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Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family

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The inspiring true story of a transgender girl, her identical twin brother, and an ordinary American family’s extraordinary journey to understand, nurture, and celebrate the uniqueness in us all, from the Pulitzer Prize–winning science reporter for The Washington Post

When Wayne and Kelly Maines adopted identical twin boys, they thought their lives were complete. But it wasn’t long before they noticed a marked difference between Jonas and his brother, Wyatt. Jonas preferred sports and trucks and many of the things little boys were “supposed” to like; but Wyatt liked princess dolls and dress-up and playing Little Mermaid. By the time the twins were toddlers, confusion over Wyatt’s insistence that he was female began to tear the family apart. In the years that followed, the Maineses came to question their long-held views on gender and identity, to accept and embrace Wyatt’s transition to Nicole, and to undergo an emotionally wrenching transformation of their own that would change all their lives forever.

Becoming Nicole chronicles a journey that could have destroyed a family but instead brought it closer together. It’s the story of a mother whose instincts told her that her child needed love and acceptance, not ostracism and disapproval; of a Republican, Air Force veteran father who overcame his deepest fears to become a vocal advocate for trans rights; of a loving brother who bravely stuck up for his twin sister; and of a town forced to confront its prejudices, a school compelled to rewrite its rules, and a courageous community of transgender activists determined to make their voices heard. Ultimately, Becoming Nicole is the story of an extraordinary girl who fought for the right to be herself.

Granted wide-ranging access to personal diaries, home videos, clinical journals, legal documents, medical records, and the Maineses themselves, Amy Ellis Nutt spent almost four years reporting this immersive account of an American family confronting an issue that is at the center of today’s cultural debate. Becoming Nicole will resonate with anyone who’s ever raised a child, felt at odds with society’s conventions and norms, or had to embrace life when it plays out unexpectedly. It’s a story of standing up for your beliefs and yourself—and it will inspire all of us to do the same.

279 pages, Hardcover

First published October 20, 2015

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About the author

Amy Ellis Nutt

6 books50 followers
Amy Ellis Nutt won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011 for her feature series “The Wreck of the Lady Mary,” about the 2009 sinking of a fishing boat off the New Jersey coast. She is a health and science writer at The Washington Post, the author of Shadows Bright as Glass, and the co-author of the New York Times bestseller The Teenage Brain. She was a Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University, a Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton, and an instructor of journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She lives in Washington, D.C.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,808 reviews
Profile Image for MISS Petra to you!  Say yes ma'am.
2,383 reviews33.9k followers
December 27, 2022
My views are far from politically correct woke, so if that is important to you, pass on by....

Is there an explosion of gender-confused people in the West or is it just acceptable now, and it never was before, to speak of the confusion aloud? Why does it strike me as weird that a man wants to become a woman so he can be with another woman because is he really a lesbian inside but other people understand this? I don't disbelieve any of these people, anyone who is willing to go through gender reassignment surgery must be absolutely committed. Those that hang on to the body they professed always to despise and not feel was 'theirs', I kind of wonder about. But gender reassignment surgery,well that is major pain and for most, major money too and they must be very convinced and committed if they are willing to do that.

But then there are people with body dysphoric disorder (see Do No Harm: The People Who Amputate Their Perfectly Healthy Limbs, and the Doctors Who Help Them) or apotemnophilia who want perfectly healthy limbs cut off so in a terribly disabled state they can feel whole. When you read that I am sure you thought but these people have a mental problem. Their limbs are healthy, they are whole, it's all in their heads.

Exactly.

But then if someone is more comfortable with a change of body whatever that involves what is to me to judge? Well we all do inside even if we keep our personal views to ourselves. But going back to apotemnophilia, would you do this to a child? Would you allow a child's leg to be cut off so that he could feel rid of that which he feels doesn't belong and he could feel, as an amputee, the person he is supposed to be? No of course not. You'd say get him therapy, he needs help. But it is ok to do this to a child who says they aren't the right sex? It's all right to give them hormones to stop them going into puberty and seeing what it is like to be the gender that their bodies are? And to chop off bits of their bodies in their teens, that's even worse.

That's what this book is all about. How his/her parents enable the process of gender change from such a young age I'm not sure that a child can really know. How much is the child influenced by enabling parents who want to be modern and accepting and do their best, but it isn't their best. Maybe time and waiting and seeing would be their best.

I wasn't with Nicole in the book when she insisted on being accepted as a female and using the girls-only bathroom (the alternative was the teachers, but she didn't want to do that). Whatever she is in her head, under her skirt she is a male and young girls being what they are, aren't they going to want to see, especially if they don't have brothers. And after seeing comes touching. It's not directly sexual, it's the curiosity of sex and gender of childhood. We all went through that. Perhaps that is why we do have separate bathrooms in the first place? Mind, I didn't like the horribly red neck opposition to her either. He and his son were even worse, despicable people.

