But Maines is a pioneer of sorts: In 2009, his family filed suit against their school district for the right for their then-nine-year-old trans daughter, Nicole, to use the girl’s bathroom. They were the first family to successfully sue in a state court for such a right. But along with the lawsuit—and their subsequent advocacy against a bathroom bill proposed in the Maine legislature—came a lot of media attention.
Maines says the bathroom bill kickstarted his activism, and since then he has risen to the forefront of advocacy for families with trans kids, getting involved with GLAAD and serving on the Human Rights Campaign’s Parents for Transgender Equality National Council. He’s written numerous op-eds, writing of his decision to leave the GOP for TIME and getting involved in public speaking on trans rights with his daughter.
“When you get pushed into a corner you start to do things that you really should be doing, anyway,” he says. “It’s a release to finally say in public, ‘Yes this is my daughter, and we need to protect her, and everybody else like her.’”
For many parents of trans children, the impulse towards self-advocacy pulls the whole family into the media spotlight. And with trans people targeted by conservative politicians and radical feminists alike who seek to exclude them from public life, it’s getting harder to separate trans identity from activism. Often a trans person’s mere existence is a political act.
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