Talk about vindication: Nicole Maines, the transgender student who seven years ago stood up to the mindless bullies and the spineless bureaucrats in her central Maine school district, can now add Glamour magazine to her long list of not-so-secret admirers.

This week, Glamour released its annual list of “Hometown Heroes: 50 Phenomenal Women of the Year Who Are Making a Difference.” And there, proudly representing Maine, is the 17-year-old whose landmark court victory this year leveled the playing field for transgender kids who still need all the support they can get.

That Nicole, now a high school senior in Portland, would receive any kind of national recognition is a testament to one girl’s courage, strength and refusal to back down in the face of often withering condemnation and criticism.

That the honor should come from a leading women’s fashion magazine, well, that’s just icing on the cake.

“She’s got a big, happy smile,” Wayne Maines, Nicole’s father, said in an interview Thursday. “These kinds of things really do help her realize that good things happen if you work hard.”

And oh, how hard the Maines family has worked.

Born a male along with her twin brother, Jonas, Nicole began identifying as a girl at the age of 2. But it wasn’t until third grade that her parents, Wayne and Kelly Maines, first informed officials at Regional School Unit 26 in Orono that she was transgender.

By fourth grade, Nicole was presenting as a girl in public. By fifth grade, having been formally diagnosed with “gender dysphoria” – meaning her gender identity differed from her sex at birth – she was allowed by the school district to use the girls’ bathroom at school.

That’s when the trouble started. A boy at the school, egged on by his grandfather, turned Nicole’s school day into a living hell – taunting her mercilessly in the hallways and insisting that if she could use the girls’ room, so could he.

The next year, as Nicole prepared to enter Orono Middle School, the district caved to growing public hysteria and ordered her to use the staff bathroom.

The Maineses filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission, charging that the district’s decision, while aimed at keeping the peace inside the school, violated the Maine Human Rights Act. The commission agreed.

The Maineses then filed a lawsuit against the school district, but lost.

Undaunted, Nicole took her case to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. There, last January, she finally found justice.

“We appreciate the difficulty of the situation in which the school found itself,” Justice Warren Silver wrote for the 5-1 majority. “Nevertheless, we must assess the school’s obligations pursuant to the Legislature’s amendments to the (Maine Human Rights Act) without regard to the public’s potential discomfort with the result.”

Since the landmark decision – the first time a state supreme court affirmed the right of a transgender person to equal access to a public restroom – Nicole’s parents have tried mightily to maintain a public-private balance in their daughter’s life.

On the one hand, there’s a book deal in the works. And last June, Nicole was honored as a grand marshal for Portland’s annual Pride Parade.

On the other, her parents prefer to not name the Portland high school Nicole and Jonas now attend. And when asked if she could be interviewed for this column, they gently declined.

“We’ve had lots of opportunities, but we didn’t do them because we just want the kids to go to school,” Wayne said. “At this point, we’re kind of really under wraps.”

Truth be told, the Maineses have no idea how Glamour settled on Nicole as Maine’s woman of the year.

In an email Thursday, the magazine said it relies on “a combination of word-of-mouth and searching local and national news sources to find women who were recognized within their communities this year. We chose Nicole Maines not only because we respect and admire her bravery to take a public stand on transgender issues, but because she helped set a precedent for other transgender students who may one day encounter similar issues at their own schools.”

Meaning this honor extends far beyond Nicole or, for that matter, the state of Maine.

“I think it gives hope and inspiration and strength to other young people who hopefully will not have to face as difficult a road as Nicole did to get to this point,” said Jennifer Levi, an attorney with Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders who represented Nicole throughout her lengthy court battle. “I think it’s important for all kids everywhere because I think that magazines like Glamour do set the tone for young people’s experience in school and among friends.”

Speaking of friends, one of Nicole’s is Ellie Wiener, a budding photographer who recently took a stunning portrait of Nicole. When the folks at Glamour asked for Nicole’s latest yearbook photo to include in their spread, Wayne said he had a better idea – a great shot of his daughter and a first-ever national photo credit for her classmate.

“When I called and told (Nicole and Ellie), there was a lot of screaming,” Wayne said. “I’m used to it.”

Of course, the struggle goes on – not just for Nicole as she moves from adolescence to womanhood, but for transgender kids and adults everywhere.

Thursday was the 16th annual Transgender Remembrance Day. It commemorates Rita Hester, a transgender woman murdered in Allston, Massachusetts, in 1998 – Nicole was but an infant at the time – along with all the other transgender men and women killed each year for trying only to be true to themselves.

In a statement released Thursday by the White House Office of Public Engagement, Associate Director Aditi Hardikar lauded the “unwavering and courageous leadership of the transgender community, whose lives are often in jeopardy as they come out or simply live their lives.”

Hardikar continued, “Today, we stand proud of the work we’ve done as a community, but reaffirm that much work remains so that the countless innocent lives were not lost in vain. Together, we can continue to make that difference.”

Nicole Maines, Maine’s one and only Glamour girl, already has.

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