tv Interview with Amy Ellis Nutt CSPAN December 17, 2016 1:10pm-1:31pm EST
my parents were very honest with me as a young girl. i knew what their status was, and i knew very clearly what my status was. i was an american citizen and they weren't. so they -- i had something that they wanted very desperately, and they made it very clear that they needed that so that we could stay together. so i remember every prayer, every wish was that my parents got these papers that they needed so that we could stay together. we managed to live our lives, but it was certainly scary, and i know that anybody who has been through this experience knows how intense it is and how interesting your life can become when you're living in the shadows. >> that's a look at some of this year's notable books according to the chicago public library. booktv has covered many of these authors. you can watch the full programs on our web site, booktv.org.
>> amy ellis nutt is the cover of her book, "becoming nicole." ms. nutt, who is nicole? >> guest: nicole maines was born an identical twin boy in 1997, born and given the name wyatt. this is a child from the age of two, two and a half identified as a girl.id and when i say identified as a girl, didn't say to her parents i think i'm a girl, said when do i get to be a girl. you know? when do i get to look like a girl?t believed she was a girl. and, you know, two middle class, ordinary parents living in the state of maine needed to figure out what that was about. >> host: how did they figure it out? >> guest: you know what? >> host: or did they? >> guest: they did. and the here to row of the --
the hero of the book is really the mother kelly. these twins were adopted at birth. kelly knew there were two things that were most important to her as a mother; make sure that her children were safe and happy. and she knew she could control the safe part. she had to understand the happy part because she also knew that this child was unhappy when she didn't get to play with the toys that she wanted or a father who was, you know, conservative, republican, veteran, you know, was really unsure about who this child was and resisted it. but kelly was determined. and so she did very early what a lot of us do, and she googled the words boys who like girls' toys. and that became the beginning of her odyssey to understanding. she had never heard the word transgender, and so it began -- she began to become a student of it and to understand it to try and bring her husband into it. it took her longer to do that.
it took him longer. but he's probably the one who undergoes the most transformation in the book. he's now someone who goes out and gives talks to people about transgender kids, transgender children and being transgender and especially is helping to try to work with fathers to understand their children. >> host: what about the other twin boy? >> guest: jonas is a remarkable, remarkable kid. they are both now entering their sophomore year of college at two different branches of the university of maine. what was wonderful about jonas is that jonas really probably knew before anyone, you know? kids would come up to him and sometimes say to him, you know, what is it like to have a transgender sister? and, you know, he didn't know. he just knew he had a twin that was really a girl, not a boyment boyment -- boy. and when jonas -- they were both very young, said to his father
be, dad, face it, you have a son and a daughter. and it was kind of a wake-up call for wayne to realize, you know, out of the mouths of babes, here is my child telling me that his brother is really his sister. so jonas had to go on a journey too to helping other people understand, to be protective of his sister when she was discriminated against in the fifth grade and bullied and then told by staff at their middle school that she would have to use the teachers' restroom and not the girls' room. she'd already changed her name, dressing as a girl for all intents and purposes was nicole. and it was tough on jonas. he had to be sort of big brother, and at the same time he said to me very profoundly, you know, i'm a kid, and i have a sixth grade vocabulary, so it's hard to talk to people to try and make 'em understand. -- make them understand. so he struggled with it too.
