New transgender superhero brings representation to television

The CW’s ‘Supergirl’ hires transgender woman to play superhero on the show

More stories from Stephanie Janssen


Photo by Glamour

Nicole Maines of Supergirl opens up about being TV’s first transgender superhero.

When the average person thinks of a superhero, they may think of a strong, individualistic cisgender man. Superheroes like Spiderman, Superman and Batman are some common ones that embody that description. Even the few female superheroes like Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Black Widow are all played by cisgender people.

Nicole Maines came onto the scene this past summer as the first transgender superhero on television. Maines, a transgender actress and advocate for transgender rights, was hired on for the fourth season of The CW’s “Supergirl” playing the role of Nia Nal, alter ego of Dreamer. Maines said she hopes her character will inspire others to include positive transgender representation in entertainment.

According to her speech at the GLAAD Media Awards, when Maines was in fifth grade the grandfather of a classmate complained about Maines using the girls’ washroom. Following that incident, she was barred from using the female bathroom and forced to use the staff bathroom. Maines and her family sued the school district, claiming the school was discriminating against her. In June 2014, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the school district violated the Human Rights Act, and prohibited the district from barring transgender students access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. Maines and her family were provided compensation of $75,000 following the discrimination lawsuit. This is how Maines became known to the world.

Her transition journey was also featured in a book called “Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family” written by Washington Post writer Amy Ellis Nutt. She was also featured in an HBO documentary called “The Trans List.”

According to Variety, an online magazine, the producers of “Supergirl” worked with DC Comics in adapting a character from the original comics, as well as with representatives from GLAAD and other consultants from the trans community.

This was a big step ahead for trans representation in the media and I am personally grateful that the creators of the show never wanted this character to be played by anyone other than a transgender person. No one other than a transgender person can truly know the experiences of transgender people.

“We want to tell on our show the whole spectrum of humanity and that everyone can be a hero,” Jessica Queller, co-showrunner of “Supergirl,” said. “This is a perfect time and a beautiful opportunity to represent this population.”

Variety did an interview with Maines to discuss the importance of this new character on the show and what it means for the LGBTQ community.

When asked what the role means to her, Maines said that she hasn’t quite grasped that yet, but she knows she wants to do the role justice for the LGBTQ community.

Maines explained to Variety that there has been trans representation in media but not the right kind. However, she explains further that creators in the media are taking steps in the right direction.

“When I was first coming out to my parents in the late ’90s, we had trans people on television portrayed by cis men as sex workers and drug addicts — which painted a very specific image,” Maines said.

Having the right images in the media, especially a big outlet like The CW, is crucial because it’s what a lot of people watch and it’s where these perceptions about certain groups in the LGBTQ community come from. So that’s why having this beautiful and strong voice in the trans community share her real-life experience through a television medium does so much for the transgender community.

“It’s very relieving and hopeful to watch creators and writers and directors and casting offices opening up to put trans people in trans roles so we can portray ourselves and we can start to disprove some of those stereotypes about us,” Maine said. “More than ever representation in the media matters. I’m just beyond thrilled to be able to do that in a super suit!”

Janssen can be reached at [email protected].