Transgender: You’re Part of the Story | Nicole Maines | TEDxSMCC

Transgender: You’re Part of the Story | Nicole Maines | TEDxSMCC


Translator: Robert Tucker
Reviewer: Mile Živković For as long as I can remember,
I’ve always recognized myself as a girl. I hung out with all the other girls,
I talked like the other girls, and I had eyes only for makeup,
Barbies and girls’ toys, all of which could be found
in the “pink aisle” at Toys R Us. Before my hair had grown long, I would wear my favorite
red turtleneck around my head like Ariel’s long flowing hair, and every Halloween I would tell
my parents I wanted to be a girl. A witch one year,
and a princess the next year, and, of course, another princess
the following year, but, you know, Disney. The point is I was clearly a girl, but the one thing that I couldn’t beg
my parents into getting for me was actual girlhood. Now, if you haven’t
figured it out already, I am transgender. But don’t worry, I’m not here
to raid your bathrooms and take your women. (Laughter) I’m here to tell you
what it’s like to be trans, what it’s like to struggle every day with acceptance from yourself
and those around you, and, of course, that inevitable question
of which bathroom do we put this kid in. I was born in Upstate New York with an identical twin brother
ten minutes behind me, a mother who always did her best
to make sure I was happy, and a father whose expectations for a son
I did not exactly meet. He expected that my brother and I
– Jonas, that’s his name – and before you say anything, yes, I know our names together,
Nicole and Jonas, do sound like Nick Jonas. He expected that Jonas and I were each going to get
our own baseball gloves, play catch with him and go hunting. In fairness, we did do
some of these things, I turned out to hit a better
home run than my brother, and I could do it in heels. (Laughter) But because of the expectations
that my father had, it was harder for him
to accept his child as transgender. He wasn’t prepared, and he didn’t have the information
on how to raise a transgender kid. And, of course, there was always
that question for him: What do the neighbors think? So rather than deal with me, he buried himself in hobbies and tried to ignore
the flamboyance of his son. As you can imagine, this left my mother
pretty on her own for a while when my brother and I were little. She’s an independent woman and always tries her best
to see the best in people. So, when it came to her child’s gender, she didn’t have a lot of expectations for what me and Jonas
were supposed to be like. She didn’t care
what the neighbors thought; she cared whether or not
we were safe around the neighbors. She knew that the world wasn’t always
going to be an accepting place, so she vowed that, at the very least, I was going to have a safe place
to come back to in her home. The only problem with that, though,
was that my dad at home didn’t get it. So she started trying to educate him. She left some literature
lying around for him, but when he didn’t show much interest, she did what any other
sensible spouse would do: she left the book in the bathroom. And, lo and behold, when he had run out
of other stuff to read in there, there was the book:
“She’s Not There” by Jennifer Boylan. This was the beginning
of my dad really trying to come around to me being transgender, and everyone in my family helped, including Jonas, who,
at no more than eight, walked up to my dad and said,
“Face it. You have a son and a daughter.” With my family on board, we could start trying
to make my transition public. We worked with the school up in Orono, which is where we moved
when Jonas and I were five. And we all decided
on a gradual transition. What this meant was, I wasn’t going to burst
into school one day in a full dress, pearls and heels, and let everyone process that. What it meant was, we were going to spread my transition out
over the course of elementary school. Starting with pink,
wearing my hair longer, using the single-stall girls bathroom, followed in fifth grade
by the multi-stall girls’ bathroom, wearing skirts, and finally using my real name, Nicole. What I really liked
about the gradual transition was that everyone was cooperating. And it put no strain on the other students because they were all
used into it with me. Everything was perfect, until in fifth grade. A student who had moved there
the year before, and wasn’t there
for our gradual transition, told his grandfather about me. And his grandfather was part of
a special interest Christian right group, and he didn’t think that my using
the girls’ bathroom was okay at all. So, logically, the best course of action
was to send his grandson in after me. His grandson follows me
into the girls’ bathroom one day, looks me in the face, and says, “My grandpappy says that we don’t
have to have any faggots in our school.” I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the beginning of all
of my family’s hard work coming apart. The school stopped cooperating with us. They pulled me from the girls’ bathroom, and made me up to be the one
who’d done something wrong. After a few months of isolation, I decided to start using the girls’
bathroom again of my own accord. But when the grandson caught on,
he made another stunt. And again I found myself
in the principal’s office with her giving me a look, and saying, “You knew you weren’t supposed
to go in there.” So from then on
through the end of sixth grade, I was to have a bodyguard
who was to follow me at all times, stand ten feet behind me, and make sure that I use
the isolation chamber of a bathroom just because the school was afraid that the grandfather’s group would sue. I would get up to go
