Ariel’s story in Disney’s movie The Little Mermaid symbolizes Wyatt’s own struggle with his gender identity. When Wyatt is young, he becomes obsessed with watching The Little Mermaid, and Nutt makes the parallels between the character and Wyatt himself. Like Wyatt, Ariel “lives in one world but yearns to be in another.” She has the top half of a human female, but the bottom half doesn’t make sense to her. Wyatt, too, feels like a female and outwardly presents as such throughout most of his life, so his biologically male anatomy is confusing to him even from an early age. He understands himself as a girl, but the rest of the world doesn’t see him that way.
The parallel between Wyatt (who eventually takes on the name Nicole) and Ariel only grows stronger by the end of the book. When Nicole is finally able to have her sex reassignment surgery, a friend of hers texts her that she’s “like Ariel.” Like Ariel, who finishes her story where she belongs—with human legs and joining her prince on land—so, too, does Nicole transform herself and have a sense of true belonging inside her body.
The Little Mermaid Quotes in Becoming Nicole
Part human, part fish, Ariel, with her shiny green scales, is decidedly a mermaid below the waist. But above it, with her long hair and luscious red lips, she is all girl.
Ariel’s problem, however, is that she lives in one world, under the sea, even as she yearns to be in another, on land. As she gazes at her image in a mirror beneath the waves, she feels comforted by the top half of her reflection. It’s the bottom that doesn’t make sense.
Her good friend Lexie texted, “HOW U FEELIN?” And then, “YOU’RE LIKE ARIEL,” the little mermaid who emerged from the sea in the form she’d always longed for.
Nicole’s transition was now complete. She would still need to take female hormones the rest of her life, and she would never be able to have her own children, but she knew she wanted to marry a man some day and adopt.