Wayne Maines is the father of Nicole Maines, the plaintiff in a 2014 Maine Supreme Judicial Court case that found that her school violated Maine’s Human Rights Act by prohibiting her from using the schools’ student restrooms. He has written a letter to Lance Berkman, a former Houston Astros player who has spoken out against the Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, which would include giving transgender people the right to choose which bathroom they want to use. Voters will decide Nov. 3 whether to repeal the ordinance.
Dear Lance Berkman,
Father to father, I would like to take a few moments to help eliminate the fear you expressed in an ad against Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance: that your daughters will be confronted in bathrooms or locker rooms by a transgender person. I have a daughter, too: My daughter Nicole is transgender.
I’ve never played professional baseball, but just like you, my job is to protect her and her brother. Just like you, I have decided to use my voice to educate others. With this responsibility comes the opportunity to changes minds, influence decisions and impact people’s lives in a positive way. Before I had the confidence to do so, I had to watch people target my children at school, in our community and at our State House. I had to explore my own fears and adjust my dreams. I no longer dream of having two sons. Instead, I gained a beautiful daughter—a daughter who is happy and whole. I no longer worry that she might give up on life.
I am not sure what the future holds for your family, and I hope you will have no serious challenges. Not every family is so fortunate. I hope that when you use your voice again, you might understand a little more about my world so that you will have an open mind about what is like to raise a transgender child. There was a time when I had the same fears that you have. I had to watch my children suffer before I realized that transgender youth exist, and they need our help. I learned just how fragile their lives are because society fears the unknown. Transgender people are the bravest people we might ever meet. They are a special kind of hero.
Read a piece from Wayne’s daughter, Nicole Maines: I Am Proof That Bathrooms Should Be Gender-Free
You are a national sports star, and I’m sure your family must be proud of your accomplishments. I am just as proud of my family, but in a different way. Coincidently, our troubles were sometimes played out on the athletic fields. When the twins were younger, I coached baseball and soccer. I remember watching from the third baseline coaches’ box as my son Jonas slid further down the bench away from his teammates, isolating himself and loosing his confidence and love for the game because his teammates, his “friends,” were teasing him about his sister. He asked why people were so mean. It broke my heart, and his sister received much worse. No child should endure this, at school or on the baseball diamond.
I watched my children’s interest in sports fade. After Nicole was forced to use her school’s staff bathroom, we filed a lawsuit, and a year and a half later my family moved away. Our lives were changed because good people like you imagined scary scenarios that quite frankly are far from reality. There have never been any problems with transgender people in bathrooms or locker rooms in Maine, nor the nation.
My childhood sports heroes were Brooks Robinson, Jerry West, D.J., and Earl the Pearl Monroe. As I grew, my sports heroes included Roberto Clemente, Billie Jean King and now Caitlyn Jenner—people with big hearts on and off the field, people with courage that goes unmatched. Just like you, they are all highly successful athletes and role models whether they want to be or not.
I worry that fears like yours will encourage people to make decisions without truly understanding the inaccuracies and the negative impact. I worry that if the Houston law is changed, children like Nicole will continue to be targeted for no reason other than that they are perceived as different.
Transgender children across the nation are quitting sports, school clubs and school because it is too hard take the bullying, harassment and pain. Some are on suicide watch. I fear that once a child quits something, that quitting will become easier, and they might quit on life.
My kids could have quit, but they did not, because their friends and strangers came to their aid. At age 10 they taught their classmates, teachers, our community and our state that being transgender does not have to be a big deal.
A parent’s goal is to help our children maintain a high level of self-esteem, so they will have confidence and a love for learning. All we asked for was that our school treat Nicole the same as her classmates. In 2014, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled in our favor. Nicole’s high school classmates have always been accepting and supportive. There were no more opposing articles or adults voicing negative opinions or promoting generations of unfounded fears—just kids learning and growing.
We need to teach every child sliding down the other end of the bench that they are valued and loved. We need to teach their teammates that targeting others because of their differences is wrong. We need to teach their parents that all children must be cherished so they can grow and prosper. How many kids have you taught to not be afraid of the ball? To stand at the plate with confidence and concentration? I am not trying to hit a home run by writing this piece. I just want teach people to not let their fears control their minds so that every kid can have a moment at the plate.