Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide

Pages:  279

Published:  October 20, 2015

Awards:  Stonewall Honor Book for Non-Fiction (2016);  One of New York Times 100 Notable books of 2015;  One of Amazon’s 2015 Best books of the Year: Top 100

Format:  E-book

 

 

I consider myself quite open to LGBT people and the movement for greater recognition and consideration, especially in terms of legal rights.  However, I also went to school at a time when transgender individuals were not coming out as such.  So, in a way, I was uninformed on much of the difficulties faced by transgender individuals and this book changed that for me.  It really opened my eyes to what it means to be transgender.  Being transgender in today’s society is easier than it’s ever been, but that is not saying much.  There are so many inherent biases built into our culture, that it takes a very loving, supportive family, school and community to create a safe environment for transgender children.

This biography does an amazing job of giving an unbiased straightforward approach to the life and struggles of the Maines’ who adopted identical twin boys at birth.  It was clear very early on that one of the twins, Wyatt, was identifying as a girl.  He wore tutus and high heels, played with barbies, and hated his penis.   Wayne and Kelly Maines were very loving parents who did everything they could to honor who their child really was. It took Wayne, an avid hunter and air force veteran, longer to come around to the idea that Wyatt was really a girl, but once he did, he fully embraced it. He became a huge supporter of his daughter and advocate of trangender rights in the public.

Amy Ellis Nutt, a health and science writer at the Washington Post, skillfully offers research, statistics and other information within this biography that provides insight into the history, politics, biology and sociology regarding this complex subject.

The Maines family found tremendous support in some places.  However, Nicole also had to endure the bullying and stalking behavior of a peer that led to her being banned from the girls’ bathroom in grade school.  The Maines family filed a lawsuit which they eventually won in the Maine Supreme Court against the school system in Orono bringing transgender rights movement even further.  This became the first lawsuit granting transgenders the legal right to use the bathroom of their perceived gender, rather than their biological gender.  Maine became the second state (behind California) to have such a law in place.

This is a book that might your perspective. It is a very timely with all the recent legal changes regarding transgender rights.  This book demonstrates the strength an courage of an amazing girl who had an incredible family to support her and together they helped to change the law.  I would recommend this to anyone interested in the subject.  I really think it is an important book for everyone to read, in order to grasp and understand transgenderism better from a historical, biological and most importantly personal point of view. 

 

 

 

Nicole and Jonas Maines

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nicole Maines

 

 

 

The Maines Family

 

 

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Discuss Wayne and Kelly’s different approaches to Wyatt’s gender dysphoria.  How does this change with time?
  2. Discuss Jonas’ role in the Maines family.  How does this affect him?
  3. Was your viewpoint regarding transgenders changed or affected by this book?  How?
  4. How do you feel about transgenders transitioning prior to puberty?  Does this seem young to make such a decision or crucial to prevent undergoing puberty and developing as the wrong gender?
  5. What do you forsee as the future for transgenders?
  6. Discuss the bullying that Nicole faced from Jacob?  Why did bullying in this case occur?  Discuss the groups that speak out against transgenders and the reasons they do so.

 

Boston Globe article that made Nicole’s transgender life public in 2011

NPR’s StoryCorp Piece on Nicole Maines

New York Times Review by Jennifer Senior

Review in New York Times by Lisa Miller

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