TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. My guest, Nicole Maines, was the first transsexual youth to win a discrimination lawsuit. My other guest, Kylar Broadus, was the first openly-transgender person to testify before the U.S. Senate. They're 2 of the 11 people featured in the new HBO documentary "The Trans List," which premieres tonight. It profiles trans men and women from a variety of professions including Army sergeant, lawyer and porn star. A couple of celebrities are included, too - Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner. A companion book also called "The Trans List" includes photographic portraits and profiles of the people in the documentary as well as other trans men and women. The photos were taken by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, who also directed the film.
Let's start with Nicole Maines. She's an identical twin, but unlike her twin brother never identified as a boy - never - from as early as she can remember. It was difficult for her parents to comprehend, but they eventually understood that this wasn't a passing phase and they became her advocates and defenders. When Nicole was in junior high, her parents on her behalf sued her school district in Maine after her school prevented her from using the girl's bathroom and required her to use the staff bathroom instead. She won on appeal in the state Supreme Court. Nicole is now a 19-year-old college student. I spoke with her parents last year after a book about the family was published so I was eager to do this interview with Nicole.
Nicole Maines, welcome to FRESH AIR. So you always - my understanding is you always felt that you should be a girl even though you were born in a boy's body. Give us a sense of what's - what it's like to be, like, 1 years old or 2 years old and have this sense that your gender is actually different from the gender of the body you're in.
NICOLE MAINES: Yeah. Well, first of all, it's very confusing. I would say that, you know, the interesting thing about me in particular is that I have an identical twin brother. And I realized my own gender at the same age that he did. You know, the only difference was that, you know, there was - there was some disconnect between my body and what I felt like, you know, should be right.
GROSS: So when he realized his gender and you realized yours, did you start heading in divergent directions in terms of what you...
GROSS: ...Wanted to wear, what you wanted to play with?
MAINES: Yeah, well, you know, the examples that we use are of pretty gendered things because we live in a very gendered society. So I was always very attracted to, you know, pink and dresses and Disney princess movies. And I always wanted to play with Barbies rather than action figures. And so I was very drawn towards those more gendered things towards females while all at the same time feeling like my body wasn't right and that at some point, you know, something magical was going to happen and then it'd all, you know, sort of fix itself. And, you know, just that, you know, didn't come.
GROSS: Yeah, your mother says that when you were 2, you asked her when do I get to be a girl?
GROSS: Did you think that something was going to turn you into a girl?
MAINES: Yeah. By the time I was like 5 or 6, I sort of - you know, I guess I'd assumed that the medical world had advanced so much that there must be some kind of surgery that was going to fix me. So, you know, I'd start, you know, asking my mom and telling people, oh, when I grow up, I'm going to get plastic surgery to make me a girl.
GROSS: You must have been very convincing as a little girl because your parents weren't attuned to the trans community, into trans issues...
GROSS: I think when you started identifying as female, they were in, like, uncharted waters.
MAINES: Oh, absolutely. Well, it's funny that you say trans community because the trans community was - there was very, very low visibility for that community. And so it was really, really hard for anyone, you know, trying to find information on what, you know, being transgender was. It was near impossible. And so I feel like uncharted waters is an understatement.
GROSS: Did your parents try to convince you that you were a boy, and did you push back?
MAINES: (Laughter) Yeah. One instance I remember really specifically was I must've been like, you know, 3 or 4, and I had asked very specifically for a Little Mermaid Ariel Barbie doll for Christmas. And (laughter) we woke up Christmas morning and my parents had found an action figure from, you know, like, a boys set whose name happened to be Ariel. And, you know, it just sort ended up looking at them like what is this? So, yeah, there was a lot of pushback, not so much them telling me explicitly no, you're a boy as much as trying to, I guess, sort of herd me back towards more male-gendered activities and things.
GROSS: So how old were you when you started dressing like a girl? And I'm not even sure what you were wearing because in some ways so many people dress in, like, pretty gender-neutral clothes. You know...
