Transgender teen, family to be honored by ACLU of Maine

Posted Oct. 11, 2011, at 4:40 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 11, 2011, at 8:03 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A transgender teen and her family will be honored Oct. 27 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine with the 2011 Roger Baldwin Award.

Nicole Maines, her parents, Wayne and Kelly Maines, and the girl’s twin brother, Jonas Maines, are being given the organization’s highest honor for their efforts toward ending discrimination against transgender Mainers. Nicole and Jonas are 14.

The family, formerly of Orono, lives in southern Maine.

“The ACLU of Maine is very proud to honor [this] family for their advocacy and courage,” Shenna Bellows, executive director of the ACLU of Maine, said Tuesday in a press release. “They took enormous personal risk to advocate for an entire community.”

The family, which was profiled in a Sept. 3 article in the Bangor Daily News, became outspoken advocates for transgender rights when Nicole, who is transgender, was told by the staff at Asa Adams School in Orono that she could not use the girl’s bathroom.

The Maines family advocated on behalf of Nicole and transgender youth everywhere by taking the issue first to the Maine Human Rights Commission and then to court, according to the press release.

In addition, the family decided to speak out publicly when legislation was introduced in the Maine Legislature that would amend the Maine Human Rights Act to explicitly allow “the operator of a restroom or shower facility” to decide who can use which gender’s bathroom.

Wayne Maines testified against the bill at a public hearing before the Legislature this past spring. Nicole walked the halls of the Legislature with her father talking to legislators. She and Jonas were interviewed on Maine Public Radio in an effort to educate the Legislature and the public about the dangers of such legislation, the press release said.

“Without the [Maineses], we might have transgender discrimination on the books today,” Bellows said in announcing the award. “They were a compelling and moving face for the serious impact this legislation would have for transgender Mainers.”

Wayne Maines and his daughter will speak Oct. 21 at the Spirit of Justice dinner in Boston sponsored by the group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders. GLAD is representing the Maineses in the lawsuit the family has filed in Penobscot County Superior Court against the Orono School Department alleging that school personnel did not do enough to keep her from being bullied in school.

The ACLU of Maine award is named for Roger Baldwin, an ardent activist for social justice who helped found the American Civil Liberties Union and served as its director until 1950. Baldwin remained active in the cause of civil rights and civil liberties until his death in 1981 at the age of 97.

The award will be presented at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, at Maine Wells Conference Center at the University of Maine.

For more information, call 774-5444.

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