but they're very close. they're both very different in a lot of ways. and they're each one another's best friends and protectors. >> host: what was the first step in "becoming nicole"? was it clothes? was it name? >> guest: you know, i think it really was -- i mean, the first evidence to the parents certainly were clothes. nicole, born wyatt, loved to, you know, she would pull her shirt over her head to make it look like it was long hair. she wanted to wear her mother's jewelry. she wanted to pretend, you know, that things were dresses. these were obviously the first signs, you know? and a lot of kids go through these phases, but this was consistent, and this was constant. and then there were things saying, you know, she actually
would say, daddy, when does my penis full off? -- fall off? so this was a child who wasn't saying i feel like i'm a girl, this was a child who knew she was a girl but couldn't understand, being a child, why people were treating her like a boy. >> host: when did surgery happen? >> guest: surgery happened last summer after she graduated high school. nicole was one of the first cases of an american child at the children's gender clinic in boston, the first one in this country, established in 2007 under dr. norman spack, her daughter, was one of the first to have puberty repressed so she had time to go through the psychological tests, had time to dress and act and be a girl in order to know for certain this was who she was. and then when puberty was going to start for her, they could see
in her twin brother when it was starting, that was when they started her on estrogen. and so she wasn't going to have the surgery until high school. she wanted to do it before college. this is a very, very important step. so many people go through puberty, and when they decide to make the transition, don't make it until they're adults, it's especially difficult for female transgender people because, you know, they've gone through male puberty. and surgically, a lot has to be done. she didn't have to face that problem. she went through female puberty at the right time. so she's been able to have the right development and at the right time as other young women. and she's a beautiful young woman. and she's happy and thrilled and has a boyfriend and is about as normal a kid as you could come across. and it's the beauty of this
family is because they're ordinary in so many ways, they're extraordinary in how they dealt with the situation. but they're ordinary in being, you know, an every man's family. they're your mother and father, they're your sister and your brother. it would be hard motto identify with this family -- not to identify with this family. and i think to the degree that that can normalize for people what it means to be transgender and what it means to have a transgender member in family, then i think it spreads the message and educates people just by their presence. >> host: amy ellis nutt, you're a science writer at "the washington post." how did you find this story? >> guest: this story actually found me, honestly. it was first published in the newspaper, in the boston globe, page 1, in december of 2011. marty barron to, the executive editor of the washington post, was then the executive editor of "the boston globe," very far-seeing editor who promoted in this story. i read it, i was fascinated by
it. and i was captain r contacted -- contacted, i didn't know that they were being represented at the time by someone i had known 30 years earlier in boston. and she reached out to me because the family was getting a lot of publicity requests. they were uncomfortable with doing anything more than that. they wanted to protect their kids and have them group, you know, have them a normal teenage. teenage life. but they knew that down the line after they graduated high school, they would want this story to be told. she contacted me because she knew i'd written a book, and so the story came to me. but i remember saying to my agent, this is fascinating. and the fact that they were identical twins is an important aspect trying to explain the science and what we know about the brain and gender. i said, do you think anyone's going to want to read a book about a transgender kid? that was five years ago. and the world has changed dramatically since then. so, honestly, it's a serendipitous publication of this. >> host: what's the estimated
population of transgender in the u.s.? >> guest: honestly, the best estimates are grossly inadequate. the ones that you read most frequently are between 7-800,000. those figures are based on 10-year-old surveys of three states. it's impossible to know. it really is. and i'm waiting for the, you know, for the next sort of stage when we can get a better estimate of that. but, of course, we face the same problems in people not identifying as transgender or not wanting to identify even -- so honestly, i think we really don't know. but what i learned from doing this book is i'd always thought the phrase gender spectrum was very nice, politically correct, lovely phrase. but it really is true that this is not exceedingly rare that 1 in 200 kids are born with
atypical -- 1 in 200 are born with atypical genitalia. there are many, many different kinds of variations of chromosomal dna. people can be born xyy, xxy, insensitive to androgen, you know, to testosterone or not. so there is no average male or female. we really are a spectrum in many ways. and so i learned that as we are beginning to learn the science of this, your anatomy is set in utero at six weeks. scientists believe your gender identity process in the brain does not occur until six months in utero. so you think of all the things that can happen between six weeks and six months that affect the brain, and this is why identical twins can have the exactsame -- exact same dna, but they get different chemical messages from the mother even
where they're positioned in the womb. and the degree of variation because of things the mother takes in from the environment that affects the distribution of hormones, the variability in how our brains are set is nearly infinite. >> host: so what kind of testing did wyatt maines have to go through to become nicole maines? >> guest: yeah. >> host: before even surgery happened or anything like that. >> guest: you know, back then it was before really, honestly, genetic testing. so what she went through was mostly psychological tests. and also physiological tests, you know, to understand, you know, her anatomy. but it was mostly a series of psychological tests, and this is one thing why they, you know, delay puberty and suppress puberty so that the child cannily as the gender -- can
live as the gender that they believe they are for as long as possible to be fully confident that that's who they are. look, there are a lot of kids who, you know, test boundaries and, you know, boys that like to dress up as girls and girls that were tomboys, and these are temporary. these are things that are experimenting. not all children who do that are transgender. but a child who says at the age of 2 when do i get to be a girl and says it constantly and consistently, that's a transgender child. >> host: amy ellis nutt is the author of "becoming nicole: the transformation of an american family." she's also the co-author of "the teenage brain." ..