GROSS: ...Like jeans, corduroy pants, T-shirt, you know, blazer, could be - you know, they're cut differently but basically the outfit could be worn by a boy or a girl.
MAINES: Yeah. I think it depends on whether or not we're considering publicly or at the house because I'd been dressing up in girls - quote, unquote, "girls" clothes since I was 3 or 4. Anytime, you know, I would play dress up, I wanted to be like Dorothy or Cinderella. But I started wearing girls clothes around second, third grade when we started trying to make my transition public.
GROSS: So you had friends who knew you as a boy and suddenly you started coming to school dressed as a girl?
MAINES: No, not really. What we - so we worked with the - what had happened was we worked with the school and decided that we'd try to make the transition gradual. And so that started with, you know, like you said, wearing more gender-neutral, androgynous clothing that would, like, be pink and then growing my hair out, wearing more obviously female clothing. And then that moved into skirts, ear piercings and, you know, a new name.
GROSS: So did you friends at school change when your gender started to change publicly?
MAINES: No, not at all. I - was actually a little surprising. And I think part of it was that, you know, kids and just young people in general are usually a lot more, I guess, open-minded to change, especially when, you know, you're like really little in elementary school. You don't - you don't expect a lot of things from people. So if somebody says I'm switching genders, you're just sort of like, OK, that's new but cool. And I think it - the other thing that helped was that we did make the transition gradual and they were sort of eased into it with me. So, you know, it didn't come as a - just one big shock someday and everyone's sort of had to process that.
GROSS: So you had a twin brother. So as you were becoming more and more female, he was, you know, growing more and more into being a growing boy.
GROSS: So when you looked at him, you saw your mirror image except not exactly. You saw what you were, you know, in quotes, "supposed to be" as opposed to what you were. So what was that like for you in the sense of watching her identical twin become more and more of - you know, of a boy, especially as he started approaching puberty and you started approaching puberty?
MAINES: Yeah. Well, fortunately, for hormone blockers, which, you know, having supportive parents was really, really helpful because, you know, we were able to work and get me on the medication that I needed so I could avoid puberty and going through that alongside my brother. So having - so after, you know, I - we halted that for me and then watching him just move forward and, you know, just watching testosterone work its wonders, it was terrifying. But at the same - 'cause, you know, it was one of those things that it felt like, wow, that could have been me. But at the same time, that could have been me, and it felt like I dodged a bullet.
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Nicole Maines, and she's one of the people profiled in the new documentary "The Trans List," which is profiles of trans men and women. And the documentary premieres tonight on HBO. Nicole is now 19 and a sophomore in college, and when she was very young, she started transitioning from male to female. We're going to take a short break and then talk some more. This is FRESH AIR.
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GROSS: This is FRESH AIR, and if you're just joining us, my guest is Nicole Maines, and when she was very young, she started transitioning from male to female. She's one of the people profiled in the new documentary "The Trans List," a collection of profiles of people who transitioned from male to female or female to male. And the documentary premieres tonight on HBO.
So I want to ask you about the bathroom issue because you and your parents actually sued your junior high school and won because at some point, because of a protest by a grandparent, the school prevented you from using the girls' bathroom. And this was after you had transitioned from male to female.
GROSS: So let's talk about what happened to you. A boy followed you into the girls' bathroom, and he bullied you. What happened that precipitated your lawsuit?
MAINES: So, like I said, one of the things that helped kids come around to my gender identity was easing them into my transition alongside me. But I think something that we hadn't taken into account was what would happen should a student transfer into the school or move to our school district over the summer. And I think that's what happened. A new student had come and, you know, he hadn't necessarily - but he hadn't really been there for my transition, and so he didn't know me. And he ended up telling his grandfather that I was trans, and his grandfather was part of a special interest group and...
GROSS: What do you mean by special interest group?
MAINES: He (laughter) didn't think that my using the girls' bathroom was very OK. So, you know, not liking a, quote, unquote, "boy" using the girls' room, following sound logic he thought it made sense to send a boy into the girls' room. And so the grandson followed me in.
