History has long demonized transgendered characters often portraying them as savage serial killers lending power to the false notion that in some way trans people are mentally unstable or broken. Luckily, in recent years, this stereotype has been debunked and many amazing trans characters have surfaced on television being portrayed by trans actors. Openly trans models and actors have been forging new ground and paving the way for future generations so that maybe, one day, society will not only accept LGBTQ+ people, but it won’t even be brough up as an issue. Laith Ashley for example, being the first transgender man to be featured in a Diesel campaign in 2017. Brian Michael Smith who plays Paul Strickland on 9-1-1: Lone Star is the first out black trans man as a series regular on network television and is the first trans man to be named in People’s Sexiest Men Alive list. MJ Rodriguez becoming the first trans performer nominated for an Emmy in a major category for her portrayal of Blanca in FX’s Pose. Laverne Cox who played Sophia Burset in Orange is the New Black but is also the first trans woman to win a Daytime Emmy Award as the executive producer for MTV’s Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word. The list goes on an on, and there is no way I could possibly cover every amazing person contributing to the advancement of trans representation in film and television. In this article, I will be focusing on two such people who specifically worked within the comic book genre. Nicole Amber Maines for her role as Nia Nal / Dreamer in Supergirl and other Arrowverse shows and Elliot Page who plays Vanya / Viktor Hargreeves in The Umbrella Academy.
Nicole Amber Maines: Nicole and her brother Jonas were both adopted by Kelly and Wayne Maines in 1997. Although born in New York, Nicole and Jonas were raised for most of their life in Portland, Maine. From a very early age, possibly as young as three, Nicole knew that she was female, even though she was assigned male at birth. Nicole chose her name based on a character from Nickelodeon’s Zoey 101 although it would be a few years before she could legally change it. The family had to petition the Maine court to allow Nicole to change her name without publicly announcing it, as the family was worried for Nicole’s safety. This was not the only legal battle that Nicole was a part of. In 2005, while in fifth grade, Nicole was barred from using the girls bathroom by her elementary school because a grandfather of a classmate complained. The schoolboard did nothing to correct the situation, so the family started legal proceedings. In 2014 (almost a decade later), the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled 5-1 that the school district violated the state’s Human Rights Act. It was the first time in the nation that a court ruled it unlawful to force transgender students to use the bathroom associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.
In 2015, a book was written about her family and their coming to terms with having a daughter who is transgender. Also, that year, Nicole got her first role on television as Anna in an episode of Royal Pains playing a transgender girl. Her big break would come in 2018, when she was cast as Nia Nal / Dreamer in the CW show, Supergirl becoming the first transgender superhero on television. She would remain on the show until its finale. In 2021, she would write the comic book introduction of the original character she played on television for DC Pride (comics) #1 along with a solo series. Nicole currently has a recurring role on the Showtime series Yellowjackets.
Elliot Page: Unlike Nicole Maines, Elliot Page became famous before transitioning from female to male. He started working on film in 1997 at the age of 10 and began getting accolades for his performances. Movies like Hard Candy and television series like Pit Pony and Trailer Park Boys solidified his success. In 2006, he would portray Kitty Pryde in X-Men: The Last Stand and reprising this role in 2014 in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Throughout the years, Elliot has starred in several movies and television series and garnered many award nominations. In 2014, still presenting as female, he came out as gay, and in 2017 Page entered a relationship with Emma Portner, the pair would eventually marry in 2018, but divorced in 2021.
Starting in 2019, Elliot would play Vanya Hargreeves on the Netflix series, The Umbrella Academy based on the Dark Horse Comics series of the same name. In 2020, amidst the Corona virus pandemic, Elliot announced that he was trans and identified as He / They. Page would make the cover of Time magazine being the first trans man to do so. Page received support from many famous people including Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister and Netflix which updated his credits from Ellen to Elliot and his transition was even written into the third season of The Umbrella Academy updating the character from Vanya to Viktor.
The world has begun to change and being trans is a bit more accepting than it was even just a decade ago, and representation within all forms of media is so very vital in creating a safe and welcoming society. The people mentioned in this article do not represent everyone out there fighting the good fight. There are trans directors and writers and photographers who are all contributing everyday to the entertainment industry. All of these people are heroes battling for the very right to live life as their true selves. And each and every one of them touches us with their stories of resilience and strength.
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