>> guest: six of the seven crew died. the seventh survived. the accident happened so quickly that he didn't know what happened.ow so the story was, on the one hand, a narrative about what happened to these men and their families, but also an investigation. and i basically make the case -- i think it's a strong case --in that they were the victims of a high seas hit and run by a container ship, german container ship that didn't stop. and it's a mystery, and it's an investigation, and it's a story about people. >> host: amy ellis nutt also spent nine years as a fact checker at "sports illustrated". >> guest: that's right. >> host: a little bit of herer career. "becoming nicole" is the book that we've been talking with her about, here it is. >> here's a look at some of the
authors recently featured on booktv's "after words," our weekly author interview program. harvard business school professor eugene soltis talked about the motivations of collar criminals. former senate majority leader george mitchell. and editor at large for the guardian, gary younge, discussed his investigation of gun violence in america. in the coming weeks on "after words," johns hopkins professor ellen silvergeld will report on industrial meat production. "wall street journal" news editor jo ann lungren. also dr. sylvia eterra will discuss new research on how our bodies react to fat. and this weekend jason brennan will weigh in on the flaws in democratic systems. >> guest: in that book he asks when presidents, when people in the public disagree about what policies to implement, say
people in the tenth percentile of income, the 50 and the 90th, what do presidents do? with whom do they side? in general, presidents tend to side with people on the 9th per seen tile. george w. bush was actually much more likely to side with the tenth percentile of income than other presidents were. so when he writes this, he's a little bit horrified because he's a small d democrat, and he thinks the median voter should have a lot of influence. on the other hand, he notes that high income voters tend to be high information voters, and they tend to favor completely different sets of policies, so the high income voters tend and high information voters as well tend to be not very pugilistic, against the iraq war, the low information voters tend to have the opposite preferences. so substantively, it looks like part of what may be happening here is that the high information voters are carrying more weight, politicians can to
some degree get away with doing things that the median voter doesn't want. so i read something like that, and my friend, brian kaplan, has a similar reaction. maybe this is explaining why democracy overperforms. there is a tendency to do what the average person wants, but there's a, dependence on producing policies that are better than what we would expect than if the public just got what it wanted. >> "after words" airs every saturday at 10 p.m. and sunday at 9 p.m. eastern. you can watch all previous "after words" programs on our web site, booktv.org. >> tell a little bit more about why you see our founding as tied and important in the history of faith. >> yeah. well, and the one thing our founders did not see, right? they saw very clearly on incentives and the constitutional structure, but you just kind of got at it. they could not see a day where
the judeo-christian tradition wasn't taken as a given, and we're kind of there right now. that's debatable. so there's all this debate on jefferson's wall of separation between church and state. well, we want that, right? the first amendment is about that, the separation of church and state and the press, no establishment of religion but free exercise thereof, right? so that's the tradition. but it's very interesting, the left, right, i take the left down a little in terms of the soul of the american university, it's one of the books i reference in there -- and i went to princeton seminary. we said, hey, let's make a deal. we'll move the seminary across the tracks. we found it, right,? the presbyterians, harvard, yale, we founded it, here, secular society, we're sharing win-win group. so you take the schools, we'll move the seminaries across, but you've got to teach ethics, right? it was going to be socrates, aristotle, that morphs into the
catholic and protestant traditions. and now the left has not only taken those school, but they said you can no longer teach ethics. there's no natural law taught anymore. if you bring up religion in a brown bag talk in a philosophy department, you get laughed out of the room. and so everyone talks about a separation of church and state, but paul ryan when he looks at the first bust he sees every day is moses from his chair. do you mean that kind of separation? no law? no ten commandments in our secular society? i don't think so. and then i show compassion and love showed up about zero, right? rome wasn't the most loving society, right? [laughter] it was cold, it was the example of cold,ster -- sterile, brutal society. and in comes this doctrine of love at zero. do you want a separation of compassion and love from our tradition? so the left, i know what they mean, they don't want religious establishment. >> host: right. >> guest: but we also all assume, the left agrees with us on human rights claims.
and human rights emerge only in western europe at about 1400 out of the judeo-christian tradition. >> host: yep. >> guest: and so those rights, we argue at least, that the founders precede the existence of government. so do you want a separation of that, right? so do rights exist, yes or no. and so i kind of wanted to push the thinking a little bit. we're at war right now with a part of a tradition who has a hard time with the first amendment and religious toleration. >> host: right. >> guest: so i wanted to push the ideas out there in public and get a good debate going, and so that's part of what was going on. >> you can watch this and other programs online at booktv.org. >> host: and now joining us is stephen lee my ors who works for the -- myers who works for "the new york times" and has written this book, "the new czar: the rise and reign of vladimir putin." mr. myers, why to you call him a czar? >> guest: that's an excellent question.ll it stemmed, i think, really from