How a politically conservative middle-class family defended their transgender daughter against bigotry and won a groundbreaking legal victory affirming gender identity.
Although the state of Maine—home to the subjects of this book, the Maines family—was one of the early states to pass a law “creating domestic partnerships for same-sex couples,” the civil rights of transsexuals opened new territory. The issue that led to the lawsuit was the decision by the Orono school board to exclude the Maines’ transgender daughter, Nicole, from using the girls' bathroom after she entered fifth grade—a response to pressure by the Christian Civic League of Maine. More than five years later, the case was finally resolved at the level of Maine's Supreme Court. Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post health and science writer Nutt (Shadows Bright as Glass: The Remarkable Story of One Man's Journey from Brain Trauma to Artistic Triumph, 2011, etc.) weaves together a multilayered narrative, which begins with the private adoption of identical twin boys, Jonas and Wyatt. At age 3, the twins were sociable, lively, and healthy, but Wyatt had begun to exhibit problems with his gender identity. He told his father, “Daddy, I hate my penis,” and had begun to show an interest in girls' clothing and toys. The author chronicles the steady evolution of Wyatt's conviction that he was really a girl and the evolving dynamic this created within the family. Nutt reports on medical opinion that gender is established physiologically within the brain and is a matter of heredity. This is especially fascinating in the case of identical twins raised together, only one of whom is transgendered. What is clear in this gripping account is the strength of the emotional bond within the family as Wyatt became Nicole, a bond that deepened as the stakes increased and pressure mounted.
A timely, significant examination of the distinction between sexual affinity and sexual identity.