Up in Northern Ontario this June on my second book tour for Father Rick Roamin' Catholic, I passed this amazing 60-000-square foot rainbow mural. I smiled. It's the former Sudbury General Hospital building where my son, Adam, was born. As new owners figure out future plans, Risk, or Risky, (Kelly Graval) was the Los Angeles-based artist commissioned to paint what is Canada's largest mural.
No doubt, Adam is smiling too from wherever he roams after his drowning in 2016.
He had never tired of hearing his birth story, how his mom was convinced she was carrying a boy in her womb and how we as parents called that baby, Adam, for months before the birth, and even included "Adam"in the baby's legal name. (A Beautiful Baby Girl! Chapter 3, Soar, Adam, Soar). The intern who delivered Adam told us our baby was a girl.
Along with Christmas, which morphed annually into a month-long celebration for Adam, he thrived every June for Pride month festivities. The parades, parties, and drag performances by friends were his sweet spot to chase after "the normal" life he craved. I enjoy Pride too, thinking of Adam and the score of revellers celebrating who they are and who they choose to love. Love does win!
But I worry too, wondering how we ensure that these days or even an entire month dedicated to Pride themes of inclusion, diversity, and justice become a passion for all of us all year long. God forbitd that Pride Month be another box to check off for employers, goverments, and the general public, and on to whatever next month's special themes are.
Adam's story reminds me of how far we have come, and still how far we need to progress so that every individual can be themselves and feel safe at work or play. I chatted about this with Adam's former boss, Joel Frappier, as he interviewed me for a "Rainbow Moment" event for Compass Food Services. (Compass has 25,000 associates, is in 50 countries, and in Canada has won several "Best Place To Work" awards) Frappier recalled what happened when he first interviewed Adam for a job at his Cafe Nature in the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa
"When I met Adam, Adam was Rebecca Prashaw. He had applied for a General Help position at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Our administrative assistant and I met with Rebecca to complete his on-boarding. Rebecca was quiet, looking down at the floor and answering our questions. I asked him for a proof of ID and he presented me with a birth certificate and I asked if he wanted the name to include the middle name “Adam” on his file. The ID read Rebecca Danielle Adam Prashaw. He sat up, looked straight at me and said with assertiveness “that’s my first name, Adam”. My answer to him was “Welcome to Compass Group, Adam”. Adam would start his work career with Compass four days later as we needed to get his security clearance with the Museum.
"As we walked to the security desk he looked at me and said, 'this is a precious day for me' and it is when he was presented his name tag that he looked at me with tears rolling down his face and said, 'this is my first ID that reads Adam Prashaw. I’m finally home' and Adam had found his home. The museum would be his safe space and an inclusive workplace that gave Adam a safe work experience.
"Adam had a short journey with us yet he played a major role in our culture at our unit. I can assure you he played a very significant role in the lives of many. Today our special guest is Adam’s dad Rick Prashaw who has chosen to tell the story of Adam’s life and the major impact he has had on many. Adam’s legacy lives on through Rick’s book ”Soar Adam Soar”.
The 30-minute chat with Frappier covered other important stories in both my memoirs.
Why did you write Adam’s story?
Share with us the support that Adam felt at work when he was with Eurest Dining, and how that impacted his journey.
What did being Adam’s dad teach you and can you share his birth story.
As a parent, what advice would you give to other parents, leaders and our audience on the call today?
It's been a delight in this second memoir tour sitting at the signing table to greet people holding both books in their hands. Soar, Adam, Soar is what the publishing industry calls the "back story" to Father Rick Roamin' Catholic. In the faith memoir, I circledback to Adam to reflect on his gender journey home to the "boy in the mirror" he knew he was, but could not see. I shared my brief to Parliament, "I Am Adam!", as they debated and passed the conversion therapy ban legislation.
"I read Page’s personal news as Parliament studied legislation to ban conversion therapy, this pseudoscience targeting especially LGBTQ youth to change their identity or orientation(The next Parliament passed the law to ban conversion therapy). I winced reading several transphobic submissions, some faith based. I submitted to Parliament this one-page brief, “I Am Adam.”81 Adam taught me, reminded me, of core values. Be who we are. Love who we love. This is what I wanted in my life, what most I knowwant. What we desire for ourselves, we gift to others. At no time did we, as parents, impose any other treatment or therapy other than listening, learning, and loving. We appreciated the international tests, social workers, and doctors that were integral partners on his gender journey. It is a serious and lengthy process.
"Transgender is a label. There are the extraordinary individual human beings in the trans community. Some I meet reminded me of Adam, while others had quite different stories. Some sought surgery, some did not. Some were quite public. Some were not. Some changed names. Some had not decided. I came to appreciate the diversity in this community, the rainbow within the larger Rainbow Pride community. And I heard about the hurts and hate they had endured in their journey home to themselves. And I witnessed the stereotypes, myths, and ignorance. I learned about the alarming number of suicides, self-harm, homelessness, and other forms of injury and discrimination.
"Too many choose to play God and judge, in this case, wrongly. Faith is never a license to hate . . . I have never once in my heterosexual orientation or marriage and family felt threatened by the differences in others’ gender identity or orientation. I have felt threatened by those who hate and hurt others for religious or political reasons."
I ended the "Rainbow Moment" interview quoting these words from Sr. Margot Ritchie as she responded to the Vatican reiterating its teaching on marriage and sexuality. . Ritchie is head of the Congregation of The Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada. She invoked the childhood nursery rhyme, Sticks and Stones, and how, in fact, attacks can make victims quiver and words indeed hurt. She referred to the careless projection on to God of words like “illicit” and “sinful judgment” to describe homosexual behaviour.
“So, let’s try some words that heal, that celebrate, that helps one relax into
who we are,” Ritchie wrote. “Let’s begin with love which makes us whole.
Let’s follow those words with generativity that cares for others and for the
future. And, while we are at it, throw in courage and steadiness in the face of
shaming, And why not include acceptance and appreciation of diversity. And
maybe end with simple humanity in all our vulnerability and beauty." (I Am Adam!, Chapter 41, Father Rik Roamin' Catholic)
(Both memoirs are available for order in store or online at indie bookstores, Indigo, Barnes & Noble Amazon, and my webstore. Soar, Adam, Soar is also available from Dundurn Press and Father Rick Roamin' Catholic from Friesen Press)