When Nicole Maines landed the role of Dreamer on The CW’s popular “Supergirl” series, she made history as TV’s first transgender superhero. She made her debut in October for the show’s fourth season as journalist Nia Nal (Dreamer’s alter ego). Since then, viewers have watched as the younger reporter discovers her powers and becomes National City’s newest crime fighter.

Nicole MainesGregg DeGuire / WireImage/Getty Images

“Being able to just say that I’m a trans woman on television is revolutionary hands down,” Maines told EW in May. “Then being able to do that in a super suit, being able to do that as a superhero coming out to the city to inspire hope … it really made me think about how far we’ve come.”

Long before she was fighting crime on “Supergirl,” Maines — who, along with her character, is transgender — was fighting for LGBTQ rights. In 2014, her family was at the center of a battle over trans students using the bathrooms of their choice at school. Her case was heard, and Maine’s Supreme Court ruled that transgender students could use facilities that align with their gender identity.

Maines’ family was also the subject of the book “Becoming Nicole: The Extraordinary Transformation of an Ordinary Family.” As a young activist, Maine even gave a TedX talk about growing up transgender.

FOLLOW NBC OUT ON TWITTER, FACEBOOK & INSTAGRAM

Most little kids play dress-up to pretend they’re someone else, but Nicole Maines played dress-up so she could be herself.

“My brother Jonas and I were always pretending to be in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ or something,” said Maines, 21, who was born a boy but identified as a girl from toddlerhood. “I loved it because I could wear the kind of clothes I was truly comfortable in. People would say, ‘Oh, she’s just playing dress-up,’ but it was much more to me.”

Maines, who won a landmark court case for transgender rights in 2014, went from acting out movies and plays with her brother to theater productions at Orono Middle School. On Sunday, she will become TV’s first transgender superhero when she makes her debut on The CW Network’s family action show “Supergirl.” She’s one of only a dozen or so transgender performers currently playing transgender characters on series television. Her character, Nia Nal, is a crime-fighting reporter, also known as the superhero Dreamer. Her power is seeing into the future.

After decades of being portrayed in film and TV, largely as seamy characters, transgender men and women are hailing Maines’ role as a potential catalyst for more positive portrayals in media and more work for transgender actors. Activists say Maines’ role, and life story, are especially inspiring to transgender youths as they struggle for acceptance at school, from parents and in the world in general.

“It’s critical that we tell stories about trans youth in mainstream pop culture, and casting Nicole Maines as TV’s first trans superhero is an important step in the right direction,” said Nick Adams, director of transgender media and representation for GLAAD (formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), a group that monitors the portrayals of gay, lesbian, and transgender people in the media. “Nicole and her family have already changed the society for the better, and now more young people will learn about their fight for full equality for trans students.”

Alice Staples, a 17-year-old transgender girl from Hollis, did a school project on Maines and her court battle. She thinks that Maines’ role on “Supergirl” combined with her personal story will definitely have a positive impact on public opinion.

“It’ll help spread awareness and show trans people are not perverted, they’re normal, they can even be heroes,” said Alice, a senior at Baxter Academy for Technology and Science in Portland. “I’m still in the learning process myself, and one of the first people I turn to for answers is Nicole and her story.”

NOT A PERFECT TRANS PERSON

Maines says she can identify with her character on the show because she “looks at what’s wrong and does what she can to fix it. Nia Nal is passionate about using whatever platform she has to effect change.” So is Maines.

Born a boy and named Wyatt, Maines was not yet 3 when she told her parents she hated having a penis and asked when she’d become a girl. After several years, Maines’ parents decided to let her live as a girl and had her name legally changed to Nicole.

Her family had lived near New York’s Adirondack Mountains, in the town of Northville, until Maines was about 5 years old. Then they moved to Orono and later, to Portland, where Maines attended Waynflete School.

In 2007, Maines was in elementary school, at Asa Adams School in Orono, when she became the focus of what would be a groundbreaking lawsuit over transgender rights. The school had stopped her from using the girls’ bathroom, after a complaint from another student’s guardian. The suit made its way to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled in 2014 that her rights had been violated. It was the first time a state supreme court had affirmed a transgender person’s right to equal access to bathrooms in public places.

Maines has spent a lot of time since then working to raise awareness about the issues facing transgender people – those who identify with a gender different from the sex they were born with. Her story was detailed in the 2015 book “Becoming Nicole” by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Amy Ellis Nutt, and she was one of 11 transgender Americans profiled in the 2016 HBO documentary “The Trans List.”

