See Tom Be Jane

The country's youngest transgender child is ready for school. But is school ready for her?

"We take each child as an individual," district spokesman Andrew Feirstein says. "Any time a student enrolls in a district school and has specific needs, all appropriate information is gathered for an evaluation. District professionals meet together and work with parents to determine the student's best educational plan."

The Andersons say they contacted Nicole's principal in January, sending along two letters from mental health professionals who explained Nicole's special needs.

Then they waited. With registration for fall's kindergarten classes already beginning, the Andersons are still in the dark about the school's plans, making the task of listing Nicole's gender on the registration forms difficult. "I'm not going to put male or female. I'm going to put down 'I,' " Lauren says, which she means to stand for intersexed.

Nicole has been insisting she's female since she could talk.
photo: Colby Katz
Nicole has been insisting she's female since she could talk.

Oblivious to the fight swirling around her as only a five-year-old can be, Nicole is headstrong and boisterous, with a room full of Barbie dolls and a fondness for singing showtunes to visitors. She seems to be a happy, healthy—and perhaps a tiny bit spoiled—little girl.

Male-to-female transsexual Heather Wright, who had first met Nicholas when he was only three, met Nicole for the first time six weeks ago, when the Andersons brought her to hear Wright speak at a local panel about transgender issues.

"It was a big difference," Wright says. "I couldn't believe her personality. I didn't recognize her at first. If I had not known, I would never have known. This time, she kept being the center of attention. She was very outgoing. Definitely able to function better. Now she seems to be Miss Personality, and very happy. Not the introverted person that I saw before."

A month ago, Nicole debuted in her first theatrical role in a local community musical. On the show's closing night, the stage is dark, and a chorus of small, childish voices lisp a showtune. Parading around the stage singing along and concentrating hard on her stage directions, Nicole is possible to pick out only because she is the youngest child in the show, a good head shorter than the other girls.

If anyone in the crowd or the cast knows that Nicole was once Nicholas, they don't seem to care—proof, the Andersons say, that Nicole will be able to function happily in public as a girl.

Nicole's 10-year-old sister, Angela, explains that for a while, having her younger brother turn into a younger sister was difficult.

"When I was younger, I thought that it was just a stage," she says. But now the most annoying part is that Nicole steals Angela's clothes. "But I guess that's what having a sister is like, because I've never had a sister."

As for Nicole's interactions with the outside world, Angela is used to answering questions.

"It's kind of strange," she says, "because my friends always call it a he, and I'm like, 'No, it's a she,' and it's kind of hard. Everyone always goes up to me and goes, 'That's a boy, right?' and I go, 'No, it's my sister,' and they go, 'Oh.' "

This article originally appeared in New Times Broward-Palm Beach.

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