Reflections on Adam

By Oceana Maund

Oceana Maund is a non-binary trans activist and campaigner and was trans blogger in residence with the National Theatre of Scotland. 

Glasgow Adam places his hand upon the cheek of his co-worker.

This production revolves around the story of Adam, an asylum seeker who, facing discrimination and persecution in his own country, is forced to leave everyone he loves and everything he knows in search of a safe place to just exist as himself.

Six-year-old Adam tries to insist he is a boy and unsuccessfully tries to stand up to pee like his male relative does. As he grows older and the feeling of being male does not go away, he still has no words to describe it. Eventually it becomes a question.

“Can the soul of a man reside in the body of a woman?”

Glasgow Adam types on a laptop on an old mattress. Egyptian Adam glares into the distance.

This question, or one of its many multi or non-gendered variations goes straight to the heart of what it means to be a trans person, it is the fuel that powers the trans debate and the match that lights the fuse of confrontation. Is gender purely based on physical characteristics or is it something else? What is gender anyway? For many trans people ideas like these are floating about in our consciousness long before we can hope to understand what they mean or comprehend the impact that they may have on our lives.

And so for Adam this is not merely an abstract or philosophical question, it becomes a matter of life and death. Growing up within a culture and society in which the language you speak simply does not have the words to describe the way you are feeling must be terrifying and confusing. Does that mean that no-one else has ever felt the way that you do? Are you really the only one? Now in his late teens and unable to talk to anyone about how he is feeling, Adam’s gender non-conformance is punished with sexual and physical assaults and a breakdown with his father finds himself alone in a beaten up flat in a part of Alexandria not on the tourist trail.

A friend lends Adam a laptop and fearfully he types in his question

“Can the soul of a man reside in the body of a woman?”

Two people stand holding hands looking at a screen filled with lots of faces

Suddenly Adam is not alone, not mad, not the only one. This is a revelation. Instead of being one voice he realises he is one of hundreds, thousands, millions across the world. And he finds the language to express himself, Adam is a trans man and change is possible.

We skip to 2010, Glasgow. Adam is seeking asylum and finds himself in another beaten up flat in a different city, but here he can at least be Adam – can’t he? He finds himself in limbo, his GP will not prescribe hormones until he is granted asylum and he will not be granted asylum until he proves he is transgender. How do you prove that you are trans? There is no blood test, scan or physical examination that can definitively prove this one way or another, and as weeks turn into months and months into years Adam becomes more and more desperate…

In 2018, Adam is touring to Greenock, Brighton and London. You can also catch Adam in a double bill with Eve at Dundee Rep from 24-26 May.

Photography by Sally Jubb.

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