When she was a freshman at Waynflete School in Portland, Maines testified before the state Legislature against a bill that would have required people to use public bathrooms that corresponded to the sex they were born with, not the gender they identify with. Her father, Wayne Maines, said he told his daughter she didn’t have to do it because it would mean telling the whole world who she is. But she did. The bill was eventually killed. This role on “Supergirl” is an extension of Maines’ activism.

“I want to portray her honestly, in a way that’s accessible,” said Maines, during a phone interview last week from Vancouver, British Columbia, where “Supergirl” is filming. “I don’t want her to be this perfect trans character. When there were fewer on TV, they had to be perfect. But I think Nia can be flawed, she can have her own struggles. She doesn’t need to be a perfect trans person, she can be a real trans person.”

TRANSGENDER CASTING IN TV AND FILMS

An estimated 1.4 million people – around 0.6 percent of U.S. adults – identify as transgender, according to a 2015 study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. While some people undergo hormone treatments and surgery so that their bodies match their gender identity, not all do. Maines underwent sex-reassignment surgery before entering college.

Maines’ role on “Supergirl” was announced less than two weeks after actress Scarlett Johansson withdrew from a planned film called “Rub & Tug,” following a backlash of protest. Johansson had been cast to play a transgender man in the upcoming film, the true story of Tex Gill, who ran a prostitution ring in the 1970s and ’80s.

Transgender activists argued that Hollywood had given plum transgender film roles to non-transgender actors for too long, denying people of work and their right to tell their own story. Several actors have won Oscars for transgender roles, including Jared Leto for playing a transgender woman in “Dallas Buyers Club” (2013) and Hilary Swank for playing a transgender man in “Boys Don’t Cry” (1999).

But while Hollywood has been slow to have a transgender actor in a big-budget film (because they feel they need a bankable star, critics say), TV has had a slow and steady increase in transgender characters in the last decade or so.

During the 2017-18 TV season, there were 13 transgender men and women as characters on series, according to GLAAD’s annual report of LGBTQ inclusion on TV. There were also four non-binary characters, meaning people who do not fully identify with either gender. The total of the two categories, 17 characters, made up about 5 percent of all characters on broadcast, cable and streaming TV series. In the 2015-16 season, there were seven transgender characters.

Shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC, “Star” on Fox and “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix all have transgender characters played by transgender actors. The show “Transparent” on Amazon stars actor Jeffrey Tambor as a transgender woman, which he is not, but several series regulars are transgender actors. Comedian Ian Harvie, a transgender man originally from Maine, has played a recurring character on “Transparent.”

He thinks Maines’ role on “Supergirl” will reach a young audience, since it’s more of a family show than some of the others listed above. Because Maines is young and has grown up at a time when transgender issues are much more publicly discussed than a decade ago, her portrayal and her activism could have a powerful effect on transgender youth.

“I’m excited about what her getting this role will do for other transgender girls who didn’t believe people like them existed,” said Harvie, who grew up in Bridgton and Topsham. “In grade school and junior high, and in general, being trans is not exactly safe or welcomed. People will see someone like them thriving and say, ‘I can have a life, people will love me.’ ”

A PASSION FOR TELLING STORIES

Maines graduated from Waynflete School in 2015 and later enrolled at the University of Maine in Orono. But she had always loved acting. Her father recalled Nicole and her brother acting out just about every movie and TV show they saw. Maines said her love of acting really took off at Orono Middle School, and she has fond memories of playing the fussy Veruca Salt in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” opposite her brother Jonas as Charlie. Her lifelong love of acting and storytelling convinced her to pursue acting full time during the last couple of years.

“I remember in high school trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life,” said Maines. “And I thought about the idea that, if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. I’ve always loved acting and watching behind-the-scenes looks at shows and films. I thought it would be incredible to be a part of that.”

She started auditioning for parts. This past spring, the producers of “Supergirl” put out a casting notice for a transgender actor to play a transgender role in the upcoming fourth season. In the casting call, producers said they were looking for a transgender woman in her 20s to play Nia Nal.

The show is based on the DC Comics character Supergirl, who escaped the doomed planet Krypton like her cousin, Superman, and was sent to Earth. As Kara Danvers, she uses her powers for good and works as a reporter at CatCo Worldwide Media.

And this season, one of the new reporters happens to also have superpowers – Nia Nal, played by Maines.

When Maines heard about the part of Nia Nal, she made a film of herself reading the part and sent it to “Supergirl.” Soon thereafter, she went to Los Angeles to act in an indie film called “Bit,” playing a transgender teenager trying to fit in with and understand a group of feminist vampires. While in Los Angeles, the producers of “Supergirl” asked to see her in person. She went and, a day later, got the part. Then, in July, the show announced Maines had been cast.

A CW news release says that Maines’ character is a reporter who “tries to use the power of the press to shine a light on the issues which threaten to tear the city apart.”

Maines said the cast of the show, which stars Melissa Benoist in the title role, have been “incredibly welcoming” and helpful during the first month or so of filming. Actress Katie McGrath, who plays Lena Luthor, asked Maines to lunch her very first day on set in Vancouver to make sure she was settling in OK.

Since getting the role on “Supergirl,” Maines has been giving interviews to magazines and TV shows, talking about the show and about growing up transgender. Immediately after the phone interview for this story Monday, she filmed a wide-ranging interview with Ellen DeGeneres for her talk show, “Ellen.”

Maines still has a little bit of a hard time believing the position she’s now in and the platform she has.

“Every day, I feel like I tricked somebody to get here, like I slipped in under the velvet rope or something,” said Maines. “I can’t believe I get to do this as my job.”

Send questions/comments to the editors.

filed under: Related Stories

‘Supergirl’: Nicole Maines shows her power as TV’s first transgender superhero

BURBANK, Calif. – Nicole Maines understands the significance of her new “Supergirl” character by imagining what someone like Nia Nal/Dreamer would have meant to her when she was a child.

“If I had had a trans superhero, someone who looks like me wearing a cape, (while) growing up, that would have changed the game. That would have been an entire new level of validation in myself to think that I can be a superhero!” says the 21-year-old trans woman, who joins the CW action series in Season 4’s opener (Sunday, 8 EDT/PDT).

Nia, who is inspired by and an ancestor of 30th Century DC Comics character Nura Nal/Dream Girl, marks TV’s first trans superhero. She’s introduced as a young reporter working for Kara Danvers/Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) at CatCo Worldwide Media. Her identity, her superpower (Dreamer is an alien “precog” who can dream the future) and her icy-blue suit will be revealed as the season progresses.

Producers were committed to adding a trans hero to the DC Comics TV universe headed by megaproducer Greg Berlanti (“Arrow,” “The Flash”), says executive producer Robert Rovner.

Nia’s identity as a trans woman is part of her origin story, adds executive producer Jessica Queller, and is connected to “why and how she’s inherited these powers.” As with Kara in Season 1, she will have to come to terms with her power.

Nia’s role as a journalist is important, too, as “Supergirl” is “hoping to portray the press as heroic,” Queller says.

After spending a significant part of Season 3 off-world, Kara/Supergirl & Co. are back in National City for the new season. Nia shows ambition and some youthful awkwardness, reminding Kara of an earlier version of herself.

The new character also meshes well with the upcoming season’s focus on a growing campaign against aliens, including superheroes, that’s led by a charismatic leader, Agent Liberty. The allegory parallels timely discussions about immigration and acceptance of people regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Maines says Nia’s experience as an alien, like Supergirl, and a trans woman give her perspective on the treatment of marginalized communities. “It’s very relevant to today.”

In casting Nia, “we were looking for somebody who embodied the innocence, strength and intelligence of a young Kara, which was Nicole, who also happened to be a real-life superhero in our eyes,” Rovner says, referring to Maines’ activism.

Long before being cast in “Supergirl,” Maines was in the news as a winning litigant in a 2014 Maine Supreme Court case that gave people the right to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify, a big advance for transgender rights.

During her childhood, Maines and her family faced extreme public scrutiny and harassment, leading parents Kelly and Wayne to move Nicole and her twin brother Jonas to a different school. Their story became the basis for Amy Ellis Nutt’s 2015 book, “Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family.”

Maines, who later enrolled at the University of Maine, became an accomplished public speaker, giving an impressive TED Talk while just a teen and speaking at schools about her family’s experience, including her father’s slow but loving acceptance.

“The TED Talk and ‘Becoming Nicole’ and being a public speaker has given me some notoriety to the degree that I was already prepared with how to interact with social media (and) negative comments,” says Maines, who was featured in the 2016 HBO documentary, “The Trans List.”

