Man writes on life of his transgender child

Rick Prashaw will speak about his book, Soar, Adam, Soar, the story of his transgender son's life during a visit to Paris on Sept. 12. Ashley Fraser / Postmedia

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Rick Prashaw and his wife, Suzanne, were so sure she was pregnant with a boy that they named the baby-to-be Adam.

Then came the delivery and the doctor’s news: It’s a gorgeous little girl.

Stunned, the couple named her Rebecca Adam. It just felt like the thing to do.

“The kid was such a tomboy,” says Prashaw, adding that she was a hockey player, active, impulsive, “a clown.”

Then, 18 years later, came the announcement on Facebook: “I’m Adam. I have always been Adam. Please call me Adam.”

And the Prashaws began a sudden journey into the world of gender transition.

“It was no surprise,” says Prashaw.

Adam died three years ago, aged 22, as a result of an epileptic seizure in a swimming pool. Now Prashaw has written a book about his child’s life, Soar, Adam, Soar, tracing how his child dealt with years of epilepsy, brain surgery and a change in gender while remaining full of humour and enthusiasm.

The book’s cover photo is a selfie that Adam took at poolside, probably only moments before he drowned.

“I always accepted Rebecca and Adam wholly,” says the Ottawa man, who will be at Stillwater’s Plate and Pour in Paris on Sept. 12, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., as part of an event co-sponsored by Brant County Coun. Marc Laferriere and the Community Legal Clinic of Brant Haldimand Norfolk.

” I never saw this huge change,” says Prashaw.

But he says he did feel fear: “Is this the right decision? Is this kid who always lives in the fast lane, so impulsive, who does things rashly — is this right? I want someone to tell me, ‘Yes.’

“I reflected very much on this. It’s very much a journey.”

And, after Adam died, “my sister pointed out that this is not just Adam’s story. It is my story as a parent.”

(Rick and Suzanne had separated by that point, but had remained in frequent contact over Adam’s needs surrounding both gender and epilepsy.)

Prashaw was briefly a reporter at the Vancouver Sun in the 1970s, then was Catholic priest for 11 years until he left the priesthood to be married. He later worked for the Church Council on Justice and Corrections, and then for a succession of New Democratic MPs.

“Adam is my co-author,” he says. He has gathered messages that Adam posted on Facebook, mixed them with words he remembers Adam saying, and also has the frequent feeling as he writes that Adam is directing him what to say.

“I was trying to figure out how to paraphrase what he would say and one day I heard the strongest voice: ‘Dad, use my words. Don’t edit anything.’ And that’s when I realized he was going to be the co-author.

“I think the journalist in me and the priest in me both like telling stories.”

And he says he finds it more effective to show the details of one family’s experience than to explain generalities of how things work in difficult times.

“I’m not interested in preaching anymore … but just telling a story.”

Adam was also an organ donor to four recipients. His family has since met the young man who received his heart.

The book, from Dundurn Press, is available both online and at some bookstores.

Laferriere says Prashaw’s visit is part of a “larger effort of many to make sure we are an open, welcoming community that takes a commitment to diversity seriously as a recurring theme in our community.”

Earlier this year, Laferriere successfully brought forward a motion to have a Pride celebration in Brant County for the first time.

He will be the MC for the Sept. 12 event, which will include local speakers who have received lifesaving transplants.

“It’s important to create events such as this for transgender persons and cisgender allies to come together to share our stories, raise awareness and to build a solid foundation of support for our communities,” said Finn Cole, founder and co-chair of the Brantford Advocacy Transgender Alliance, who also will be speaking at the event.

Cisgender is the term used for people whose gender identity matches their gender at birth. A man who identifies as a man and was born a man is a cisgender man.

To learn more about Prashaw visit www.rickprashaw.com .

Prashaw’s book tour has already taken him to 26 cities in Ontario, Vermont and California.

Vball@postmedia.com
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