GROSS: Are you saying - let me stop you for a second. I'm sorry. Are you saying that the grandfather suggested that the boy follow you into the girls' room?
MAINES: Yeah. So basically he told his grandson, you know, this isn't OK what this kid's doing. So you have to sort of make a statement and follow this kid into the bathroom to, you know, make some kind of point.
GROSS: And what happened after he followed you in?
MAINES: Well, he just sort of, like, looked at me. He has this look on his face, and I don't really know how to describe it. But he just said, you know, my grandpappy says we don't have to have any faggots in our school. And, you know, then the teacher walks in all red in the face. And I swear to God, like, his feet did not touch the floor. Like, she dragged him out of the girls' room.
But, you know, then after meetings with guidance counselors and principals, I guess the school had been threatened by this special interest group that the grandfather was a part of that they would sue if I kept using the girls' room because it was, you know, an infringement of some kind of right of theirs. So they pulled me out of the girls' room, and they decided that it'd be much less trouble if I just used the private staff bathroom away from all the other girls.
GROSS: What did it take for you to actually use the private staff bathrooms? Would it be like the teachers' bathroom?
MAINES: Yeah. It was right next to the girls' room and the boys' room, so they were all lined up right in a row. So I'd just sort of be walking with all my friends. And then they just sort of kept going into their bathroom and I got to go into my special just-for-me bathroom.
GROSS: Did you need a special key?
GROSS: Did you need a special...
MAINES: Really anyone could go in there...
GROSS: Oh, really, OK.
MAINES: ...But people didn't because they liked to be around their friends.
GROSS: So did going to the bathroom become, like, an upsetting issue for you or did you just accept, well, you know, this is the way it has to be so I'll just do it?
MAINES: For a while, I tried to sort of get used to it, and, you know, I was like, oh, this isn't so bad because, you know, they sort of - the teachers, when they told me about it, they sort of tried to talk it up. And they were like, oh, my gosh. There's like - you'll have your own mirror where you can, you know, sort of like primp in. And, of course, it was an adult bathroom and being in fifth grade, this mirror was much too high for me, and so I felt, you know, a little tricked.
And it came to sort of just end up feeling lonely, and it made me feel like I was an other. And yeah, it just got lonely. And, you know, after a while of listening to my parents sort of talk about how unfair it was, you know, that I was being punished, you know, I sort of tuned in. And I was like, wait, yeah, why am I being punished?
So I decided that I'd start using the girls' bathroom again, and no one thought anything of it. My friends were like, oh, good, you're back. And I'm pretty sure the teachers knew that I was using the girls' bathroom again, but they didn't say anything because my teachers - my teachers were really good. And they were the ones who had seen me every day and watched me transition. And so they knew which bathroom I should be in also, so no one really said anything.
GROSS: So it worked out when you started using the girls' bathroom again.
MAINES: Yeah. No one said anything. No one was doing anything. We were all just sort of like, oh, good, things are back to normal. And then after a couple months of that, I got followed into the bathroom again and once again I found myself in the principal's office being told that I was going back into the staff bathroom.
GROSS: And what happened? Were you on your own to decide? Did they trust you to use it?
MAINES: Oh, no. I got a body guard (laughter). No, I got - what they called it was the Eyes On Program. It was a body guard.
GROSS: The what program?
MAINES: I basically ended up getting a specially assigned adult to follow 10 feet behind me at all times, make sure that I use the isolation chamber bathroom, and they said it was for my own protection. It was to make sure I was using the bathroom.
GROSS: So this person followed you around...
GROSS: ...Through the halls whether you're going to the bathroom or not.
GROSS: So whose idea was it to sue? Did your parents suggest that?
MAINES: Yeah. Yeah. It was my parents. I mean, I wasn't - I was like in sixth grade at that point. I wasn't like, you know what? Let's sue.
MAINES: No. My parents - they knew that what was happening wasn't right and something had to be done about it.
GROSS: So how did you feel in middle school about suing?
