After filing a discrimination lawsuit in 2009, a transgender girl in Maine finally had her court hearing by the Maine Judicial Court on June 12, 2013. Nicole Maines has publicly identified as a girl since she was in the fifth grade, when she also began using the women’s restroom.
“I am a transgender girl. I was born a boy but I’ve always known I was a girl. I changed my name and wore my first dress to school in 5th grade. I was a little worried [about]what my friends would say, but they were saying, it was about time! I was vice president of my class and happy to be my real self, then one day everything changed,” Nicole said in her speech at GLAD’s Spirit of Justice Award Dinner in 2011.
In fifth grade, Nicole had been observed by a classmate who was presumably uncomfortable with Nicole using the girls’ restroom, and told his grandfather. After a complaint to the school, Nicole was forced to use the staff restroom, making her feel even more alienated and a target of bullying.
In 2009 the family and the Human Rights Commission of Maine sued the state for sex discrimination, based on the fact that Nicole’s school in the Orono School District prohibited her from using the women’s restroom. The case was amended in 2010 and is now finally being heard.
Now fifteen, Nicole currently goes to a high school which is supportive of her identity and permits her to use the girls’ restroom, said EqualityMaine’s executive director, Betsy Smith, in an interview with 429Magazine.
However, the discrimination she faced in her elementary school cannot be swept under the rug. This is precisely why the family pursued the lawsuit: to prevent gender discrimination for future students.
The pursual of this lawsuit is meant to bring awareness to Maine’s court system.
“[It is important] that schools have some guidance and understand that students have the safest bathroom for them to use,” Smith said. She reiterated that she hopes that the courts see this as an opportunity to set a precedence to allow future transgender students to use the bathroom appropriate to their gender identity.
The fact that Nicole identified and presented fully as a girl should have been enough to allow her to use the female facilities. However, the school was using her genitals as the distinctive factor in their decision to single Nicole out from the rest of her classmates, which led to increased bullying.
The question here is, why is one student’s discomfort more important than the safety and respect of another?
Maine’s nondiscrimination act, which was passed in 2005, includes protections in regards to sex. Nicole’s school used her biological sex as the basis of discrimination, and if following the guidelines of the “equal access to public accommodations” law, then the school’s mandate should be considered discriminatory.
The law states, “The opportunity for every individual to have equal access to places of public accommodation without discrimination because of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, religion, ancestry or national origin is recognized as and declared to be a civil right.”
The Maine Human Rights Commission is supportive of Nicole’s situation, agreeing that this is a discrimination case.