Nicole Maines is changing television forever tonight: On the CW’s season premiere of Supergirl, she’ll portray TV’s first transgender superhero Nia Nal, a.k.a Dreamer. In an interview with the New York Times ahead of her big debut, Maines talked about how excited she is to have landed the role and what her historic casting means for trans representation.
Maines, who first rose to prominence as a plaintiff in the Maine Supreme Court case Doe v. Clenchy over transgender bathroom rights, told the Times that it’s “a phenomenal time to be a queer nerd,” likely referring to other high-profile castings, such as Ruby Rose being chosen to play a lesbian reimagining of Catwoman, also on the CW. “We have so much representation on the superhero shows!” Maines said.
She also opened up about the importance of kids meeting her character for the first time and having a trans superhero help bring more awareness to trans experiences.
“I think kids need to watch Supergirl for Nia, because there are more and more trans people coming out younger and younger,” she said. “I think it is necessary to educate folks on trans issues and to make them aware of trans identities and normalize it, because it is normal. But when you’re shielded from something and it’s actively censored, it takes a negative connotation. If people are more educated and they’re more aware of these issues and more familiar, they won’t feel so foreign.”
Maines was also asked why it’s critical to have a trans person playing a trans character, a question that has been continually brought up when non-trans actresses are chosen to portray trans people (Scarlett Johansson recently left a production after trans rights supporters called for more authentic representation.) Maines’ answer was eloquent and straightforward: “Because it’s validating.”
“When we have a trans woman playing a trans woman then you see, ‘Oh wait, this is what trans really is. This is what it looks like: a person.’ That sends a message to trans kids that they are valid in their identities, that they are allowed to exist. It also sends a message to cisgender people, to parents, that trans people are not dangerous or sexually deviant or any of these myths that have kind of been construed by conservative outlets. It’s just an identity that people live,” she said.
Maines will continue to make history as the show goes on. Supergirl airs tonight at 8/7 central.