During the April 5 episode of Friday Night Tykes: Steel Country, Sarah Markusic's child came out as genderqueer or gender fluid. The episode, titled "Love Change," included a large segment in which Abby (who also goes by Adam, depending on the day) along with Sarah explained the 8 year-old's revelation on camera. Open LGBTQ conversation is extremely rare for a sports show, especially one focused on a youth football league in Pennsylvania, but the Markusic family decided it was an opportunity to help others who might be in a similar situation.
After the episode aired, Sarah Markusic spoke with us about Abby/Adam's story, the family's decision to appear on Friday Night Tykes, and the reactions she's gotten from the community.
Out: When did you first realize Abby/Adam might be genderqueer?
Sarah Markusic: When she was two she started telling me she was a boy. At that time, you don't realize there's something going on. You think it's cute. She would always tell people, "I'm a boy. I'm a boy. I'm a boy." You know? She didn't fully decide to be Adam until a year ago.
How did that "decision" affect Abby/Adam's life?
This is the first year she's asked the football coaches to call her Adam. I let her be whoever she wants to be. I really accept her for who she is. It's really weird, because I always told people that we thought it was a phase. We didn't understand the gender fluid community. We always thought it was transgender. We didn't understand that there are a lot of kids that don't identify with being a boy or a girl, and that's definitely her. Although, she does lean more toward masculine things.
How did you educate yourself about the gender fluid community?
I actually just learned about that community a year ago. I didn't understand and didn't know. One day she wants to be Abby and the next she's Adam. I wasn't aware until I joined a Facebook community and told them, Hey, I have a transgender daughter. I shared her story and everyone was like, Oh, she's gender fluid. I'm like, Whoah, what's gender fluid? People started sharing, I started reading and thought, That's definitely my kid. I just thought eventually she might transition. If she does, that's fine. If she doesn't, that's fine. I just want her to be comfortable in her own skin.
What was your thought process like after this revelation?
With my kid I've always been accepting, but growing up I was very conservative. I thought a man should marry a woman, a woman should marry a man. I had gay friends and had no problem with them, but I was still into the God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve stuff. I was stupid growing up. Having kids really opens your eyes. People in this community don't choose this. They're born like this. Growing up, you don't understand those things. You hear what you hear from adults around you. But when you have children of your own, you learn and become more accepting. I would hope that parents would want their children to be happy. A lot don't, which I don't understand. I don't understand how you couldn't accept your child. I can't fathom that.
Why did you decide to join Esquire's Friday Night Tykes: Steel Country?
We talked it over first, like, Listen, your friends at school are going to see this. They're gonna know. And she was like, Mom, they already know. Half of the kids know her as Adam. Kids at this age are wonderfully accepting, believe it or not. I wish adults had the minds of 8-year-olds.
Why did you decide to share Adam/Abby's story on Friday Night Tykes: Steel Country?
If I didn't know about the gender fluid community for seven years, I'm sure there are other people that can understand and relate. Maybe finally understand what's going on with their child and not think it is a phase, or think there's anything wrong with their parenting. A guy recently messaged me that his older child is a couple of years into transitioning and he thanked me for my story with my child. I helped a father bond with his daughter, that's how I feel. That's what I set out to do. I wanted people to educate themselves a little bit.
How have people in Adam/Abby's life and community reacted?
Everyone's known in the community. They could always tell. When she kind of came out, I told everyone, even all of the football moms, and they were all supportive. They all called her, Adam. I've maybe lost one or two friends that weren't in the community, but other than that, I haven't had a lot of backlash. I actually had someone reach out in my community, that is a transgender older woman who doesn't live far. Abby is over the moon to meet her. This will be the first person that she's been around that's "like her."
Friday Night Tykes: Steel Country is on Tuesdays 9/8c on Esquire Network. Watch the clip below: