Alumni harnesses courage

During his senior year, alumni Adam Mehlhoff announced that he was a transgendered man, which is to say a woman who identifies as a man.
Adam was a member of the Gay Straight Alliance during his senior year. He has recently changed his name legally from Sarah to Adam.
The process of informing his family was difficult, according to Adam.
“I [grew] up and always felt more like a male and in tenth grade I sort of decided to do something about it. So I started asking people to call me a different name. It was hard for people at first, a lot of people sort of stopped talking to me for a while. I lost a few friends. But my family was really supportive and it was all right,” A. Mehlhoff said.
When Adam initially announced that he was a transgendered man, he did not tell everyone at first.
“I did not come out to everybody, just the few people that were close to me. In senior year I came out to pretty much everybody. There were some people who were totally accepting and there some who were not. It was sort of a roller coaster; it was hard but worth it,” A. Mehlhoff said. “Just [were] recently I got my name legally changed, which has been really helpful. A lot of people are getting used to the idea and it is getting easier.”
Some of Adam’s friends did not initially accept his change of name and gender identity.
“It has made me realize who my true friends were and my true support system. Not that many people are that accepting of it, that has been the hardest thing I think, just letting go of the people who do not accept it because you have to learn to be happy for yourself,” A. Mehlhoff said.
Adam describes the impact of announcing that he was transgendered to his friends.
“Mainly it is just figuring out who you want to be surrounded by. [Of] my few closest friends, one of them totally accepts it. She kind of knew because we grew up together and she sort of expected it. My other two really close friends, they accepted it. . .but we do not really talk much anymore. It has been sort of a hard process letting them go; we are still friends but it is not the same,” A. Mehlhoff said.
Laurie Mehlhoff, Adam’s mother, describes how she first started to realize that Adam associated with the male gender.
“He never liked wearing anything frilly. He despised dresses, ribbons and pretty shoes. He loved the outdoors, he loved to camp, build forts, do wood working on his little Home Depot work bench. He loved to play baseball. Almost every Halloween, he would dress up as a boy of some sort [of] a cop, a firefighter, a gangster, you name it. He never went for a female role except for one year in second grade as a witch. I think he only did that because his friend convinced [him] to,” Laurie Mehlhoff said.
Adam’s early relationships were different from his sister’s, according to Laurie Mehlhoff.
“When he had his first boyfriend, even that was different. My older daughter had really dramatic, romantic feelings for her boyfriends. My youngest (Adam) did not. So, I guess I knew he associated with the male gender just in the fact that he told me he wanted to be a boy and he always wanted to dress like them since he was very little.”
Adam will be taking hormones for the rest of his life, every week. He initially did not feel any affects.
“I started them and did not feel like there were many changes, it took about a month before I started noticing anything. The first thing that happened was my voice started to drop. I am on testosterone and you have to inject it every week on my stomach. So I take 3 cc’s of testosterone. It is sort of like a second puberty; it kind of sucks but it is worth it,” A. Mehlhoff said.
GSA adviser Gayle Franks talks about some of the hardships that transgendered students like Adam might go through.
“Transgendered students are considered valuable members of the club and the club embraces them for who they are. It is harder to get the general student population to understand the change though. I had to talk to several students about refusing to accept the students change in gender status and name,” Franks said. “The response is always that ‘I have always called them that so I will continue to do so.’ What students do not realize is that most transgender students are uncomfortable in the body that they were born into.”
Adam will face prejudice in the future as Laurie explains.
“I have learned also that it is not a sexual issue. It is not about sex at all. It is about gender. I have moments where I watch Adam and I get a little sad because of the prejudice he is going to face and I know that his road in life is going to be more difficult because of it,” Laurie Mehlhoff said. “This breaks my heart but I also look at Adam and I am very proud of him. I see my child growing confident again. I see his self-esteem coming back along with his self-worth. I am proud that he has the guts to follow his heart. I am proud that he is the kind of person he is.”