MAINES: I felt great about it. It finally felt like people were doing something. You know, for the past two years using staff and gender neutral, private just-for-Nicole bathrooms and having a bodyguard follow you around all the time - it felt really, really good to know that people were finally doing something about it.
MAINES: Because it was annoying. I would get up to go to class to, you know, just go to the bathroom, and my teacher would have to stop me in front of everybody and tell me to wait for whoever was following me that day. It was really, really humiliating, so it felt really good to know that my parents recognized what was happening and knew that it was wrong.
GROSS: Did you always feel like when you went to a public bathroom, for instance, or when you did go to the girls' bathroom in your school that you were in a stall and therefore, like, protected from anybody kind of seeing you or from anybody fearing that you would see them?
MAINES: No, especially in schools before that whole staff business happened, I felt totally comfortable using the girls' bathroom, and all the girls felt totally comfortable with me. No one was, you know, afraid of me peeping in on them or them peeping in on me to see, oh, my gosh, what's really under Nicole's pants? I mean, these are the girls who had sleepovers at my house. We've all, you know - we all had sleepovers. We all - we'd been - we'd known each other since first grade. And we had all been there for each other for various other things, and so bathrooms weren't something that we felt threatened by or was even something on our minds. And I think that's something that's been completely fabricated, to be completely honest. This entire issue of transgender people posing a kind of threat to cisgender women in bathrooms is made up. If we - we are just like everybody else. We go into the bathroom. We keep our heads down. We don't look at anybody. We're not there to, you know, look at you. We're minding our own business.
GROSS: My guest is Nicole Maines, one of the transgender people profiled in the new HBO documentary "The Trans List," which premieres tonight. After we take a short break, we'll hear more from Nicole. We'll hear from lawyer Kylar Broadus, who's also profiled in the film, and Ken Tucker will review Miranda Lambert's new album. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
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GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with Nicole Maines, one of the transgender people profiled in the new HBO documentary "The Trans List" which premieres tonight. She was born an identical twin, but, unlike her twin brother, never identified as male. She became prominent in the trans community after winning a discrimination lawsuit. Her parents sued on her behalf. They sued the school district after her junior high wouldn't allow her to use the girls' bathroom. She's now a 19-year-old college student.
GROSS: So you and your parents sued on the grounds of the state of Maine Human Rights Act for singling out for exclusion from the restroom a trans person like you just 'cause you're trans.
GROSS: So this was a wrongful discrimination suit...
GROSS: ...Based on gender. And after about six years, the court ruled in your favor. It went as high as the state Supreme Court.
GROSS: So in 2014, you became the first trans youth to win a court decision pertaining to being trans.
GROSS: That must have been pretty remarkable for you?
MAINES: It was weird. Well, I mean, the whole situation was weird, being in a lawsuit for six years. After we'd filed suit, obviously, we couldn't stay in the Orono school district. So my brother Jonas and my mom and I all moved down to Portland, and we went into hiding there.
GROSS: You moved to a different place in Maine. Was that because you wanted to start at a different school?
MAINES: Yeah, we just needed a fresh start. All the schools around there knew what the situation was, and there had been a lot of negative media attention surrounding it. And so we just needed to go somewhere where that wasn't something that was being actively discussed. So, yeah, fresh start, so we went down to Portland. And I went back in the closet.
GROSS: Oh, how deep in the closet did you have to go?
MAINES: Deep, deep, like, walk-in closet. Like, it was deep.
GROSS: So you were closeted as trans but still identifying as female and dressing as female?
GROSS: But no one knew you were trans.
MAINES: No one knew.
GROSS: Was it hard for you to have friends?
MAINES: Absolutely. Well, since first grade, it'd been part of my introduction. I'd just sort of walk up to people and I'd say, hi, I'm Wyatt. I'm a boy who wants to be a girl or I'm a girl trapped in a boy's body. Someday I'm going to get plastic surgery to make me a girl. It was something that just sort of came with hi, what's your name? - in, you know, first, second grade. No one thought of it.