But attention “exploded” after she was introduced in July at San Diego Comic-Con. Although there’s been some negative reaction to her “Supergirl” casting, it’s mostly been positive. .

As for disapproving comments, “It’s the same that trans women, trans men face on social media every day, folks who don’t agree or don’t believe in this,” she says. But there’s been “an outpouring of love and support from fans of the show and from folks who don’t watch the show (and) are so excited to have someone who looks like them, not just on television, but wearing a cape (on TV). It’s so validating and empowering.”

Maines, who played a trans teen in an episode of USA’s “Royal Pains” and in “Bit,” an upcoming horror film about intersectional feminist vampires, says it’s important for trans actors to play trans characters.

When cisgender men play transgender women, it creates an image of “men wearing dresses” that can affect people’s perceptions. “When we have trans actors play trans characters, people can look onscreen and say, ‘OK, this is what trans is.’”

Opportunities for trans actors are growing, in Amazon’s “Transparent,” Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” and FX’s “Pose.” But they’re still rare, and firsts are significant. However, that identity shouldn’t be all-defining for the character, and it isn’t for Nia.

“What’s amazing with Nia is we have a trans woman who has personality and growth outside her trans-ness. … She’s a reporter, a superhero, a trans woman. She has a personal life,” Maines says, adding gleefully: “Oh, Nia! How do you do it all?”

— — Nicole and Jonas Maines aren’t your average siblings. Though they may not look like it, these 18-year-olds are actually identical twins.

While they share the same genes, their genders are different. Nicole recently made the brave decision to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

“Being a girl just felt right,” Nicole continued. “It felt like that’s what I was supposed to be, and I’ve never looked back. I’ve never felt like I made the wrong decision. I’ve never felt like I’m doing the wrong thing with my life. I just knew this is exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.”

Like her brother Jonas, Nicole was born as a boy and was named Wyatt.

“I knew that I was trans when I was 3 years old,” she said. “Well, I didn’t know trans because I didn’t know there was a word for it, but I just knew that in my head and my heart that I was supposed to be a girl.”

For her parents Kelly and Wayne Maines, it was puzzling at first.

“I knew that Nicole was different. I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know that she was transgender at 3, I just knew she wasn’t like the other twin,” said Kelly Maines. “She played all the girl roles, she always wanted to dress as a girl character, so I knew there was something different about her.”

“I just made it a point of making sure that I could do whatever I could do for her to get her where she needed to be and also to know she always had a safe place to be with me,” she added.

Nicole’s father Wayne struggled with the idea of letting go of one of his sons.

“When the twins were born I had these dreams,” he said. “I already knew what deer rifles I was going to buy, and by the time they were 2 years old they were going to have them. Football, basketball, everything we thought about for me was ‘the boys.'”

He tried ignoring Wyatt’s desire to be different, but over time he came to realize that this is what Nicole wanted.

“When we let her go out in a dress, and this kid beamed and was happier,” Wayne Maines said. “Then I started to think about it, ‘man, I gotta change who I am.’ … I had to dig deep into my soul and say, ‘Hey what are you afraid of?’ …You gotta dig deep and ask yourself, ‘How much do you love your kid?’ and do the right thing.”

So Kelly and Wayne supported Wyatt in having long hair and wearing girl’s clothing, and Nicole wasn’t shy about telling people who she was. When she was in first grade, Nicole said she would go up to someone and say she was “a boy who wants to be a girl.”

“I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it,” Nicole said. “And of course, kids’ parents were like freaking out and kids were like ‘Oh cool, I like trucks.’ … it was just a thing that came with my introduction.”

By the time she was in fourth grade, Nicole began to think about changing her name from Wyatt to something new she felt would be more of “a girl’s name.” She started looking at TV characters that resonated with her and settled on a character’s name from one of her favorites.

“There was this character on a show called Zoey 101,” she said. “It had Jamie Lynn Spears, I think her name is and like one of her classmates’ name was Nicole. And she was just like really quirky and like fun. And I was like, ‘oh she’s a lot like me. I’m a Nicole.'”

By age 8, “Wyatt” was no longer, but by middle school, Nicole said she was beginning to feel ostracized by her classmates.

Jonas was fiercely supportive of his sister during this time.

“When I was a kid my dad told me to look after her and to protect her and do what you have to do,” he said. “So that was a huge responsibility that I had to carry around for a lot of years.”

Then there was the school bathroom issue. For most of her time in elementary school, Nicole used the girl’s restroom without issue, until a grandfather of one of her classmates complained to school officials.

