Becoming Nicole

Becoming Nicole cover

As it turns out, yesterday was the perfect day to talk about Amy Ellis Nutt’s Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family with the Physicians’ Literature and Medicine group at the University of Utah. In the headlines, Germany’s top constitutional court ruled that birth certificates must offer the option of a third gender. Here in the U.S., Danica Roem was the first transgender person to win a seat in a state legislature, defeating an incumbent who had presented legislation that would have limited transgender people’s access to public bathrooms.

Nutt’s book sympathetically chronicles the journey of the Maines family as each of them comes to terms with son/brother Wyatt’s transition to daughter/sister Nicole. Not surprisingly, the family member who struggles most is Nicole’s conservative, deer-hunting, ex-military father, Wayne. Nutt’s depiction of Wayne’s struggle to accept and eventually advocate for his transgender daughter is tender and moving.

Talking about this book in a hospital setting brings certain issues to the fore. As health care professionals, this group was interested in the science behind transgender identities and the combinations of genetics, hormones, and biological processes that can result in individuals with mismatched genders and anatomies. Our discussion circled back to the questions of: What does all this mean for patients and how can we use this information to provide better care? We speculated that in the near future we might see the rise of transgender medicine as a multidisciplinary field of specialization.

The evening ended on a lighter note, with one woman–a surgeon–joking that while we’re adding supplemental gender categories, we should include “female surgeons,” who are a category unto themselves.