And as years went by, I stopped having to come out to people because it was such a small school. And so it was really hard to form connections with people because that had been such a relevant part of my life for the past few years, so I just shut down. I did not do a lot of extracurriculars. I didn't have people over. I definitely didn't go over to anybody's house. No sleepovers anymore. It was just go to school, go home.
GROSS: So I don't know if you have an answer for this or not, but, you know, President Obama has supported trans rights.
GROSS: And Donald Trump has not ever been in office, so we don't know. He has no, like, policy track record. But Vice President-elect Pence has, you know, basically been seen as an opponent of LGBTQ rights.
GROSS: And I'm wondering, you know, as someone who is in college now - you're a sophomore in college - how much do you think the tone of the administration affects how people treat you and how they see you? Now, I mean, you've only known really the Obama administration because you're 19 and he's been in office for eight years.
GROSS: So you don't really have anything to compare it to, but...
MAINES: Even though, you know, there wasn't a lot to compare it to before President Obama, I still saw the change. And his support was so important for the transgender - and the rest of the LGBTQ community because it showed us that - you know, it felt like for the first time our government was really, really on our side. And it felt like real federal steps were being taken to normalize and include our community within the rest of the country. And just the amount of allies within America just skyrocketed. So many more places in this country became a safe space.
And since the election, thank God, me personally, I haven't been subject to any - any sort of change or tone within my college community, I mean, except maybe for the fact that a couple of us are a lot sadder now because it's a scary time. But, you know, it's one of those times where it's a wake-up call. I think that some of us were starting to, you know, sort of get comfy and take our shoes off. And this - I think this might be our - the universe's way of saying, oh, you got your shoes off? Good. Here, put these work boots on because there's more work to do. You know, it's just rally the troops.
GROSS: Can I ask you a kind of superficial question, which I imagine doesn't feel superficial? It's just, like, how do you dress now? You know, but - in one sense that's a kind of shallow question to ask. On the other hand...
MAINES: Oh, no...
GROSS: Yeah, I mean, when you're not allowed to dress a certain way, how you dress takes on extra special meaning (laughter). So...
MAINES: Yeah, for real...
MAINES: I totally know what you mean.
GROSS: Right, so...
MAINES: For so long when, you know, your gender is super policed...
GROSS: Exactly, right.
MAINES: ...It is an incredible liberty, you know, when you get to dress yourself. And there was a time when I was little where I would have been appalled if someone tried to drag me into the men's section. I am currently wearing - actually, both my pants and my shirt are from the men's aisle.
MAINES: My pants because I - I just came here from the university. I had sculpture, and it is impossible to find women's pants that are 100-percent cotton because everything has Spandex now, and I needed something that's not going to light on fire. So that's why I'm wearing men's pants. They also hug my hips really nice. And then my shirt is just something I picked up at the - again, the men's racks at Hot Topic because they had a character I liked on it. (Laughter) So it's really, like, strange how my style has sort of changed in that sense. But at the same time, it's kind of like I'm back, but I'm back on my own terms.
GROSS: Yes, exactly.
MAINES: I'm going to make the men's aisle work for me.
GROSS: (Laughter) Nicole, it's been great to talk with you. Thank you so very much.
MAINES: Of course. Thank you.
GROSS: Nicole Maines is one of the transgender people profiled in the new HBO documentary "The Trans List," which premieres tonight. After a break, we'll hear from lawyer and activist Kylar Broadus, who's also profiled in the film. This is FRESH AIR.
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GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. My guest, Kylar Broadus, is one of the 11 transgender people profiled in the new HBO documentary "The Trans List," which premieres tonight. Broadus is a lawyer who began his professional life working in a financial institution. But when he decided to come out and transition to male, it changed his professional path, too, and he became an activist. He founded the Trans People of Color Coalition. He worked as the senior policy counsel at the National LGBTQ Task Force and the director of its transgender civil rights project. In 2012, he made history as the first openly transgender person to testify before the U.S. Senate when he spoke in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Kylar Broadus, welcome to FRESH AIR. What year were you born?