The Maines family filed and won a discrimination lawsuit against their school district in Maine, scoring a big human rights victory for trans kids. The case changed Maine state law.

“It really did just start out with me calling the Maine human rights commission and going, ‘Hey – this is so not right’ and I never realized that it would ever spiral to where it did,” Kelly Maines said.

Since the lawsuit, Nicole has been in the media spotlight and her family has now become activists for the transgender cause. They are the subject of a new book called, “Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family,” to be released on Oct. 20.

It’s been a pivotal year for the transgender movement, in part because of Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out story. Her speech at the Espy Awards, in particular when Jenner talked about trans youth, struck a chord with Nicole.

“I’m like, absolutely, because trans youth shouldn’t have to take it, they should be able to go to school,” Nicole said. “Trans kids, just kids in general, are not to be looked upon by society through a magnifying glass.”

Nicole is part of a new generation of out and proud trans-kids, like Jazz Jennings, the star of the TLC show, “I Am Jazz.”

Despite increased social acceptance, the transgender movement isn’t without controversy, especially when it comes to teenagers undergoing the life-altering sex reassignment surgery.

Just a few days before her scheduled procedure, Nicole talked about her decision to go through with the surgery and called it her “light at the end of the tunnel.”

“This is always what I needed,” she said. “Over almost 18 years of life I’ve never thought back of you know what no I don’t want surgery… I just felt like this is that final piece of the puzzle where my body is finally going to match what’s happening in my head and my heart.”

Now Nicole and her brother Jonas are in the middle of their first semester of college. It will be the first time the twins will be on their own. These days, the most pressing thing on Nicole’s mind is passing midterms.

“I’m happy,” she said. “I like it. I mean I got my hair done today, I got my make-up on. I’m happy! I mean, I’m Nicole. I’m incredibly happy.”

‘Becoming Nicole’ Recounts One Family’s Acceptance Of A Transgender Child

Transgender student Nicole Maines (accompanied by her father, Wayne, and her twin brother, Jonas) speaks to reporters after winning on appeal a discrimination lawsuit against her school district. In 2014, Glamour magazine named Maines one of its 50 inspiring women of the year. Robert F. Bukaty/AP hide caption

toggle caption Robert F. Bukaty/AP

Transgender student Nicole Maines (accompanied by her father, Wayne, and her twin brother, Jonas) speaks to reporters after winning on appeal a discrimination lawsuit against her school district. In 2014, Glamour magazine named Maines one of its 50 inspiring women of the year.

Robert F. Bukaty/AP

When Wayne and Kelly Maines adopted identical twin boys, Jonas and Wyatt, at birth in 1997, they were thrilled at the idea of having two sons. For a while, it was virtually impossible to tell the boys apart. But as they grew older, one child, Wyatt, started insisting that he was a girl.

Over the course of several years, Kelly and Wayne began to accept that one of the twins was transgender. They had Wyatt’s name changed to Nicole and began buying her dolls and girls’ clothes, which she had been asking for.

Wayne acknowledges that it wasn’t always easy. He worried about what the neighbors would think, but those concerns faded when Nicole began being bullied and harassed. “When people start coming after your kid, you get your head right: ‘This is my baby. Don’t mess with my kids.’ That’s probably when I turned a corner,” he says.

The Maineses went on to file a discrimination lawsuit against Nicole’s school district, which they won on appeal last year. This year, Nicole and her twin brother, Jonas, graduated from high school and Nicole had gender reassignment surgery.

Together with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Amy Ellis Nutt, Wayne and Kelly Maines tell their family’s story in a new book, Becoming Nicole. Nutt joined Kelly and Wayne Maines in the studio to discuss the book and how biology affects gender identity.

Interview Highlights

On Wayne’s initial reaction to Nicole insisting she wanted to be a girl

Wayne Maines: I tried to influence it in other ways, you know, you meet Nicole, even at that age, extremely strong personality. If I would say to her, “You don’t want to be a girl,” she’d say, “Yes I do.” I’m a 40-year-old guy having this debate with this little kid and I’m losing, you know? It was hard. … You have this vision of what you think the American dream is and your family, and it’s not what it is. I’ve learned more from my two children and Kelly than I ever thought possible. I learned that everybody needs to be who they need to be, and I learned that people, little children, know who they are at that age.

