advocate for transgender individuals and their families. She urges open communication and acceptance of transgender individuals as just another flavor in the melting pot that is our culture.
The Maines note that great progress has been made. For example the appearance of transgender characters in popular entertainment is helping to reduce the stigma. They worry about slipping back though and cite the removal of federal protection for transgender individuals.
“Now that it’s left up to the states,” Nicole reported, “I could be fired or evicted in over half the country.”
“What you can do in response,” said Wayne, “is to make yourself a safe place.”