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Transgender awareness leader speaks at UMaine

Wayne M. Maines, director of safety and environmental management at the University of Maine, gave an emotional presentation on Wednesday afternoon as part of the spring 2013 lunch series hosted by the women’s studies program. His daughter Nicole has become a symbol for transgender justice in Maine. Maines described his family’s journey and how the experience of press, bullying, parenting and the court have changed his views on transgender.

“Look at this family,” Maines said, as he displayed a photograph of his family to the audience. “It’s an all-American photo.

“The reason I’m here today is because there’s kids all over the nation that are not going to be fine,” Maines continued.

Nicole has been featured in several news stories across the state from 2007 until 2012 after parents of other students complained to administration at the Asa Adams School in Orono of Nicole using the girls’ bathroom as a transgender girl when she was in fifth grade. That’s when the bullying started, according to Maines who gave recognition to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community early in his presentation, thanking them for helping he and his family.

“The people who I wrote to were all [members of] the national LGBT organizations in the country, and I said, ‘I do not know what to do.’ They came to our aid. I would not be speaking here today if the LGBT community did not step up to the plate and help my family,” Maines said.

Maines showed a video of Nicole giving a speech in Washington, D.C. last summer. In the video, Nicole, then 14 years old, explained that she was born a boy but had always known she was a girl. In the video, Nicole appeared professional and confident, saying that everything changed.

“Anybody here married? Is marriage easy?” Maines asked after the video was finished. “Add a transgender child, add getting on the front page of the newspaper.”

The Maines family has been attached to transgender justice. Maines spoke with U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree when he and his family went to Washington, D.C. According to Maines, each of them could not believe this was happening in Orono, Maine. Maines felt confused with the Student Non-Discrimination Act — an act created to protect LGBT students from bullying and discrimination in school.

“I’m amazingly supportive of this act, but I don’t understand why we even need to have it,” Maines said. “I thought all kids already had the same rights as everybody else in school.”

Maines gave some history for his experience in the Maine courts. In 2009, his family won a Maine Human Rights Commission case. In sixth grade, after the first MHRC ruling, the school decided to again deny Nicole access to the girls’ bathroom and again the MHRC ruled in the Maines’ favor, telling the family that gender identity and gender expression is a protected class in the state of Maine. However, nothing changed, according to Maines, and they brought the case to the Maine Superior Court. On Transgender Remembrance Day, November 20th, 2012, the judge ruled against them. Currently, Maines are still fighting for transgender justice in the state’s highest court.

“We thought we had an opportunity to have the Orono school system show the state, and maybe the rest of the nation, that this can work,” Maines said.