Esquire Network's Friday Night Tykes: Steel Country is bringing attention to a gender-fluid 8-year-old this season. One of the cast members prefers to be called Abby Scott some days and Adam Scott on others while being raised in Monaca, Pennsylvania. The Esquire reality show centers around six football teams in the Beaver County Youth Football League, in which Scott plays.
Windy City Times was given a rare interview with Sara Markustic, Scott's mother, concerning this sensitive topic involving her family.
Windy City Times: How did the show happen for you, in the first place?
Sara Markustic: The second week of practice, Abby came to me and told me to talk to the head coach of her team. Abby wanted to be called Adam. I talked to the coach and he said, "Not a problem. Forgive me if it takes a few days to get used to it." He then talked to the other kids about it. Someone from Friday Night Tykes heard about it and wanted to talk about being on the show. I wanted to make sure everything was portrayed positively.
A lot of people probably don't understand that you aren't paid to be on the show. Everything we do is not for money. I want to reach people and let them know about this other community. I didn't even know about the term gender fluid until a year ago.
I thought she might be transgender. I didn't know there is a community that doesn't identify with being either gender. I hope by sharing my story that it might change one family's mind about their child.
We made sure that we ran this by her and explained how big this could be. There might be kids that don't accept it or poke fun but she doesn't care because people already know her as Adam or Abby. All the kids she wrestles with call her Adam. Kids are more accepting than adults.
WCT: Did you consider just calling your child "A?"
SM: No, because there are days when she wakes up I can tell she is Abby and then days where she is Adam. She will wear her girl clothes on the Abby day. We went through and got rid of most of them, but she kept a few select things, the day after that she wore her brother's pants. Adam seems to be a lot nicer to me than Abby!
WCT: This must be a big learning experience for you.
SM: It is. There was one day where she wanted to put on makeup with her sister then the next she wanted to go play with trucks. I never wanted her to feel like there is something wrong with her and take her to a therapist. I feel like there is a lot of stigma for that. I just let her be herself and accept her for who she is.
She is 8 years old right now. This is the easy time. The tough time comes when puberty starts.
WCT: Have you talked to any doctors?
SM: Yes. I have talked to her doctor and we have discussed maybe one day doing a blocker.
WCT: How have things changed since the filming wrapped?
SM: I continue to educate myself and others. I learned a lot about my friends and family in terms of who is there to support me and who is not. It is nice because I have had a lot of support from friends.
WCT: There are not a lot of television shows covering this topic is there?
SM: It has been talked about on Dr. Phil before. She is always interested in those shows. Until a year ago we never talked about the community and being gender-fluid. We told her there are safe ways to reach out to other kids like her. I am a member of a community online where parents and kids discuss this. It is called Parents of Transgender Children, and to be a member you have to submit an application. You have to be a parent of a transgender person or gender fluid person. They monitor everything and provide help with a doctor, if needed.
The mom from the show I Am Jazz is a member of this online group. It is a tight-knit community where everyone helps and educates each other.
WCT: Have you heard negative feedback?
SM: I read comments on Facebook where there are quite a few ignorant people. People will say what I am doing is child abuse. It is ridiculous. If there is one person that I help then I have done my job. That is all I want to do, educate and help people. I didn't know what gender fluid was for seven years but maybe I can help even one family.
Someone said I am letting her make adult decisions but that is not true. I am letting an 8-year-old decide who they want to be and become comfortable in their own skin. There were times I couldn't get her in the bathtub because she didn't want to see herself naked. Cutting her hair and things like that have helped her get in the bathtub herself.
WCT: Do you think things are changing? For example, gender-neutral bathrooms are becoming more common these days.
SM: Her school offered her a private bathroom, which I thought was really cool. Some people have trouble with their school districts but not here. Her school reached out to me because they know about the show and had a safe, neutral bathroom for her.
Abby is not worried about it yet. I am going along for the ride to watch her grow into herself.
Visit tv.esquire.com for more information on Friday Night Tykes: Steel Country, airing Tuesday nights at 8 p.m.