to the bathroom from class, and the teacher would stop me at the door and tell me to wait
for whoever was following me that day in front of everybody. The humiliation was unimaginable. My family eventually had to leave
that school, and leave Orono, because the school could not
and would not be reasoned with. For the next two years
we had to live in hiding, and live apart, because my father had to
stay behind to keep his job. For those next two years in middle school, my parents had to warn me and Jonas
never to tell anyone who we were, or we would have to move again. So I shut down for those two years. I didn’t have any sleepovers,
I didn’t visit any friends, I was like a ghost. I went to school, and I came home. When the time for high school came, we were approached
by a local private school, at a place called Waynflete. And, from my visits there, I learned that they were progressive
and forward-thinking, and my brother and I were both accepted. And the best part was, my parents told us that at his new school
we wouldn’t have to hide anymore. So, at Waynflete
they start each school year off by sending the students on a bonding trip. They do this by dropping
the freshmen in the middle of the woods, and tell us to “get along.” It’s charming. (Laughter) We stay in yurts. (Laughter) But during this trip, I noticed something I was struggling with. I didn’t know how to tell
these kids who I was. In those two years of being so diligent
at keeping my secret, I had actually forgotten
how to come out to people. It had been so easy when I was younger. You know, I would
just walk up to somebody, and say, “My name’s Wyatt. I’m a boy
who wants to be a girl. What’s your name?” But now it was a mystery to me. So I spent that entire trip
sitting on my secret, and I just remember
how uncomfortable I was when I watched all of my new classmates get in their swimsuits
and go down to the lake together. On the bus ride home,
I sat next to a girl named Deleah, whom I’d grown particularly close to. At about halfway through the ride,
she told me that she had a secret. She told me that she was pansexual. Imagine my relief. So, you know, this was my chance. And I latched onto this kid. Like I’m serious, I grabbed her,
and I held her. And I came out to her on that bus. For the first time in two years. And she actually told me that it was cool. She asked me a couple of questions, and what she really did was give me a place to talk about myself
that I hadn’t had in years. And she gave me the confidence
to keep coming out to other kids at Waynflete as the weeks went on. And every response that I got
was “very yes,” and the fact that I was transgender
was not big news to these kids. And they made me feel like it was
the most normal thing in the world, because it is. Another strange thing happened
while I was at Waynflete: somewhere during my four years there,
and I don’t know when, I came to be okay with being trans. I could accept myself and my body. I came to feel normal,
and I didn’t even realize it. I was able to reach a point where – you know, I wasn’t exactly comfortable
with what I had down there, but it wasn’t the biggest
travesty anymore, and it was people like Leah
who gave me the space to do so. Acceptance at home is fundamental, yes, but, frankly, it’s just not enough. Trans youth, like most young people, spend the majority
of their time in school. And if you spent Monday through Friday,
from eight to three, being told that you weren’t okay,
that you were wrong, how are you supposed to think otherwise? Home, in community,
being accepting together, create a space where kids
can accept themselves. I was able to do it, because the fact that I was trans wasn’t being constantly
shoved down my throat, and I didn’t have to spend every second of every day
thinking about it, hiding it, and feeling like I was an abnormality. Trans kids, we deal with this two-
to three-year-old concept of gender; cis kids, your gender
is affirmed immediately, but trans kids don’t get that. We don’t get to focus on:
What do we want to be when we grow up? I don’t even remember. All I remember
is that I needed to be a girl, and I couldn’t move on
until that was affirmed and validated. I was trapped in gender. We’re reminded of it
on every legal form ever: passports, licenses, taxes, applications, even bathrooms are separated,
male and female. Now, there’s a lot of important messages
that I could highlight for you all, and, trust me, I could go on forever, about every little thing
that needs to be done, and the fight for trans equality, but I’ll spare you. What I want you all
to leave here today knowing, is that you can be Leah. You have the power to make
a difference in someone’s life, because you never know when a transgender person
is going to come into your life, you need to be prepared,
and you need to be ready to help them. It might just be some kid
at your grandson’s school, or it might be your daughter; either way you have to be prepared. My father didn’t think
it had anything to do with him. Guess what – it did. If you are on this Earth,
you are part of the trans story. You need to be ready to be Leah. You have the power to help someone
by imagining more than two boxes, male or female. You have the power
to create safe environments where whichever box they check
isn’t the most important part of somebody. You have the power
to educate others, and yourself. You have the power to bridge those gaps. You – have – the power. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Transgender: You’re Part of the Story | Nicole Maines | TEDxSMCC

