As well as being a show full of histrionic superhero action, Supergirl has also used its plots to address a number of social issues, including the plight of transgender individuals in America. And now, trans actor Nicole Maines, who plays Nia Nal/Dreamer, has stated that the series has raised the bar for representation of people like her.
Nia was introduced in the season 4 premiere as a new reporter to be trained by Kara, also acting as a mirror of the latter’s early days of adorkable enthusiasm and clumsiness. The anti-alien rhetoric at the center of the run’s events prompted Nia to reveal herself as trans, likening the bigotry against extraterrestrials who just want a peaceful life to how trans people are treated by many of their fellow humans.
Maines had this to say about how the show has portrayed Nia and other trans people:
“We can do and can be whoever we want. The bar is now set very, very high, because if you can be a superhero, you can be anything. It’s like, ‘Well, if I can be a superhero, everything else is very easily within reach.’ So, that’s what I hope people take away from seeing Nia. Also, for folks who are not trans, I hope they learn from me that trans people are more than what’s in our pants. We are more than our trauma. We’re more than our gender. We are just fully fledged superheroes, who have an arc outside of our transness.”
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Not content with merely having a trans character – played by a trans actor – joining the central cast, the show also addressed Nia’s status more directly, with her statement that her hereditary powers are inherited by female members of her family making a tacit declaration that a trans person’s true gender is the one they identify as rather than what they were assigned at birth. It also came up again in a less positive light when Nia’s sister Maeve is shown to be resentful of her sibling attaining the abilities of the Dreamer after she assumed for years they would manifest in her, declaring Nia wasn’t a ‘real’ woman, echoing how many trans people are treated by their families when they come out.
There’s still a long way to go regarding how trans people are portrayed, starting with more acknowledgment that they exist and are valid, but with shows like Supergirl making an effort to take purposeful steps to represent them in a positive light, we’re slowly moving in the right direction.