Becoming Nicole

by

Amy Ellis Nutt

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Becoming Nicole: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
One day at school, Jacob sits next to Jonas during lunch. Jonas resists the bait, but Kelly and Wayne immediately send more emails to the staff at the elementary school, as well as attorney Bruce Bell at the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) organization. They want everyone to know that Nicole is suffering and depressed because of Jacob’s actions.
As Nutt demonstrates later in this chapter, Nicole’s experience with discrimination under the law is hardly unique, which is why organizations like GLAD are so important in fighting the inequality that she faces.
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The staff decide that they will monitor Nicole and Jacob to avoid any “unplanned encounters” between them. Officer Andy Whitehouse will visit the school to establish a police presence, and a bathroom sign-in/sign-out procedure will be instated. Kelly and Wayne are confused; this plan is not what they were expecting. There is no commitment to addressing Jacob’s behavior; only about policing Nicole.
Again, the school doubles down on the fact that it is complicit in the Melansons’ discrimination, despite the fact that Jacob’s continued actions are clearly bullying and are deeply upsetting to Nicole. Instead, however, they simply continue to take away Nicole’s right to use the girls’ bathroom.
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A front-page headline is later published in the Bangor Daily News: “Grandfather Plans Rights Suit Over Boy Using Girls’ Bathroom.” Though the Maineses are not identified by name, they now felt targeted by people beyond the school, including the Christian Civic League of Maine. The League promotes itself as trying to bring a biblical perspective to public policy, including the idea that gender is assigned at birth by God and is evidenced in sexual anatomy. The executive director, Michael Heath, called gay people “pure evil” and advocates of gay rights “children of the devil.” He writes an op-ed in response to the first article arguing that adults and children should not be allowed to “decide the gender of biological males.”
Nutt continues to show how the discrimination against Nicole is aided by these various institutions. The Bangor Daily News headline contributes to people’s misunderstanding of Nicole’s identity. By characterizing her as a boy using the girls’ bathroom, the article completely disregards Nicole’s gender identity as a girl. And again, in publishing Michael Heath’s op-ed, the paper continues to spread misinformation. Nicole is not “deciding” her gender, as the first part of the book has made abundantly clear. She is expressing the gender that she feels herself to be innately. 
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Nicole’s situation is hardly unique. Several weeks later, Brianna Freeman is having lunch with friends in a Denny’s in Auburn, Maine, when she gets up to use the restroom. A restaurant manager tells her that because her sex at birth was male, she can only use the men’s restroom. Freeman is in the process of transitioning and presents in every way as female: she has long red hair, wears makeup and feminine clothes, and is taking female hormones. She sues the owner of the Denny’s franchise, asserting that using the men’s room would be inappropriate and unsafe for her.
Nutt zooms out to provide some context for the discrimination Nicole is facing, and how many transgender people face the same discrimination. It is particularly present in the realms of bathroom and other public facility use, as Nutt has noted in an earlier chapter. Having clarified Nicole’s experience, Nutt guides her readers to have a more sympathetic view of transgender people as a whole.
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By December, the antagonism against the Maineses has increased. Michael Heath continues to write editorials on their website excoriating the Maineses, though never by name. He writes that “ten year old boys should not even be thinking about whether they are a boy or a girl,” and closing his editorial by asking for financial contributions. Kelly and Wayne fear that the League is just beginning its fight.
Nutt also conveys how this discrimination invites the growth of more prejudice, as Heath asks for financial contributions that will presumably aid legal battles against the Maineses. This ongoing struggle is what ultimately prompts the Maineses to make drastic decisions about their family’s safety, showing just how detrimental ignorance can be when weaponized through highly public outlets like newspapers.
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