Updated: May 17, 2019
My son Adam’s gender story told in my 2019 book Soar, Adam, Soar started in the womb. (Soar, Adam, Soar, Dundurn Press, 2019)
As a Roman Catholic priest who married at 40, I had become an instant stepdad to Suzanne’s three children, and a year later, a “over the moon”, first-time dad to a child identified as a girl at birth, a kid we would legally named “Rebecca Danielle Adam Prashaw”.
Smart parents, eh? Well, a smart mom for sure. Despite baptizing hundreds of baby boys and baby girls, I had much to learn about gender identity. My Adam would be my primary teacher, anchored in the example of my own Dad and Mom whose door swung open for all.
Early in Suzanne’s pregnancy, she had informed me that our baby was a boy. She didn’t need an ultrasound. This kid in utero was behaving and placed much like her David and not at all like Lindsey and Lauren. So, long before the birth, we gave this kid the name of Adam, often talking to or referring to our Adam.
On April 22. 1993, in the Canadian city of Sudbury, Ontario, an intern caught the baby after only 17 minutes of labour --- the express delivery a sure harbinger of my son’s fast lane, madcap life.
“You have a beautiful baby girl,” the intern declared
Suzanne, gobsmacked, bolted up on the delivery table. Mom demanded a second opinion. Where did Adam go? Still, we put Adam in the “girl’s” name. And boy, did he love that Adam name. The gender confusion started early. When Rebecca Adam was two years old, Mom answered the inevitable “how many kids we have” this way.
“I have two girls, a boy and a wannabe --- a girl who wants to be a boy!”
A tomboy who I, the former priest, fondly remember at First Communion whipping the dress off almost still inside the church, at the end of the service. We would find the dress three days later rolled in a ball under Rebecca’s bed.
I tell these stories on my early book tour, much to the delight of audiences. Adam’s wise wisdom and wicked humour social media posts are in the book, over 100 of them, making him the co-author.
September 13, 2014
…this is something that has been bugging me for a while…and I do mean awhile…since I was a baby in my mother’s womb, I always considered myself a boy. I got used to Rebecca or Becca only because that is what I was born with and called all around. But my real full name is Rebecca Danielle Adam Prashaw…. So everyone, as of today as you saw already on my FB name I am a transgender named Adam. I was born with that name for a reason and so it is kept in as my n.ame now. This is Adam Prashaw. Thanks. Means a lot”
Spoiler alert – this son who had epilepsy would die in 2016 at the age of 22 in a rare seizure-related drowning. A cruel tragedy. As a registered organ donor, he would save four lives. Three women got his kidneys and a liver. A man received his heart. A man! I choke up every time I tell how perfect that is, given his interrupted transition to Adam that began at 18 and seemed to always compete for our attention alongside two day-long brain surgeries to better contain the seizures; John Dickhout, a professional actor, has Adam’s heart. Dickhout cleverly sleuthed his donor identity. We have become close friends. In the book are our first anonymous letters to each other, our finally meeting when his wife Lynn, a nurse, pulled out a stethoscope for my listening to the heart, his first, post-transplant five-kilometre bucket list race, told in an award-winning short doc, A Racing Heart.
My son, my teacher on courage, pronouns and more, was bound and determined to be who he is and love who he loves. He, his friends and so many others I meet on the road now inspire me to celebrate on May 17 International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
The hurt, hate and discrimination against the transgender community persist but I do see genuine signs of hope. I think of who I have met ---Finn, Jesse, Jamie, Susan, Kate, Rita,
Samantha and others. Each in their own way has had the courage needed to be true to themselves, against all odds. I met a 85-year-old woman who said she knew at 5, when the teacher separated the class into boys and girls, that she was in the wrong line.
On tour, those in the transgender community teach me about the diversity within the diversity --- transgender people out there in public and others more private, some transitioning from one to the other of the two “traditional” genders of male and female, others intersex, or neither of the above, some like Adam wanting surgery, doing name changes or preferring to wait, using the “their” pronoun or not, and still others who have different agendas. Why should it surprise me that the transgender community is different from any other group of people, so diverse, given everyone is unique.
There’s much to learn. As I say in the Author’s Note, listening, learning and loving worked well for us in supporting Adam through my miscues, fears, questions and appointments with the professionals.. I highly recommend the listening, learning and loving. The stories from others inspire me.
“…I suspect you can know who you are for a long time but not know the terms of your identity. And not dare to be who you really are --- understandable given the conflicting, overriding desire we have to fit in. Adolescence can be a tortured, twisted time ---the shades of grey and angst playing themselves out sexually and other ways. Adam may have felt more like a boy but he still wanted to fit in. He had no models for becoming someone other, for identifying otherwise, for transitioning, for questioning gender assumptions. He was only ever surrounded by cisgender people. How could Adam take the risk to imagine otherwise when he didn’t see himself anywhere! He got the constant messages about the two distinct worlds of boys and girls. The locker rooms, bathrooms, sports. “it’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” the first declaration we hear when we are born….” The T Train, Chapter 6
Are we making progress? I think so, even though it’s never as quick as it should be.
I hear towns in rural, conservative Ontario approved resolutions to raise the Pride flag. At the same time, a Prince Edward Island town council rejected the request; one councillor there defended the vote saying "they" could raise their flag anywhere else in town. Geez, we are talking about human rights here, not the pennant of a sports team or flavour of ice cream you may or may not like. The flag may be a symbol only but it’s an important symbol inviting a community to create safe and equal places for the LGBTQ2+ population.
I meet Jesse Thompson, a young man and hockey player who in court wins the right for kids to dress in the locker room of the gender they identify. On an open-line radio show, one caller intones “in the Bible” to damn Adam and I to hell. That wasn’t the Jesus I believe in and preached. The caller is a Godsend though as the next seven callers shower their love and tell their good stories, several with positive faith community experiences. The Affirming United Church of Canada movement and Pflag Canada offering "family for all" resources are huge allies.
So, for one day, we shine a light on the road we have travelled and the work ahead. A day’s proclamation. A year's work, every year!
Adam has birthed in me a transgender advocate along with organ donor advocacy. Like many teens, Adam didn’t find me all that funny as a Dad, even though I knew I was hilarious LOL I did get a laugh out of him the day I called from his favourite Venus Envy adult store, my needing details on the better binders he wanted for those breasts he wanted gone. “You are WHERE?” he chuckled.
In my permanent grief, at times I have wanted to give up. Adam’s example, some nights his very voice, tell me not to. He tells you that too. Never surrender!
Bekkaa shared Steve Atchinson’s post May 4, 2010
“true love isn’t finding someone else, it’s finding the missing piece of yourself. 1.l.y”