Trigger Warning, this article will be discussing transphobia, lesbophobia, sexual assault, and infuriating levels of ignorance. In a word, “ADAM” by Ariel Schrag is disgusting. Both the book and the movie made me sick to my stomach, and I sincerely hope this will be looked upon with the most critical eye. What is “ADAM” about? It is about a seventeen year old cisgender boy who pretends to be a twenty year old transgender boy in order to romantically pursue and sleep with an older lesbian. There’s going to be a lot to unpack with everything wrong with this, but I have managed to narrow it down to five major flaws.
First, the concept of boundaries do not exist in this story. The protagonist, Adam, watches his sister sleep with another woman and begins to fetishize lesbians. I shouldn’t have to write an entire paragraph about everything that’s wrong about that. This is such an invasion of privacy, especially on a family member. To fetishize one’s own family member and whoever the partner involved may be is also incestuous, dehumanizing, and plain grotesque. How is it, exactly, that the audience is supposed to sympathize with or root for this character? Adam continues to show how much he lacks a moral compass by deciding to pursue a gay woman when she mistakes him for a transman, and continues on and lies about being transgender rather than tell her the truth in hopes she’ll sleep with him.
Second, the obvious and annoying implications that lesbians will date transmen because they were born female. This is very far from true, and incredibly invalidating to a lot of people. Transmen aren’t women; they have to go through the rigorous process of hormones, surgery, legally changing their name, legally being recognized as their gender identity, and the feelings of gender dysphoria. Lesbians date women, plain and simple. Lesbians are attracted to the female form and female psyche, which a transgender man doesn’t have. Transmen aren’t women, and therefore lesbians won’t date them. To imply that a very masculine gay woman and a transman are the same is incredibly transphobic and alarmingly backwards logic.
Third, the deceit in this story goes as far as being outright illegal and tries to behave like this is a romantic comedy. “ADAM” deceives his love interest, Gillian, into believing that he is twenty years old when he is in fact underage, as well as lie about being transgender in hopes of pursuing her. Gillian sleeping with Adam, believing he is an adult when he is not, is unknowingly committing statutory sexual assault. As if that weren’t serious enough on its own, when Adam sleeps with her and lies to her about using his male anatomy, pretending to be using something else, he has committed clear sexual assault by deception since Gillian didn’t consent to what was actually being used.
Fourth, the strong implications that corrective sexual assault works. After Adam finally tells Gilian the truth, she isn’t the least bit angry with him. Gillian isn’t angry that he lied about his age, or about being trans, and in fact expresses further interest because she imagined what it would be like if he were “a real boy,” as directly quoted from the book. Implying, again, that transmen aren’t “real men”. Anyone in real life should, and would, be absolutely furious. They’d been lied to, made a perpetrator of statutory sexual assault, and a victim of sexual assault by deception. Does Gillian care? Not even a little, and even goes on to date more cisgender men from then on. This is a dangerous example of the idea that corrective sexual assault, in which someone changes someone else’s orientation through sexual abuse, works. This is a serious issue that LGBTQ+ people have been fighting against for hundreds of years. To have LGBTQ+ people portray this as okay on screen or in print is a slap in the face to everyone who has ever been through this kind of horror.
Fifth, nobody faces any repercussions for their atrocious actions. Not Adam in the book, not Ariel Schrag in real life for writing both the book and screenplay, and not Rhys Ernst in real life for directing this heap of garbage despite being a real transman. Ariel Schrag, should you ever read this, shame on you. As a gay woman yourself, you know what it’s like to be marginalized, oppressed, and face constant bigotry and ignorance for something out of your control that isn’t anyone’s business anyway. For you to portray such a harmful and insulting story that makes an outright mockery of other gay women and of the transgender community for a cheap buck makes me sick.
Let me be clear, I am not assuming Ariel Schrag did this for a cheap buck, I am speaking based on her exact words as stated in an interview on Afterellen.com, “I was like ‘I honestly don’t care. Whatever you think will sell the most books or get it the most attention.’” And “But people are really angry specifically about appropriating an oppressed identity. I just think that’s fascinating to think about because what is so terrible about appropriating an oppressed identity?”
I will make a note to mention that most of the LGBTQ+ actors and actresses in the movie have come out since the release of the “ADAM” trailer to reveal they actually weren’t told what movie they’d been hired for, been given a vague fake title and no basic synopsis of what the film was about, and as extras in the movie had very minimal information. Many of the extras advocate against the movie’s existence, as well as admitted to feeling awful to have been a part of such a terrible project. I would suggest to give proper blame where it is due, which is not with the extras who didn’t even know the real name of the movie they were paid to be a part of.
In short, don’t read the book, don’t see the movie, and don’t think this is anything close to an accurate representation of anybody in the LGBTQ+ community. In the meantime, try watching “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” instead, a story that shows the clear evil of conversion therapy and trying to change people when they don’t need to change. Ariel Schrag, I recommend you specifically watch it as well, because you could really learn a thing or two.