  1. No one knows how to raise their children. My father told me there would be no queers in his house. He decided to torture me in many ways to make a "man" out of me. My mother couldn't defend me. This was 1950. There were no options. I grew up very very angry, very very secretive, very very alienated from my family, from myself, from culture etc. I am so very thankful for Nicole and her generation. However, you know from her speech that the discriminations continue and need to be changed from the school administrations, the radical jihadist christian right wingers. It's time for our culture to change and allow people to be human.

  2. I Watched this discussion a couple of times and was moved. I did purchase the book becoming Nicole and did finish reading it. One of the best books I now own. Thank you Nicole.

  3. Proud to say that Nicole grew up in the same city I did. She's such an inspiration and has given me so much hope for my future as a trans person.

  4. I came out to my little brother (10) and he looked me in the eyes and walked in his room. I started crying because thought he hates me now. But after some minutes he came back to me and gave me a paper. There was his writing (almost not readable) and there was writen "Best…." and the big sister was crossed out, "big brother". I started crying again and he huged me and said " You kind of always accted more like a brother. And you even look like one. That wasn't a big suprise."

  5. No one in their right sense wil accept a boy that thinks he is a girl.,thats absurd and idiotic,what they need is help.Medical help and Spiritual.

  6. Its heart warming to see a successful story in ones trans self-liberation experience. You are beautiful girl and thank you for sharing your story 🙂

  7. Wow a biological male roleplaying as a woman. Go play video games. these are the fruits of decadence. Why stop with gender? How bout transracial? race and genderfluid. Everyday im a different gender, person, race. Wow what a time to be alive.

  8. I wonder what the science is behind the fact that a lot of trans people have twins. Kind of interesting. Nice talk!

  9. I’m a 15 year old trans guy who dropped out of highschool because of the fact that I’m trans, I hope this doesn’t happen to more trans people.

  10. i just love how dramatic he/she sounds about the whole bathroom thing….."the isolated chamber!" referring to single teachers bathroom or whatever. seriously?!?! shouldnt you be grateful they offered you their bathroom so you dont have to use the mens room?? its a fricking bathroom! its not like they are segregating you and putting you in a different classroom or something! its not like you are gonna make new life time friendships……in a bathroom! they arnt missing out on any opportunities. trans people make bathrooms their whole lives….

  11. Being a girl doesn't mean talking, acting, or dressing feminine. It doesn't mean being interested in girly things. I understand the dysphoria but what always confuses me is that being a woman/girl has genuinely nothing to do with femininity. If you're a girl/woman that is feminine then that's cool but I get upset when trans people say they knew they were trans cause they liked playing with the opposite gender toys. That's extremely sexist and perpetuates misogynistic gender roles. Again, you can totally dress and act however you want to but femininity =/= womanhood/girlhood. Same with masculinity. I'm happy for you and that you're living the life you desire to live. I'm happy that you're able to be an advocate for change. All I wish for is that the whole gender roles thing stops. Be who you want to be… you don't have to be feminine to be a woman.

  12. RIP pink aisle in Toys R Us, you will be missed😭 but congrats to Nicole being the first trans superhero on tv!

  13. Don't be Leah, be the Christian Grandfather. Come back in 50 year Nicole to have your feedback. Reality check will surprise you.

  14. Ahh, Toys R Us… may it rest in pieces too small for anyone under 3 years of age to play with without a choking hazard.

  15. Hypocrisy today… People being scared that trans or gays will try to 'convert' straight people, but then try to 'fix' them by trying to 'convert' them to what they 'should' be.

  16. I didn't know of her untiI I watched her in the Supergirl series. She is definitely an inspiration for all of us to fight for our rights and get respect irrespective of whether we are straight or part of LGBTQ community.

  17. Nice video. Leah made it easier because she also felt different. Harder for people who can't relate and have no reference point but it is these talks that educate people so thank you!!

    I have watched video after video on YouTube and can't find anyone who I can relate to as a genderfluid/GNC person. My upbringing was non-binary as I was my parents' third "girl". My dad wanted a boy but accepted all of us. My upbringing was very tom boyish but I also got to wear dresses to parties and Sunday school and whenever I wanted to. I never had that defining moment. No one frowned upon me or made me feel different. I had male and female friends. As I grew older there was pressure to fit in so I became as girl as I could be but mostly shut down because I couldn't express the other part of me. I then learnt more about gender but was confused and felt I had to choose between the different parts of me which caused anger, frustration and more confusion which crippled me. I have learned that there are a lot of people that feel the same way and that I don't have to choose. Now embracing and expressing my gender non-conformity and fluidity 🙂

    I am grateful that my upbringing itself was so non-binary but at the same time wish I had gone through the struggle earlier in life and embraced who I was and understood myself better from an earlier age… better late than never.

    We grow through challenge.

  18. You are so lucky to have discovered yourself so young. I'm so sorry you had to deal with bigotry so young. But, you knew who you were from the beginning. I wish I were so lucky

  19. laughable problems… when i grew up it was constant injustice, humiliation, isolation and fight despite i was an ordinary little boy. nothing to be proud of, but i survived

  20. When I saw Nicole on Supergirl, I knew she looked familiar to me, I know why now!
    She really came the long way around and is such an incredible human, nobody should go through that.
    I'm so glad she gets to live her life as an happy woman now, and I hope nobody will get in her path anymore.

    I can relate to her story (as a trans teen) and to know I'm not alone helps me so much

  21. oh yeah. . the blame is always on Christians. When u over-tolerant Liberals allow more Muslims in, they won't treat u any better in return!! And I've never heard a trans person be able to describe why they are trans without listing off a bunch of sexist stereotypes about boys or girls (liking makeup, dolls, pink etc ). Because GOD FORBID A BOY CAN LIKE THOSE THINGS TOO. Girls are not defined by pink and Barbie's. And boys are not defined by rough sports or building forts.

  22. I think i'm in love. Awesome and funny talk Nicole. Also, props to your badass brother standing up to your dad like that…

  23. People forget one of the greatest quotes ever which is judge a person based on their character not there skin of gender or anything. Treat others how you would want to be treated.

  24. People act like it's: People who hate trans people (NON-ACCEPTING) vs. People who love/accept trans people (ACCEPTING). It's not limited to just these two sides though. Personally, with someone like Nicole I would use female pronouns if she wants me to, call her by the name she wants, and stand next to her to fight anyone who wants to mistreat her or anyone else. But the only thing I can't do is say she is a biological female. If someone asks, "Is she a woman?" I would have to say "No, she is a trans-woman. She was born male and is identifying/presenting as female." A lot of people on the ACCEPTING side might say, "Well ya, duh," and others on the same side will say "That's bigoted, she is a real woman," and then try to lump me in with the NON-ACCEPTING group. That's the divide I am living in and that's a disagreement even trans people have.

  25. Thank God for lea. My lea was named Renee. I'm so thankful I had her. She has a family now and lives in a different state. She was my life boat . Thanks Renee !!

  26. When I was a kid, I remember telling the kindergarten teacher I wanted to be a frog when I grew up… She kept telling me to try again, but I did not understand what she was talking about. I legitimately wanted to be a frog.
    I've achieved my goal.. "Ribbet"

  27. I think it dangerous to link the term "Christian" with the grandfather who encouraged such wrong behaviour in his grandson; doing so risks, however unintentionally, fuelling hatred and bigotry towards those people who are genuinely Christian. Also, there is some confusion sown by Nicole's statement that, "… the box a person checks, male or female, isn't the most important part of somebody"; clearly as it was critical to Nicole that she be accepted as someone who checks the box for female, which "box is checked" has to be an important part of who a person is. Otherwise, this is a speech that provides insight and provokes compassion. Brava.

  28. I was thought to be trans for many years. My gosh, she is absolutely authentic as a woman! God bless her.

  29. God bless you and keep you in loving arms. God bless Transgenders they bring a breath of fresh air into this tired old world as individuals in their own right. I am a Christian.

  30. I feel more like a boy then a girl but I’m scared to tell my grandma and my friends because my friends have a trans person in the friend group and I don’t want them to have to worry about two. So I’m not sure what to do, so I tell them and lose friends or just tell some?

  31. Nicole Maines is a beautiful, articulate, young woman. ניקול מיינס היא אישה צעירה ויפה, מנוסחת.

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