The boy twins started out in life as Wyatt and Jonas. But by age 14, they have changed into Nicole and Jonas. Nicole's transformation was made possible by her brave, loving parents and a path-breaking doctor.
Even when they were babies, Jonas was all boy, in love with Spiderman and action figures. But Wyatt liked pink tutus and beads. When he 4, he said he wanted a Barbie on his birthday cake and for Halloween he wanted to be a princess. His mother compromised with a prince costume.
And once, when Wyatt showed up in a sequin shirt and his mother’s heels, his father said:
“You don’t want to wear that.’’
But Wyatt replied,
“Yes, I do.’’
And the Boston Globe reports that Jonas actually said at one point when they were growing up,
“Dad, you might as well face it. You have a son and a daughter.’’
That early statement marked the beginning of a voyage for the whole family. It became the remaking of a family of identical twin boys into a family with one boy and one girl.
Wayne and Kelly Maines did not know if they were in fact doing the right thing for their children, especially for the boy called Wyatt, now a girl called Nicole. They spent long hours trying to figure out if he was merely expressing a softer side of his personality, or was he really what he kept saying: a girl in a boy’s body? Was he exhibiting early signs that he might be gay? And was it possible, to determine such things at such a young age?
Until recently, there has been little or no assistance for children in these predicaments. But now a groundbreaking clinic at Children’s Hospital in Boston, one of the few in the world, helps families sort through the issues, both emotional and medical, that arise from having a transgender child - one who does not identify with the gender he or she was born into.
The Children’s Hospital Gender Management Services Clinic uses hormone therapies to halt puberty in transgender children, blocking the development of secondary sexual characteristics, like a beard, or breasts, that make the adult transition to the other gender more difficult, painful, and costly.
The clinic, now called GeMS for short, was founded in 2007 by endocrinologist Norman Spack and urologist David Diamond was modeled on a Dutch program. It is the first pediatric academic program in the Western Hemisphere that evaluates and treats pubescent transgenders. There are now a handful of other pediatric centers in the United States developing similar programs, some started by former staffers at GeMS.
Doctors at this clinic and others are hoping that addressing the issue early can help people who identify with the opposite gender before they succumb to the issues transgender adults often face, including depression and homelessness.
So Wyatt's parents, had him start psychological counselling at age 9. When he was 11, the family agreed to let him start hormone therapy so that Wyatt could become the person he always identified himself as - Nicole. Wyatt's dad, Wayne Maines says he was not happy.
"I wasn't always on board. Kelly and I were not on the same page. My question was: What is this doctor doing? It scared me. I was grieving. I was losing my son."
As the years passed, Nicole went through therapy, receiving injections to stop his development as a boy, and identified himself as a girl in school and at home.
One interesting fact is that the the hormone therapy is reversible. And when she is 18, Nicole will be able to receive gender reassignment surgery. Her doctor says,
"In my experience, the patients just blossom physically and mentally when they get the hormones of the gender they affirm. "It's quite amazing. I feel good about Nicole and who she is and where she's going.''
But the change hasn't been easy on the family. Nicole's parents, along with the ACLU, filed a lawsuit against the twins' school and had to move to a new town to give Nicole a better chance to be accepted. She had now become an activist fighting for laws to allow transgender people to use what they feel is the appropriate public restroom. Dad Wayne Maines says they tried to teach their children about what life was really like.
"We sat down with our kids at the breakfast table when they were 9 and talked about fear, hate, evil and freedom of speech before sending them to school. I was very angry and sad to have to talk to our small children in this manner. We also told them to keep their heads up, be proud and take care of each other and their friends. I am very proud of them both because they have not forgotten that lesson and they continue to help others whenever it is safe to do so."
ABC News reports that Maines, who is director of safety and environmental management at the University of Maine in Orono, was very concerned for the safety of his son and daughter after news reports of this story surfaced.
A National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force teamed up on a report that paints a bleak picture of life as a transgender person in the United States. The 2011 survey, "Injustice at Every Turn," found that discrimination is pervasive in "nearly every system and institution."
The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University finds that transgender youth, in particular, are at disproportionate risk for depression, suicide, substance abuse, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.
ABC's "20/20" recently profiled homeless teens, including 13-year-old June, of Portland, Ore., who is transgender. She is facing bullying from her own brothers and says she feels like an outsider in her own home.