About two and a half years ago, I moved into a new house in a new neighborhood here in Portland, Maine. A day or two after we’d moved in, and while we were still unpacking, a guy knocks on my door. He says his name is Wayne. He’s a new neighbor, and he’s brought us this beautiful little basket that he made out of pine needles in his yard. I think, “Well, that’s nice,” and my wife and I thank him. It was a really well-made basket, and we were both kind of shocked that this could be done by hand. .
Anyway, Wayne gets to chatting, and I think he wants to look around the house a little, because he was close with the previous owners. So, we invite him in, and I don’t know exactly what was said, but over the course of the first five minutes, we find out that Wayne is a member of the NRA and that he is or was a shooting instructor. My wife and I give each other a look that basically says, “Oh shit. Our neighbor is a Republican.”
Wayne seems like a Mainer. Like, a real Mainer, not a hipster Portland guy. To be honest, he struck us as the kind of guy that might vote for Paul LePage, you know? Here’s Wayne with his family from a few years ago.
Anyway, at some point, Wayne asks me where I am from. I say I am from Arkansas originally, and he says, “Oh. Arkansas, huh? We don’t like your laws down there.” I think that’s weirdly presumptious, but I say, “Oh, I don’t either.” It strikes me as odd, however, that the NRA guy would say that. He goes on to say that he’d just written a Letter to the Editor or something to the NYTimes about something or another in Arkansas, and he speaks with the kind of authority that leaves me a little baffled. That’s when I think, “Oh! Wayne’s a crackpot! I bet he writes a lot of letters to the NYTimes.”
At this point, my wife and I are just kind of humoring Wayne. I think he asks me what I do for a living. I say I write about movies and television, and he says, “Oh really! I recently had a meeting with ABC about doing a sitcom about my family.” And that’s when I think, “Oh shit! Wayne’s a nutter! Oh god! What have we done in moving here?”
Anyway, after a few more minutes, we say we needed to get back to unpacking, and Wayne leaves. About 20 seconds after that, a lightbulb goes off in my wife’s head. “Oh! That’s Wayne Maines!” she says. I shrug my shoulders. I have no idea who Wayne Maines is.
I know much more about him now, but mostly I know about his daughter. On Sunday night, she became television’s first trans superhero.
Her name is Nicole Maines. She’s playing Nia Nal in Supergirl (although, at the moment, she’s mostly playing a protege to Kara Danvers). Her family has a hell of a story, and it would have made an amazing ABC sitcom. In fact, it’s encapsulated in a book called Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family. It’s about a conservative family with identical twins, Jonas and Wyatt. Early on, however, Wyatt identified as a girl, and while her mother was almost immediately accepting, it took her father a while to come around. However, when he did, he really came around, testifying in front of the Maine legislature when they tried to pass a bathroom bill, and later suing the school board in a more conservative town in northern Maine that tried to deny Nicole’s access to the girls’ bathroom. It was a seven-year legal battle, the first of its kind in the nation. They won.
It’s a spectacularly remarkable story, both about Nicole and her father, and her entire family. For me, it’s another lesson in how not to judge a book by its cover. Wayne, who moved with his family to Los Angeles a few months ago, also turned out to be one of the nicest human beings on the planet. Just truly, truly good people.
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