KYLAR BROADUS: My birthday is quite remarkable because I was born on the historic day on the March on Washington by Dr. King, so August 28, 1963.
GROSS: So this was before there was really a language to describe being trans.
GROSS: And so you were trying to figure out what it was you were experiencing without a language to help you understand it and without a language to help explain it to anybody else.
GROSS: Did that make it harder for you?
BROADUS: It made it extremely hard, and you're exactly right. There were no tools. There was no language. I had what is now known as the typical trans child anger because, you know, I couldn't express myself the way I wanted to be and being forced to wear things that you just knew were wrong. And it's like I didn't know where I belonged. I didn't know where I fit. And I worried about that every single day.
GROSS: Where did you grow up?
BROADUS: I grew up in the Midwest, but, you know, Missouri, the Mason-Dixon line runs through there, so it's really like the South, very conservative. It's the buckle of the Bible Belt.
GROSS: Small town.
BROADUS: Small town - 2,000-2,500 people, something like that, I think. And, you know, my family was well-known, good family, good people, hard-working people and still are.
GROSS: So you were born on the day of the Martin Luther King-led march on Washington, so you grew up in this atmosphere of the civil rights movement. You're African-American. Your parents, you say, were the children of slaves. So it's like, you know, people are fighting for civil rights. African-Americans are fighting for civil rights. But no one's fighting for your right to be a trans person and to be out about it. So what was your relationship to the civil rights movement then that was kind of fighting for your freedom but only for part of it?
BROADUS: Well, I took power from the civil rights movement because race was also a part of me. And, honestly, a lot of days, because I've always been out, I didn't know whether it was my race or my transgenderedness (ph) that offended people more. And, honestly, there were days that I felt like the racism preceded my transness in the way people interacted with me.
GROSS: You became a corporate lawyer.
BROADUS: I worked at a large financial institution and was working my way, yeah, through the process to getting to the corporate law department so to be quite clear about that, and in the process of getting there, didn't make it there.
GROSS: Yes. Well, thank you for clarifying it, and this would probably have been during the dress for success era when women were wearing, like, navy blue skirted suits with little ties, you know, like little bowed - not bow ties but, you know, ties tied in a bow at the neck.
BROADUS: Yes. You're taking me back there.
BROADUS: Yes, I'm with you, yes.
GROSS: Yeah. So how - did you have to wear those clothes?
BROADUS: Yes, I did, and I'm almost having an attack here now - posttraumatic stress.
GROSS: (Laughter) Sorry - sorry to put you through that (laughter).
BROADUS: Yeah. And it was an ordeal, because it had always been, to try to wear feminine attire because whenever I would do it, number one, little kids would come up to me and say, sir, why are you wearing a dress? And that would be embarrassing in front of my corporate co-workers, number one. And then I would just try to ignore that.
Number two, it was just uncomfortable for me. It wasn't natural. It was not innate. And so I would, like, run out of the building at the end of the day or whatever meeting we had. And I'd literally - I felt like Superman in the car because I got to the parking lot, and I would be stripping off those clothes as soon as I could get them off. And then the whole pantyhose thing, you know? And, you know, it just didn't work, and I don't think I was a very attractive woman because my spirit and soul were not that at all.
GROSS: Was there a turning point where you decided you were going to come out as trans and was there a word yet that you knew of to describe yourself, to describe your gender?
BROADUS: It got - well, for my era, yeah. I came out early for my era, which was in my - nearing my late 20s, that's when I decided this was it. So it was the early '90s when I started the process of doing the hormones slowly. We were then under the impression, some of us, if we slowly did stuff and gradually did it that, like, nobody would notice. But the thing is with trans people, we all come out publicly. There is no hidden way to come out as a trans person. People notice things.
And even though I was masculine and I'd already been wearing the haircut but, you know, people did start to notice that, you know, I squared out a little bit more. And I took a lot of crap because, you know, I was out when lots of people weren't. And at that time, everybody was losing their jobs. If you came out, you lost your job.
