An article in the Boston Globe this week, “Led By the Child Who Simply Knew,” tells the story of the Maines family and their 14-year-old twins, Nicole and Jonas. Nicole was born a male named Wyatt, but has been identifying as female ever since she was old enough to grasp the concept of gender:
When Wyatt was 4, he asked his mother: “When do I get to be a girl?’’ He told his father that he hated his penis and asked when he could be rid of it. Both father and son cried. When first grade started, Wyatt carried a pink backpack and a Kim Possible lunchbox.
His parents had no idea what was going on. They had barely heard the term “transgender.’’ Baffled, they tried to deflect Wyatt’s girlish impulses by buying him action figures like his brother’s and steering him toward Cub Scouts, soccer, and baseball.
The Maines eventually accepted that Wyatt's feelings were not some passing phase, and they sought help in the Children’s Hospital Gender Management Services Clinic in Boston. Through the clinic’s groundbreaking and controversial program, Nicole has been undergoing hormone therapy since age 11, taking hormone blockers to prevent male sexual development. Next year she’ll take the first steps toward starting estrogen treatment.
I have to admit that the idea of a tween taking hormone treatments initially shocked me ─ though the blockers are reversible should a patient change their mind, and psychological testing is mandatory for the child and their family every step of the way. But thorny medical issues that are really none of my business aside, the strength of the Maines family is the most compelling part of the story: Nicole’s quiet and protective brother Jonas has had to weather bullying/moves/school transfers yet the twins remain best friends, and her parents have become extremely active both politically and within the gay and transgender community. Their level of unwavering support and acceptance is a wonder to behold (by which I mean, this article made me all misty in my eyeballs several times).
I also couldn’t help but think of the movie Ma Vie en Rose. Not the similarly-named Edith Piaf biopic, the one about a little French boy who is convinced that he’s a girl. If you’ve never seen it it's well worth a Netflixing.
Image credit: Boston Globe