DC series Supergirl is making history with its fourth season, casting Nicole Maines to play Nia Nal, the first ever trans superhero on TV.
The news was announced at Comic-Con over the weekend, with Maines appearing at the show’s panel at the pop culture convention.
Her character’s arc in the show’s fourth season will see her work alongside Kara Danvers – Supergirl herself – as a journalist, as Kara takes her under her caped wing.
“I’ve been doing a lot of auditions lately because a lot of different shows have been really eager to tell the story of transgender people,” Maines said at the panel.
“It seems only fitting that we have a trans superhero for trans kids to look up to. I wish there was a trans superhero when I was little.”
Maines – who is just 21 years old – is an activist in addition to being an actress, having successfully sued her California school district in 2014 after being denied access to the women’s bathroom.
She spoke to Variety about the opportunity to play a trans woman as a trans woman, and why that truth in representation is important to her.
“I think we’re in a time right now where more than ever representation in the media matters. And what we see on television has a very dramatic effect on our society.”
Maines also discussed coming out to her parents in the late ’90s and early ’00s, when trans women were exclusively portrayed by cisgender men as objects of pity and tragedy.
“They’re men in dresses and that was damaging for a long time,” she said.
She also addressed the Scarlett Johansson casting controversy which has recently dominated headlines.
“I think that cis gender actors don’t take roles out of malice, it’s just a failure to realize the context of having cis gender people play transgender characters.
“We don’t see the same issue with sexuality, we see straight people play gay all the time,” she said.
“With trans folks we have a lot of people accusing us of just playing dress up for whatever reasons and that’s just not true.
Having trans people play trans roles show that we are valid in our identities and we exist.”
Users on social media reacted jubilantly to the news.
Oh my god… Trans girl superhero. On network television. Played by a trans girl!
When I was a kid, I honestly never thought I would see this in my lifetime.
There’s a lot of shit in the world, but maybe we’re actually clawing our way forward, too.https://t.co/BpRCIfIdH7
— Crystal Frasier (@AmazonChique) July 22, 2018
“Trans girl superhero. On network television. Played by a trans girl!” one user tweeted. “When I was a kid, I honestly never thought I would see this in my lifetime.”