GROSS: Well, you lost your job, didn't you?
BROADUS: Yes, I did (laughter). So then I hung out my shingle and started to fight for laws and represent tons of transgender people and LGBT people as well who couldn't find legal representation 'cause lawyers weren't even taking cases. So we've come a long way to where now I have people that weren't taking those cases call me for expertise on the - those types of cases. And, you know, we mainstreamed some of that stuff. But, again, we still have a long way to go.
GROSS: So you were actually one of the people on stage with President Obama when he signed an executive order protecting LGBT workers. So explain what that executive order does.
BROADUS: It extended protections to federal workers and then also to that - folks that contract with the government for LGBTQ workers to have - be protected against discrimination. And the misnomer people have is that all LGBTQ people are protected on the job, and that's not true. I've represented many people that came in that weren't even LGBTQ that just had a sticker on their vehicle because they support the cause and were terminated because they were assumed to be or associated with.
GROSS: Since you are expecting the Trump administration to certainly not be as friendly to LGBT rights as President Obama was, what are you preparing for? What do you think the trans community is preparing for legally?
BROADUS: Well, we are already meeting after we got over our shock and strategizing and preparing for what we can until the president-elect releases more of his policies and plans. But it's clear this administration is unaware of the LGBT communities' concerns, and so we're going to have to get that - get in the door and make that happen. And there are lots of us doing that, and we're pushing to make that happen. And we know that we're up for - we're going to have to fight down negative bad legislation.
You know, there are concerns all over the place. If he attacks Obamacare, that's for the first time given trans people health care that didn't have health care before that couldn't that was excluded under previous policies - trans people need jobs. We are more likely than not to be unemployed than most people due to many reasons, and so we're the vulnerable of the most vulnerable. And it doesn't seem like there's any room in the president-elect's agenda for us. But we're going to make room for that, and we have to make room and stand strong.
GROSS: Do you have any friends from your childhood who knew you as a girl and you're still friends with them and they now know and accept you as a man?
GROSS: Was it easy for them to do that or did you have to do a lot of like explaining?
BROADUS: Easy. Everybody said it made sense to them.
GROSS: So you think discrimination is harder to do when you actually know the person and that when you know the person and you've known them a long time, you're just by nature more understanding of who they are?
BROADUS: I think so. And I've always said that if you know the person, I think it makes life a lot easier. I was demanded to come back to my homecoming by my friends last year, and they thought I had been missing because I just was not going because I was trans and I just was busy. And I always had something that conflicted, but I went back. And they went around and made sure everybody else was comfortable, and they didn't care. And nobody else cared, and it was just so heartwarming at my college and that I've been given alumni recognition at both my college and my law school.
And that's what it takes. It takes us knowing the trans person. And so that's why I always challenge people to do education for themselves and to get out of their comfort zone and go meet a trans person. And you've probably already met one and just didn't know it. But to go really reach out and meet one and talk to them and get to know them, and I think that makes the difference. And that's what makes us change hearts and minds, and that's really it.
GROSS: I want to thank you very much for talking with us.
BROADUS: Thank you. This is wonderful.
GROSS: Kylar Broadus is one of the transgender people profiled in the new HBO documentary "The Trans List," which premieres tonight. It was directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders who also took the photographic portraits in the companion book "The Trans List." Those photos are included in his exhibit Identity which is at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles through February 26. After a break, Ken Tucker will review Miranda Lambert's new album. This is FRESH AIR.
TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. There's a lot of music on Miranda Lambert's new album "The Weight Of These Wings," 24 songs over two CDs. Lambert has been working on the album for about a year and released it without much advance notice. It's giving listeners a lot to absorb. Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU WOULDN'T KNOW ME")
MIRANDA LAMBERT: (Singing) You wouldn't know me if you saw me here. Wake up at your front door no more. You'll never know me by asking how I've been. You'll never keep up that way. Stop sign...
KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: That's Miranda Lambert, and that's the kind of country music sound you don't expect to hear from a contemporary star with her level of commercial success. That song, "You Wouldn't Know Me," is aggressively downhome and loose, precisely the opposite of the uptown and tight songs that fill up the country charts these days. Nevertheless, Lambert remains immensely popular. Indeed, it's only when you've become as popular as Lambert is that you can convince everyone around you that you're going to release two dozen songs, a double album we used to call them.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOMBOY")
LAMBERT: (Singing) Tomboy, hail Mary, never needs a dress to make her pretty. She's a killjoy, such a letdown. Daddy tried to raise a Southern belle. Well, he got a tomboy. Tomboy...
TUCKER: Lambert sings a song called "Tomboy," and you have no trouble believing that she herself, sturdy and assertive, might have fit that description once upon a time. In recent years, however, Lambert got pulled into a world of pop star glamour with her high-profile marriage to singer Blake Shelton and their tabloid-worthy divorce. It's tempting to scan the lyrics on this album - and Lambert has co-written nearly every song here - for clues to Lambert's heartbreak or bitterness or resignation. But that does her art and craft a disservice. Plus, it doesn't acknowledge the range of music here, as suggested by the fuzzy guitars and fuzzier memories of the hangover narrator on "Ugly Lights."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UGLY LIGHTS")
LAMBERT: (Singing) I don't remember when the liquor started kicking in. It's been awhile since I've been off the stuff. I really hate to say I'm turning in to a cliche. I'm hoping that nobody brings it up. I left my car behind the bar again last Sunday night. I get the Monday morning drive of shame. In last night's clothes I smell like smoke, but I don't know how I got home. But I do know my head will hurt all day. But I still go...
TUCKER: If there's any connection to be made between Lambert's public love life and the songs under consideration here, I'd prefer to think that perhaps she plunged herself into work to get away from Instagramed and Twittered gossip. And she worked so hard, she ended up with two dozen songs that were keepers.
This is a collection that keeps on giving the deeper you get into it. It's an album so strong she could tuck "To Learn Her," a gorgeous bit of slowed-down honky tonk into the last two-thirds of the album.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TO LEARN HER")
LAMBERT: (Singing) To love her is to learn her and see her at her worst. Dance with her when she's drinking, hold when she hurts. She'll be happy, you'll be sorry. Well, that's just it works. To love her is to learn her. Some things you just can't learn.
TUCKER: This album is so full of good music, I don't even feel badly not playing its first single, a hit called "Vice." I'd rather play "Well-Rested," a beautiful ballad sung by Lambert in a way that connects her to other areas of pop music. "Well-Rested," for example, sounds to me like the kind of tune Bonnie Raitt might record.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WELL-RESTED")
LAMBERT: (Singing) Well, this moment is heavy for me. I'm not ready. Like a caged bird, barely set free. Forgive me, I'm finding my wings.
TUCKER: In the past, Lambert has been more rowdy in her music, more eager to shake up preconceived country music notions of how women think and behave when they've been wronged. On a new song here called "Tin Man," Lambert sings, if you ever felt one breaking, you'd never want a heart. The last line of Runnin' Just In Case, there's freedom in a broken heart. The Lambert on "The Weight Of These Wings" is a woman making music that takes stock of the price that's paid for putting your heart out there for everyone to see, to identify with and to criticize. It hasn't made her any less assertive, but she's telling you in an impressive variety of ways that sometimes it really hurts.
GROSS: Ken Tucker is critic-at-large for Yahoo TV. He reviewed Miranda Lambert's new album "The Weight Of These Wings." Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, my guest will be Dwight Yoakam with his guitar. He'll play some songs for us. He has a new album of bluegrass versions of his country songs. Also, Maria Semple will talk with us about her new comic novel "Today Will Be Different," which takes place during one day of a stressed out mother's life. Semple used to write for the TV series "Arrested Development." I hope you'll join us.
FRESH AIR'S executive producer is Danny Miller. Our associate producer for online media is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. I'm Terry Gross.
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