“Becoming Nicole” speaker emphasizes power of storytelling

Amy Ellis Nutt right) answers student questions following her presentation. Photo by Zollie Brown.)

“I don’t think there are any [genders]. It’s non-binary, it’s a spectrum.”

This was Amy Ellis Nutt, journalist and author of Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family, speaking on Friday December 8 to George Mason High School students.

While her statement appears inconclusive, Ms. Nutt was conclusive in responding to a student’s question on the subject: “But there are more than two.”

Nutt is a journalist who was born in Staten Island, New York, earned a Master’s degree in journalism at Columbia University and began writing from there.

Nutt was invited to speak to students about her experience writing her book, which chronicles the journey of a transgender girl, Nicole, and her family. The program was organized by the the student organization, Gay-Straight Alliance and the Cultural Heritage and Equity Team (a faculty-led group of teachers and administrators). Her appearance was funded by the Falls Church Education Foundation and the PTSA.

Junior Savannah Williams, a member of the GSA, was instrumental in helping to organize the assembly. “I think the assembly went really well,” Williams said. “I think that everyone at first felt a little uncomfortable about the topic but as the speaker continued speaking they became more comfortable and more interested in the topic.

Throughout her talk, Nutt recalled the life of Nicole and her family and how they had to figure out and cope with their daughter’s transformation into a woman.

Ms. Nutt finished her talk with some final words for students to take on our own and ask ourselves: “To be a person is to be a story. The challenge for each of us is to be our own center of gravity, and it’s not easy. So, this is the challenge I leave you with. Identify your own mysteries, and then master them. Single out your flaws, and embrace them. Tell your story in all its messiness and necessity. And Listen to the stories of others. Because if we don’t, if we don’t take ownership of who we are and acknowledge the rights of others to be who they are. If we fail to tell all the stories, then we are all somehow diminished.”

Each student attending was allowed to write down a question on a note card that was then presented to Nutt for her to answer. One student asked: “What can we [students] do as allies to help with the 42% average suicide attempt rate plaguing the transgender community?” Nutt explained how if you or someone you know are dealing with something like that, then you must talk to people. She emphasized the importance of communication in that situation whether it comes from a therapist, family, or friends.

Students from the Gay-Straight Alliance walked the aisles during the assembly and collected questions from Mason students in the audience. However, time did not permit for more than a few of the dozens questions collected to be asked.

One student shouted from the crowd, asking, “Is it possible to be genderless?”

The central message of Ms. Nutt’s presentation, however, had nothing specifically to do with gender. What she proposed is what the majority of people want in the world: to “tell our own stories” and acknowledge the stories of others.

Zollie Brown
Zollie Brown

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