Part of me understands that it is important that children who feel they are the wrong gender don't go through the horrors of puberty and an adult body. But then part of me feels, say they were away from enabling people (right or wrong) maybe they would change, they would enjoy their body and their power as teenagers and be happy in themselves. And if not then they would be making a decision to change gender in full knowledge. A bit like the Anabaptists not allowing children to be baptised because it requires knowledge and a commitment only a mature mind can make.

Gender identity is obviously a continuum. But some people really stick in my craw. Like Bruce Jenner. He has had breasts constructed and facial feminising surgery at the least, but he doesn't want the chop. He doesn't want to give up his penis and have a vagina and yet he wants to be fully identified with and treated as a woman. Is he just a Kardashian - in love with publicity and plastic surgery or does he just want the best of both worlds?

But even Caitlin Jenner I would treat with respect. Whatever you say you are, I will treat you as, no matter what thoughts are in my head. I do believe in self-definition and as a Jew and mother of black children, it is pretty appalling having definitions forced upon you.

I thought this was a very interesting book. I felt it was very much akin to 'the lady doth protest too much'. There was no opposition, it was yay go behind this little boy/girl all the way and I wondered if perhaps the child had been trapped into something that went further than they ever envisaged, long before they knew what the word 'envisaged' even meant. Will we ever know. We might. But not for years....

So, 4 stars because it was a good read even if I didn't agree with much of it.

Quite considerably rewritten 26 Dec 2022
Profile Image for Diane Yannick.
569 reviews739 followers
June 28, 2016
Becoming Diane is a never-ending process. You would think I'd have it all figured out as I close in on 70. Not so much. I have an open heart/mind and liberal beliefs. Plus I read a lot. I have a friend who is transitioning-- FTM (she taught me to use these letters signifying female to male). I have a 10 year old granddaughter who told me that she's glad that she's okay being a girl. A boy in her acting class told her he used to be a girl. She passed no judgment but thought it would make life harder. I have so much yet to understand. (I only talked to my grandmother about cooking and the Phillies.)

This book helped me to understand what transgender means on a much deeper level. Sure, it's just one story but it's such an important one. I consider it a gift that has been given to open our hearts and inform our minds. Thank you Amy Ellis Nutt, the talented, award-winning author who told the story in such an engaging manner. Thank you to the Maines family who shared their lives so openly.

Kelly and Wayne adopted twin boys then went about loving them with every fiber of their beings. This included accepting Wyatt's belief from a very early age that he was really a girl. His transition into Nicole is at the heart of this story but it's much more. It's the story of Jonas, the twin who is in the right body. It's the story of Wayne, a dad who had a hard time wrapping his mind around what was happening to his son. It's the story of Kelly, a mama bear who didn't care who she offended as long as her child was treated fairly. They relocated to find acceptance and educational opportunities, temporarily split up their family and drained their resources; yet they continued to speak out and help change transgender legislation.

I'm sure there's controversy about this theory and I do intend to read more but it makes sense to me: "Our genitals and our gender identity are not the same.
Sexual anatomy and gender identity are the products of two different processes, occurring at distinctly different times and along different neural pathways, before we are even born. Both are functions of genes as well as hormones, and while sexual anatomy and gender identity usually match, there are dozens of biological events that can affect the outcome of the latter and cause an incongruence between the two."

I will not soon forget this family. I agree with the author Honor Moore who is quoted at the end, " I believe we don't choose our stories. Our stories choose us.....And if we don't tell them, then we are somehow diminished." I hope that unspooling their story helped the Maines . I hope it's true that "the knots in their hearts were freed." They deserve only the best.
Profile Image for Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd).
332 reviews7,316 followers
September 10, 2016
*3.5/5

This book had some very valuable things to say in terms of family and finding strength in times of difficulty, but I think that the sections on the evolving legislative battle across the U.S. was the more interesting part of it. I appreciated Nicole's story a lot, and definitely feel it was told well, but I would have preferred hearing more from Nicole herself. However, the sections on worldwide views of gender, the breakdown of what being intersex means and the ways it proves that biological sex isn't binary, and the tracking of transgender inclusive anti-harassment laws across America were incredibly interesting and I really enjoyed them.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,400 reviews8,124 followers
July 10, 2017
A great book about a more traditional American family and how they come to accept and fight for their transgender daughter, Nicole. Born as Wyatt Maines, Nicole had always preferred more feminine toys and activities, in particular when compared to her twin brother, Jonas. Kelly and Wayne Maines, Nicole's parents, accepted their daughter's transition from male to female with kindness and open minds, though Wayne took more time to warm up to the idea. When Nicole's middle school discriminates against her because of her status as a trans teen, the Maines family bonds together to protect their daughter's rights in the face of hatred and mean conservatism. Amy Ellis Nutt details this family's journey with their daughter and her twin brother, their political and legal activism, and what it means to be trans today.

Becoming Nicole will serve as a splendid foray into trans issues for those who do not have much exposure to the topic. As a 22-year-old who went to college, reads a lot, and has predominately-liberal friends, none of the book's material surprised me. However, I appreciated how Nutt delved into the Maines family's background and chronicled the loving way they treated Nicole, even though they experienced challenges along the way. I suspect that for me and for others my age, we have a more flexible mindset and would think something along the lines of "well duh we should let people choose the gender and pronouns they want to identify with, of course." But, for those who have more outdated conceptions of gender, sex, gender roles, etc. this book offers a great opportunity to engage in self-education surrounding those topics. In addition to writing about the Maines family, Nutt includes some nicely-written information pertaining to the science surrounding transgender folk as well as trans history.

Overall, a solid read I would recommend you give to that one uncle who complains about political correctness and always makes problematic comments about sex and gender. While the book could have incorporated more thoughts on how trans people of color face even more injustices than white trans individuals, it still serves as a good start. Let us hope that we can all practice love, compassion, and acceptance, even in an era with a government as dark and cruel as the Trump administration.
Profile Image for Marie.
143 reviews44 followers
December 28, 2016
I consider myself quite open to LGBTQ people and the movement for greater recognition and consideration, especially in terms of legal rights. However, I went to school at a time when transgender individuals were not identifying themselves as such, in contrast to today where there are several transgender children in the school system in my town. So, in a way, I was uninformed on much of the difficulties faced by transgender individuals and this book changed that for me. It really opened my eyes to what it means to be transgender. Being transgender in today’s society is easier than it’s ever been, but that is not saying much. There are so many inherent biases built into our culture. It takes a very loving, supportive family, school and community to create a safe environment for transgender children.

This biography does an amazing job of giving an unbiased straightforward approach to the life and struggles of the Maines family who adopted identical twin boys at birth. It was clear very early on that one of the twins, Wyatt, was identifying as a girl. He wore tutus and high heels, played with barbies, and hated his penis. Wayne and Kelly Maines were very loving parents who did everything they could to honor who their child really was. It took Wayne, an avid hunter and air force veteran, longer to come around to the idea that Wyatt was really a girl, but once he did, he fully embraced it. He became a huge supporter of his daughter and advocate of trangender rights in the public.

Amy Ellis Nutt, a health and science writer at the Washington Post, skillfully offers research, statistics and other information within this biography that provides insight into the history, politics, biology and sociology regarding this complex subject.

The Maines family found tremendous support in some places. However, Nicole also had to endure the bullying and stalking behavior of a peer that led to her being banned from the girls’ bathroom in grade school. The Maines family filed a lawsuit which they eventually won in the Maine Supreme Court against the school system in Orono bringing transgender rights movement even further. This became the first lawsuit granting transgenders the legal right to use the bathroom of their perceived gender, rather than their biological gender. Maine became the second state (behind California) to have such a law in place.

This is a book that might your perspective. It is a very timely with all the recent legal changes regarding transgender rights. This book demonstrates the strength and courage of an amazing girl who had an incredible family to support her and together they helped to change the law. I would recommend this to anyone interested in the subject. I really think it is an important book for everyone to read, in order to grasp and understand transgenderism better from a historical, biological and most importantly personal point of view.

For discussion questions, please see: http://www.book-chatter.com/?p=879.
Profile Image for Leah.
549 reviews9 followers
October 1, 2015
Nicole Maines's story is simply a story about growing up and becoming who you are. The circumstances aren't simple, it's true, but author Amy Ellis Nutt writes in such a way that you feel you know and understand Nicole and her family. That Nicole knew she was a girl when she was a toddler named Wyatt doesn't seem strange; it's just that she knew who she was even when her body didn't match.

Transgender issues have come to the forefront lately, at times somewhat sensationalized in the case of celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner, but Becoming Nicole is not about a celebrity, it's about an ordinary family that anyone can relate to. It's about love, perseverance, and family. And as such, it has a chance to really reach people and spread understanding not only about what it means to be transgender but about fighting against prejudice for the right to be yourself. A beautiful book about a beautiful family.
Profile Image for Emily.
617 reviews
November 27, 2015
I enjoyed this -- it's informative, heartbreaking, and inspiring, but I kept wishing it was narrated by the teens. While I particularly appreciated the science and the perspective of the parents and their unique struggles (and victories), it was the teens' voices that were still missing for me. Hearing about them was important, hearing more from them would have been even more powerful.
Profile Image for Gia Drew.
5 reviews12 followers
November 8, 2015
Through damp eyes and under the fading November daylight, I just completed "Becoming Nicole, The Transformation of an American Family", by Amy Ellis Nutt. I was slightly hesitant to read the story because I know and have worked with several of the main characters. I also wavered because I'm trans like the title character, and I'm always afraid and often dubious of how non-trans folk write about us. But after I was given a copy of the book directly from Wayne, I thought I'd better get to it.

Early on in the story, I was troubled by the flip-flop of names and pronouns when referring to the main character, but let it go as I'm sure the author discussed this at length with her. I must say, despite the unavoidable narrative struggle of retelling a true story and the few factual missteps that I encountered, I really enjoyed book. In addition to the revelatory sections about the science of sex and gender, I was also touched by the vulnerability and resiliency of Nicole and Jonas' parents, and their determination to protect and love their children in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. I know first-hand that by sharing their story over the past few years, the Maines’ family has already saved lives and opened many hearts. I'm confident this book will do the same.
Profile Image for Angie.
212 reviews30 followers
December 13, 2015
Originally posted @ readaholiczone.blogspot.com
I loved this book. It is very enlightening and would be so helpful to the people that are full of hatred toward transgender people to help them realize how fluid gender is. Being Transgender as the book explains so well has nothing to do with a person's sexuality. There are actual medical reasons for a person that is transgender to be that way. It is written in the voice of the father but by someone outside the family so it does not have as much of an intimate feel as it should. The sacrifices this family had to endure were monumental to make Nicole be whole and happy. It is worth the read for EVERYONE!

"But the lord said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height...The lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the lord looks at the heart"
~1 Samuel 16:7 (from the book)
Profile Image for Taryn.
324 reviews293 followers
May 14, 2016
Extremely accessible introduction to gender identity issues. This heartwarming story of an ordinary family fighting to make a safer world for their transgender daughter is both engaging and informative. While the Maines family is central to the book, there is also a ton of information on the science behind gender development. This is one of the few non-fiction books that I have stayed up way too late reading!

Lesson number one: “Sexual orientation is who you go to bed with,” he told Spack. “Gender identity is who you go to bed as.”


Kelly and Wayne Maines are thrilled to start their family when they adopt, by all appearances, twin boys. Wayne can't wait to share his knowledge with his two little guys. But almost as soon as the twins are verbal, one of the them makes it clear that she identifies as a girl. As the years go on, it is obvious this is not just a phase. Becoming Nicole tells us about Nicole's journey, but it is just as much about Wayne's "transition" to acceptance, Kelly's fierce determination to support and protect her daughter, and her twin brother Jonas's struggle to find his own role in the world and in his family.

Nicole’s story had started before she was even born. So had Jonas’s—in atoms and molecules, in liquid beginnings. One DNA, two souls, and a billion possibilities.


I was especially curious about this book because of current issues in my area: an uproar over a transgender substitute teacher in my hometown and Houston's recently failed equal rights ordinance. The twin aspect was also intriguing: (1) Identical twins from the same egg, the same DNA, and eventually the same environment. (2) The twin's interaction with each other, both Nicole's frustrations that her twin is allowed to express himself in a way she can't and Jonas feeling like he is a supporting character in his own life. I was also very interested in the parents, who had two very different reactions. Wayne has a difficult time handling it all and deals by pulling away from the family. Kelly doesn't really know much about gender identity, but she throws herself into research and does the best she can for Nicole. (Jonas was never in any question. Nicole was always his sister.) The author begins the book with the family backgrounds of Wayne and Kelly and it really helps illuminate why they each react to their unexpected circumstances the way they do. Wayne comes a long way and eventually becomes Nicole's biggest champion.

Sometimes it all made Kelly and Wayne’s heads spin. But just because they didn’t understand it all didn’t make it any less true.


The book is written in a detached journalistic writing style, with the occasional literary flourish. It reads like a long magazine article. It is a fantastic mix of human interest, science, history and psychology. I learned the most with the chapters on the brain and fetal development. The complex processes that make us who we are are fascinating.

Recognizing that the sexual differentiation of a fetus’s brain happens later in pregnancy than genital differentiation and that both are complex biological processes, the fact that variations in gender identity exist should ultimately come as no surprise.


The hardest part to read was the bullying of Nicole, which began when an adult actively encouraged his grandson to intimidate her at elementary school. This eventually becomes the impetus for the discrimination lawsuit the Maines file against the school district, which is a central focus of the book. The landmark case "marked the first time a state’s highest court ruled that a transgender person has the right to use the restroom of the gender with which they identify." (TIME).

Ultimately gender identity is the result of biological processes and is a function of the interplay between sex hormones and the developing brain, and because it is a process that takes place over time, in utero, it can be influenced by any number of environmental effects...Beyond chromosomes, any kind of mutation, or change, in the balance of hormones will tip the sexual development of the fetus toward one side or the other independently of what the chromosomes “say.”


Since I have seen complaints about this on other forums, I will say that for historical clarity there is a very clear shift in the names and pronouns used, which occurs at the time of the official name change. It appears that the Maines family was extremely involved with this book and Nicole has been supporting the book heavily on Twitter, so I assume that this was okay with her.

