American transgender actress Nicole Maines – who fought for her rights in the courts and won – has been cast as television’s first transgender superhero.
It was announced at Comic Con in San Diego on the weekend that the 20-year-old Maines will play the role of Nia Nal, aka Dream Girl, in the fourth season of the series Supergirl.
The character is a new reporter whom Kara (Supergirl) takes under her wing, and is described as “a soulful young transgender woman with a fierce drive to protect others.”
Maines told Variety that she hopes that viewers of the show will, through her casting, see that, “We can be whoever we want, we can do whatever we want, we can be superheroes, because in many ways we are.” She added: “We’ve had trans representation in television for a while but it hasn’t been the right representation.”
Maine is indeed a hero in real life. Before becoming an actress, she had already made a significant impact on the transgender community in the US.
While still in school she was banned from using the female toilets after a fellow student complained. She and her family sued the school district and in 2014 won the case in the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. The then-teenager was awarded $75,000 and the court ordered the district to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of the gender with which they identify.
In her interview with Variety, Maines also addressed the recent controversy around actress Scarlett Johansson taking on a transgender role in the film Rub & Tug. The backlash led the Avengers star to pull out of the film and ultimately apologise to the transgender community.
“I think that cis gender actors don’t take roles out of malice, it’s just a failure to realise the context of having cisgender people play transgender characters,” Maines commented.
“With trans folks we have a lot of people accusing us of just playing dress up for whatever reasons and that’s just not true. Having trans people play trans roles shows that we are valid in our identities and we exist. And so when we have cisgender actors play trans characters, it furthers that stereotype that we are playing dress up, which is not true.”
The fourth season of Supergirl is set to debut in October.