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A mother's love is helping other parents navigate new identities and spaces

Ann Miller joined PFLAG to get support and figure out how to support her son. Now, she's helping the organization grow.
Credit: Provided by Ann Miller

ATLANTA — Ann and Adam Miller sat down with 11Alive's Hope Ford for about an hour-long interview. And it resulted in countless amounts of spontaneous laughter from the mother-son duo. 

"We have quite the banter," Ann said in between a giggle; the two laughing at an inside joke.

The pair are about as close as can be, openly discussing the past, present, and identities. Which didn't always happen, back when Adam - wasn’t Adam.

“I vaguely remember telling her I wanted to be a boy around the time I was 5," said Adam. "And it wasn't met with hate. It was really nothing. I was like okay, not a good thing to say, not a good thing to feel, not going to do that again.”

“I considered that Adam might have been trans when he was like eight or nine because there are tomboys in the world but he was such a tomboy. And I tell this a lot to parents, I buried that thought because I didn’t want a transgender child," Ann admitted. “We could have saved many years and heartache had I think I opened that.”

Both Adam and Ann submerged those thoughts for different reasons.

“As a parent, the last thing you want is more hardship for your child. I was worried about discrimination against him. I thought it would be really difficult," Ann said. 

Ada, on the other hand, tried to commit to feeling the way he thought the world wanted him to feel.

“I was very much a people pleaser, very much a 'goodist', very much perfectionist, high achieving type because I was trying to smash that part down and be the perfect little girl child.”

For Adam, it was inevitable and important, that he step into his true self. But it came with questioning. He admitted his journey took him from believing he was bisexual, then a lesbian. But a former partner helped him realized his younger feelings, may have been correct all along. 

“I went to college and I started experimenting with gender presentation, how I introduced myself, name and pronouns wise. And after doing that only once or twice, I quickly figured out that Adam, he/him, presenting myself as male felt a lot more comfortable.”

Ann decided to walk with him by joining PFLAG, the largest and oldest non-profit organization for LGBTQIA+ people and their families.

"Gave me support, it met me where I was," said Ann. “It was a teeny tiny meeting of six people who met in the room of a church.”

The support allowed Ann to meet Adam.

"She was immediately going to support meeting, because she was immediately affirming it, immediately trying to help me, I was able to talk to her about my gender questioning before I even reached the conclusion," said Adam.

“I asked you the next day, 'do you want to see a gender therapist," Ann recalled. 

"I think my answer was 'no.' It probably shouldn’t have been no," Adam answered, a tiny laugh following his statement. 

Ann said, "It was 'I don’t know and I was like, I’m gonna get you a gender therapist.'”

The journey wasn’t an easy one for Adam, at one point struggling with addiction to numb his feelings.

“I felt worse immediately after coming out because now I have to navigate life as a trans person. I was living authentically as a trans person but not in any other way," he said, as Ann nodded in agreement.

But eight years later, Adam, sober, can firmly declare, "This is just me living as people do.”

And as Adam explored his identity, so did Ann.

“PFLAG used to have a saying that was,' when you no longer need PFLAG, PFLAG needs you' and I took that to heart and I became a facilitator," Ann said, Adam cutting her off with a giggle. 

"I was thinking she definitely took it to heart, she went right in," he explained of his laughter. 

Well, Ann did go right in, helping grow local PFLAG chapters, and is now a Regional Director.

Ann explained, “I’m trying to make our little corner of the world a better, more educated place around LGBTQ people, so it starts with me. It starts with me in a coffee shop, it started with me more just being open about our experience.”

Adam borrowed a page from his mother’s book, now a life coach for people in the LGBTQIA+ community. 

What started as an urge to hide became the reason the pair helps others see.

“Every month there would be more families that would need us. We knew were doing lifesaving work, we knew that we were saving lives," Ann said. 

Towards the end of the interview, the two walked over to a photo tree, containing pictures of Ann's mom, herself, and a young Adam, complete with a smile, dress and bow. 

His birth name, engraved into a plate underneath.

"That was such a girly name," said Adam, a slight mockery in his voice.

"Well," Ann quipped back. "I thought I had a girl."  

True to form, the two started laughing. 

PFLAG has 400 plus chapters across the country. In Georgia, there are chapters located in Athens, Atlanta, Blairsville, Johns Creek, Lawrenceville, Marietta, Peachtree City, Rome, Sandy Springs, and Woodstock. 

The organization "provides confidential peer support, education, and advocacy to LGBTQ+ people, their parents and families, and allies" and currently has more than 200,000 members and supporters. 

To learn more, visit their website.