The book ends after Nicole's gender confirmation surgery, right before she heads off to college. Nicole is extremely confident and happy, which is probably in no small part due to a loving and supportive family. Becoming Nicole is both inspiring and informative. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in knowing more about gender identity issues or is looking for a book about an ordinary family dealing with extraordinary circumstances.

For so long Wayne had tried to analyze kids, including his own child, looking for the right descriptions, the right terms, to explain it all, but here in Machias, in this dormitory suite, he finally gave up. It didn’t matter to these kids whether someone was called gay, transgender, genderqueer or whatever, so why should it matter to him?

Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,095 reviews1,131 followers
January 6, 2016
3.5 stars

This is a story of a remarkable family. Wayne and Kelly thought their lives were complete when, after years of infertility, they were able to adopt her teenage cousin’s newborn twins. Though identical, from a young age the boys were very different: Jonas was a typical boy, while Wyatt loved pink, princesses, and makeup, and insisted that he was a girl. Wyatt, of course, ultimately became Nicole, and this book follows the family’s journey – through conflict with the schools, a landmark court case, the kids’ growing up, Nicole’s transition, and Wayne’s finally coming to terms with having a transgender daughter.

It is quite an interesting story, written in a clear journalistic style; while the vast majority of Americans know someone who is LGB, only a small minority (not including myself) know someone who is transgender, and this is an excellent book for raising awareness. It is also a hopeful story, and many people will relate to it because the Maineses are such an all-American family; both parents pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, and while the family isn’t always united (Wayne takes ten or twelve years to accept that he has a daughter), they ultimately pull together and do everything they can for their kids.

My reservation about this book is that, although it’s primarily a story about the family, with a few chapters about science and history included for context, we don’t get to know them – and especially Nicole – quite as well as I expected. If this were to protect the teenagers’ privacy, I would understand: Nicole and Jonas turned 18 only two weeks before this book’s release, and the final chapters take place only months before that. But I don’t get that impression: there’s a lot of sensitive information about the twins in here (who’s contemplating self-harm, who has anger issues, etc.), and this family seems to have decided years ago to sacrifice their privacy in order to make a difference. (You can read one of many articles about them here.) Which is an impressive step – I just don’t feel Nutt fully captured the personalities involved.

Still, I am glad I read this book. It’s an inspiring story, it’s quite informative, and it’s likely to make you think about gender in ways you haven’t before. It’s notable to me that Nicole is extremely girly from a young age, and I wonder if this is typical of transgender women, and the reverse of transgender men. How many of us would have felt we were born in the wrong bodies if we’d been assigned the other gender, and how many could have gone either way? Gender is complicated and we can’t yet answer that question. At any rate, though easy and quick to read, this book raises complicated issues and develops them as well as is possible within its relatively short page count. It is certainly worth a read.
Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews95.1k followers
Read
November 3, 2015
Nicole Maines won a landmark transgender rights victory when she and her family took her Orono Maine school district to court for failing to provide her with the same access to school facilities as other female students. But behind the headlines was the personal journey of a transgender child who knew from the age of two that “I’m a boy-girl.” And that journey took place in a close knit family context, with parents who weren’t even sure what “transgender” meant at first, a father who struggled to accept it, and an identical twin brother trying to find his own way. Maines’ lawsuit was a big local story, and even though I don’t know the family personally, I was curious to go beyond the headlines. I knew the plot going in, but I didn’t know the characters, all of them imperfect but loving human beings trying to figure it out. As soon as I read the first page, I was hooked. Becoming Nicole is the very last book I read this month, but also the best. I’ll end with a beautiful passage from Nicole’s sixth grade poem, “Disequality”: “They have you sit alone, away from friends in hopes that your difference will come to an end. What do you call a girl with a head who regrets what she heard that equality said? That you deserve the same as your peers without blame? You call her Nicole. And her difference makes her whole.” — Jessica Tripler



from The Best Books We Read In October: http://bookriot.com/2015/11/02/riot-r...
Profile Image for Lynn.
295 reviews21 followers
August 19, 2016
When I saw the picture of Nicole on the cover of this book, I remembered seeing her in a documentary I watched a few years back regarding transgenders. I immediately knew it was a book I wanted to read. I don’t know any transgenders personally (that I know of) but I do know there are a couple at my daughters’ high school and that our county is one of those currently struggling to provide equal rights to those children in our school system. I am very supportive of that cause and hope they do the right thing, but wanted to read more about Nicole’s journey to get a better understanding of what these children go through and the effects it has on them and their families. This book definitely delivered.

Some people think a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is a choice….it’s not. It is not something you just change….you are born that way. It’s a matter of accepting it and adjusting life to embrace one’s true self. I believe this book can help people understand that. Maybe open some doors and windows to those living close-minded lives, to become more accepting of others that aren’t like them, that might go against their religious beliefs. Knowledge is the key – this book can provide some of that.

Whatever your beliefs, I hope you will take the time to read this book. If nothing else, it will let you know what it’s like to be a little boy that wants nothing to do with being a boy. He’s a “girl-boy” and prefers it that way until he can realize his dream of truly becoming a girl – to then dress how she wants, act how she wants, and be accepted as one of the girls. Because truly, that is what she is. The innocent minds of children can accept her as she is, it’s those darn close minded adults that get in the way.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars, not because it’s beautifully written or a great literary piece. I give it 5 stars because it is a wonderful story of love and commitment, finding ones self, supporting others, diversity, and acceptance. It’s not preachy or critical, it’s honest and educational (without feeling educational). It is truly moving.
Profile Image for Ty Stone.
201 reviews3 followers
March 6, 2017
I HATED this book. H-A-T-E-D. It succumbed to every. single. mainstream trope about transgender people that exists (before/after pictures, referring to the person by their birth name as opposed to their chosen name, a fixation on genitalia and in-depth description of surgery, focusing on The Bathroom Issue). The constant fixation on normalcy, traditional values, ugh ugh ugh. I am clearly not their target audience.

My heart goes out to the family, and I'm sorry they had to go through the transphobic and trans-ignorant shit that they did. And Nicole seems like a spunky, vibrant young woman. But COME ON. Why did this have to be written by a cis person ABOUT a trans person and their "unusual journey". And this author, by the way, falls into every cissexist and transmisogynist trap there is, referring to things as "the opposite gender" and conflating sex, gender identity, gender expression, and gender roles often. There was literally nothing new or original about this except for the twin angle, which people love because again it reinforces the "Born This Way" essentialism that eschews all ambiguity.

I seriously rage at the thought that mostly straight, cis people will read this as an introduction to trans issues.
Profile Image for Jason.
789 reviews45 followers
April 10, 2019
Well-researched and the author seems to have spent massive amounts of time with the book’s subjects to report so extensively on them.

But I couldn’t help but feel that we didn’t actually get to know Nicole very well as a person, and both her brother and her father come through more strongly in individual characterization.
Perhaps it’s because both Nicole and her mother Kelly don’t change much; both seem pretty sure about who they are and how they feel about things since near the beginning.

While Wayne has the most obvious growth/arc especially in terms of his relationship with his daughter - near the start, he’s thinking “he just didn’t want that for his son. It would be too hard his whole life, and Wayne was afraid he wouldn’t know how to be the kind of father Wyatt would want—or need.” And Jonas near the end starts to transition out of the mindset of his “biggest role...being someone else’s brother.”

I wonder when the author started writing the book, as the ending scene is just a few months before the publication, and makes total sense especially given the title.
Profile Image for Susan.
102 reviews
December 13, 2015
If you love someone who is transgender, you should read this book. If you love someone who loves someone who is transgender, you should read this book. If you align yourself with the virtues of perseverance, dignity, and compassion, you should read this book. You will be so glad you did.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,328 reviews451 followers
July 9, 2018
A marvelous introduction to transgender equality issues (and equality issues in general in public schools). The Maines family have to be thanked for their education, advocacy, and their admirable frankness. It can't be easy for anyone to fight for the rights their children deserve, or to balance such a fight against the needs of the family for privacy and "a normal childhood". Nutt shows the struggle for rights and the costs of that struggle, with no obvious efforts at myth making.

I cried pretty much every time someone chose to be kind, and every time something good happened, which was thankfully often. When my own state is being gratuitously cruel, Maine comes off as a great place.

Library copy
Profile Image for Maddison Wood.
Author 1 book11 followers
February 23, 2016
This was the first book I've ever read about someone who is transgender, and I am in awe. This was so wonderful and positive and beautiful, and I completely fell in love with the Maines family and the journey they've been through. As a member of the LGBT community myself, I hear way too many sad stories about transgender individuals. Nicole's story is so refreshing and uplifting, and I am so happy to know that people like the Maines family exist. This book makes me believe that the future is bright. I loved every word.
Profile Image for Kailyn Kausen.
65 reviews51 followers
August 9, 2017
RTC. Eye-opening. 4/5 for the journey and knowledge, 3/5 for the writing.
Profile Image for Joan.
83 reviews
October 29, 2015
Having a transgender daughter myself, I was extremely interested in reading this book. When I started it, I was afraid it was too much information on every aspect of this family's life. I worried that it would be too time consuming to read the entire story. But I didn't need to be concerned. This book was fascinating, from cover to cover. It was so well written and engaging that I basically couldn't put it down, and I finished it in just a few days. It is an excellent view of the joys and struggles each family member goes through when one family member is transgender.
Profile Image for Wendy Goldstein.
351 reviews13 followers
December 25, 2015
Interesting and enlightening but wish the story was told more from the voices of the family and not the narrator. While I was rooting for the Maineses family throughout the book, I thought the writing got a bit boring for me at times.
Profile Image for Meb.
180 reviews4 followers
November 2, 2015
Interesting story, but not an overly deep look at the situation with simplistic writing
Profile Image for Susan Cushman.
60 reviews1 follower
November 1, 2015
This is a well-written, straightforwardly told, nonfiction story of a Maine family with male twins—identical except one knows himself to be a girl. Calling herself a boy-girl from an early age, the child is accepted as female by her mother, brother, and most other children. But challenges lie ahead, the most important one being acceptance by her father. Nutt does a good job describing how the dad gradually embraces the reality of having a transgender daughter, how school officials fumble the issue of bathroom use and allow an intolerant child to stalk Nicole, and how the family ultimately wins a landmark court case against the school district. The author bolsters the family story with well-chosen information from the fields of neuroscience, psychology, medicine and legal history.

For people who don't understand what it means to be transgender, Becoming Nicole can serve as a convincing introduction. I withheld a star because the book dragged a little in the early chapters, with mundane family details that were the least interesting parts of the book.
Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 72 books2,481 followers
May 6, 2018
This book is part memoir and biography, part documentary of the social and legal journey that a young transgender girl and her family took to achieve her goals and affirm her identity. The writing was well done, readable, and clear. The difficulties and hard moments, the doubts and setbacks, and the range of reactions from people around Nicole are well presented, and set in context. It was a very interesting narrative to me, as a cis parent.

This does not have the deep and personal perspective of an autobiography, although all the members of Nicole's family are quoted extensively in it about their personal journeys. The choice was made to use a journalistic style, to be more informative on a wider stage, bringing in studies and information, court cases and community reactions. I think this choice makes this book a very good resource for people trying to understand what it means for a child to be transgender and how that fits within the context of family, peer groups, schools, and the law. Over time, Nicole's family made the choice to sacrifice their privacy in order to advocate for transgender rights. The court and school battles are painful, but we also see opinions changing and victories won.

This is about not just Nicole's journey, but also her parents' and brother's. It shows not just the times when her safety and happiness comes up against indifferent and bigoted reactions, but also the way many well-meaning people from her father on had to gradually learn and find empathy and adjust their viewpoints. The reactions of people around her and in power are sometimes teeth-grindingly callous, but there is also change and hope.

I wished we could see a bit more of the story from Nicole's point of view. Her parents have a clearer personality and voice, while she is sometimes more symbol than child. That's probably inevitable, given that she was in the subset of children who know that they are trans from a very young age, and who have both the clarity and the personality to insist on it. The story begins with her as a small child and the events described here all happened before she and her twin brother reached the age of 18. Still, just a little more personal narrative from Nicole or other transgender voices would have added to the impact of this story. In any case, a recommended read.
Profile Image for Lindsay Nixon.
Author 18 books710 followers
July 12, 2019
Excellent.

This book is both a memoir and non-fiction. It educates and brings light to transgender issues and civil rights that should be afforded to all humans. It also gives the perspective of Nicole, and her family (mainly her mother). It is heartbreaking and heartfilling.

I will never walk in their shoes but by allowing me into their thoughts, their experiences and their histories, I am better informed. Education is the anecdote to discrimination. People fear what they don’t know and react badly to that fear.

Admittedly I skipped past the first few chapters. I found the background/biography of Nicole’s parents unnecessary—I wanted to read about Nicole, and am glad I skipped a little ahead. The audible narrator is TERRIBLE but the content is so strong I was able to look past it. I hope one day Nicole, or someone else, records it again.
Profile Image for Lucy Qhuay.
1,169 reviews141 followers
January 5, 2016

'If not for me I feel like I need to do this for Wyatt. I need to do this to make up for everything that he had to put up with. I need to do this to apologize to him. I need to do this to show him that it was all worth it. I need to do this to thank him for not giving up and for giving me a chance...He always remembered that there was something to be gained from putting up with everyone else's nonsense - he was going to have the body that he always felt like he deserved and was meant to have. And that made it all - the harassment and the bad feelings and the discomfort and the awkwardness - worth it. I feel like I need to have surgery because I promised him. '

These are the words of our sweet Nicole Maines, a lovely girl who just happened to have been born in the wrong body, a male body, and whose heart-wrenching roller coaster ride of a journey deserves to be read about and known in detail.

How heartbreaking it is to be trapped inside your own self, to feel that everything conspires against you, especially your own body. To look in the mirror and think 'This is not me.', feeling nothing but horror and disgust at the sight. To be a single, beautiful mind inside a body that doesn't reflect what you are sure to be with every fibre of your being.

And on top of all this physical and psychological torment, the stares, pointed fingers, whispered words and insults. The ignorance and hatred.

Don't we all have a right to live? And is it living when one is unable, for whatever reason, to be lord and master of both mind and matter?

Why shouldn't we change what can be changed for the sake of our happiness, sanity and well-being, even if it sounds kind of drastic such as a sex change?

If there is something I can say when I get to know stories like Nicole's is that the world is such a beautiful place and what makes it so is the diversity of people in it.

We all deserve a chance to be a part of this huge brotherhood and it's up to each of us to do the necessary in order to have that opportunity.

But for you to be part of something more, you have to be whole and you can't be whole when you feel deep down in your bones you're not really you. You're posing as someone else when the real you is just waiting to be given a chance to come to existence.

To all my transgender brothers and sisters around the world, be who you truly are. Don't settle down for a shadow, like Nicole didn't. It's your life and you deserve to be happy.

And I sincerely hope you have such awesome, loving and supporting people by your side such as the Maineses, because heaven knows it's hard enough with people who care about you.

I certainly hope I can show the same level of tolerance, understanding, love, support and strength of character if ever I am in their position.
Profile Image for Betty(C).
4 reviews
May 26, 2016
Becoming Nicole:The Transformation of An American Family,by Amy Ellis Nutts, narrates the true story of the Maine’s.Nutt´s narrated the story of this American family who welcomed adopted twins to their sweet home. Both of them shared twins and were formerly borne as male, but a particular Wyatt felt more like a Nicole.

This book clarified the terms: gender identity and sexuallity, in a way that no other book or article had before.The specific quote which sums it all for me is “Lesson number one: “Sexual orientation is who you go to bed with,” he told Spack. “Gender identity is who you go to bed as.” This book is not only informative but eye awakening.

A somewhat pro but definitely con was the constant “medical-biology- informative” switch and turn, which was interesting indeed but somewhat tedious.The way Ellis Nutts persuades the reader I enjoyed much. She no filters no hold back she just said facts,how it is and how it happened, that in my opinion helps with sympathy.The reader lives for moments which empower and are strong and shocking, This kind of details cause reactions such as the chapter in which we are told about the conversation between Wayne and Nicole and how he exclaims he hates his penis.The author used the proper amounts of flashbacks that brought this story to life, and it brought out the readers feels every time.Nutt´s, I believe, accomplished (what I consider)her purposes: inform and persuade.


description


If you were not somewhat touched by this story as well as shocked or traumatized than you are either not human or have no soul. Good read, definitely recommended for anyone who dares to read it and considered themselves open minded.
Profile Image for Mothwing.
837 reviews18 followers
May 18, 2021
I suppose that this is an entry-level book, for people who have never encountered anyone trans ever before. There are a lot of things that I found off-putting, but were written in what I imagine we were meant to read as a "honest, just telling it like it is"-way. Not meanly, but especially the descriptions of Nicole's girlhood seemed really essentialist (BUT I grew up as a queer girl in the Germany of the eighties and not in the apparently more gendered US). All descriptions of how Nicole always preferred girl-coded-things like pink and dolls seemed to come from a very loving and supportive place. I don't know how much use this is to the non-femmes out there, but I realise how low the bar is and how desperately positive stories about success, triumph and acceptance are needed, and this one does that.

A lot of the thoughts shared by the parents on all the many memories our main character is now supposedly missing out on also made me roll my eyes, like a memory shared late in the book which has a male homosocial group of friends on a road trip peeing in the snow as the ultimate male bonding experience which Nicole is now excluded from. I'm not sure if this memory just fails to cross the cultural gap and I'm just unable to understand it, but none of my outdoor peeing experiences in homosocial groups ever seemed to bring me closer to my fellow urinators, but maybe I'm peeing wrong as a woman.
Profile Image for Sharman Wilson.
368 reviews17 followers
June 14, 2016
I would recommend this to anyone who wants to learn about transgender issues as they affect real people in their everyday lives. In this case, we are invited into the life of a family living in rural Maine. Wayne and Kelly have adopted a pair of identical twin boys, Wyatt and Jonas. As the boys grow, their parents become confused and concerned when, from the age of two, Wyatt consistently sees and speaks of himself as a girl. This family's fierce love for their child takes them on a long and often painful journey, learning as they go. Each parent will have to let go of the image they carry of this child in their own way and in their own time. They will sacrifice their own comfort and status and allow their lives to be completely disrupted in order to protect their transgender daughter from those who would turn her school experience into a nightmare. This family's resulting years of activism in their state has brought about positive change and given hope to those continuing the fight for transgender rights.
Profile Image for BookOfCinz.
1,376 reviews2,172 followers
February 24, 2016
Nutt took a crack (get it? lol) at a timely issue that keeps popping up in the press. I really enjoyed this autobiography because it gave a personal, scientific, cultural and social look at what being transgendered really means. Nutt struck a balance of making the book personal by giving us the story of the Maines while providing us with historial information on the struggle of being a transgender.

I really felt for the Maines and what an uphill battle they had to fight with their daughter Nicole. Yes, I loved Nicole's character but I was more captivated by the Dad and his struggle to accept his Nicole as she is. I hope there will be a follow-up book told from the Dad's perspective as that would make an interesting read.

An interesting, mind opening read.



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