Becoming Nicole

The Transformation of an American Family

by Amy Ellis Nutt

Hardcover, 279 pages |

purchase close overlay

Buy Featured Book

Title Becoming Nicole Subtitle The Transformation of an American Family Author Amy Ellis Nutt

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

  • Amazon
  • Independent Booksellers

On Kelly taking the lead on accepting Nicole

Kelly Maines: Back then … the popular way of proceeding was gender neutral, try to keep her gender neutral. But Nicole did not like that at all. It took a while. I think it was about when she was 7 … we had a birthday party for her and Jonas and we gave her all the boys’ toys … and she was very unhappy and I looked at Wayne and I said, “That’s it. I’m not doing this anymore. It’s not working. She’s angry. She’s doubting herself. This is not healthy. She has to have a safe place here.” So we took the toys back and we got her some mermaid things, and she was very, very happy with that and about then that’s when I was like, “This is crazy. I just gotta do what’s gonna make this kid the best person she can be.”…

I would be in those aisles in Target with girls’ clothes like, “I wish I could get this for her, for Wyatt. I know Wyatt would love this. I can’t. I can’t.” Or sometimes I would and it would be like, “These are your home clothes. These are your school clothes.” It just got so much better when we finally said, “Enough. You can like it or leave it: This kid is who they are.”

For a parent, too, when you do finally make that turn, the biggest fears are she’s gonna get hurt. Somebody’s not gonna like it. And when we ended up having our problems the anger was the thing that was so shocking.

On the DSM changing gender identity disorder to gender identity dysphoria in 2013, and the significance of that change

Nutt: I think the most important thing is that it changes the view of gender identity, or of an anomalous gender identity, as being somehow abnormal. It’s not a disorder. The problem for kids, for transgender people, isn’t within, it’s without. In other words, their trouble with their gender identity comes essentially because others view them one way when they view themselves another. Nicole, for instance, even as Wyatt, always described herself as a “boy-girl,” or a “girl-boy.” She was completely confident in who she was. She knew that she was a girl, but she also knew that people referred to her as a boy and that she had a boy anatomy. So this was a child who was never unsure of who she was, but she knew there was a problem with how other people and the rest of the world viewed her. And that’s where the dysphoria comes in — when there’s a mismatch between what we expect and what, perhaps, the sexual anatomy says, and what the brain is telling us.

On how gender anatomy, sexuality and identity are set prenatally

Nutt: In the first six weeks our gender anatomy, our sexual anatomy, is set. Essentially we all begin in life asexual and then certain genes and hormones kick in, and our sexual anatomy is determined to either have male genitalia and male reproductive organs, or female. However, scientists are learning that while that happens at six weeks, it’s not until six months that the brain masculinizes or feminizes. That is, that the hormones in the brain determine is this the brain of a girl or is this the brain of a boy? Sexual orientation, they’re also discovering, is a third process, but what they’re really focusing on is trying to understand that they’re not all congruent.

Normally, prenatally we develop along the same lines, that our sexual anatomy matches up with our gender identity, but what they’ve discovered is that there’s a space in between. There are weeks in between in prenatal development when many things can happen. We know that many things can influence the environment of the womb, and the environment of the womb influences the level of hormones and the chemicals that go into the development of a fetus. And so there are many things that can happen between the time that a fetus’ sexual identity is set and their gender identity is set.

On how gender identity is in the brain

Nutt: Identical twins obviously have the exact same DNA. What they don’t have is the exact same epigenome, which means not all of the genetic switches are turned off and on in identical ways. … The explanation for that, scientists give, is that in the womb identical twins have separate amniotic sac and umbilical cord and therefore they get various and different amounts of hormones and nourishment. And they’ve discovered that even your placement in the womb — where you are located in the womb — for identical twins can affect the ratio of hormones and nutrients that you get, and, therefore, it is a different environment. The environment affects who we are, our gender identity, and the environment of the womb, even the top of the womb, the lower part of the womb, can affect how the brain is set, even in identical twins.

On the fluidity of gender

Nutt: Gender isn’t something that’s necessarily fixed, that it’s dynamic, that it’s fluid. … There are very few people that are 100 percent totally masculine or 100 percent totally feminine. We have traits of both, and so, ordinarily, it’s something in between. I think, people are feeling more comfortable now saying, “Yeah, I’ve never felt 100 percent masculine, but I’m mostly masculine.” And, I think, it has become a more comfortable society to say that in. But I think it’s also because the science is now supporting that.

Nicole maines as a child

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *