Adrian Brown is wrapped in a white blanket with an oversize teddy bear by his side, grinning from ear to ear. “It’s a Boy,” the text reads over a photo, shot in a gallery filled with blue balloons, glitter and confetti. It’s Brown’s birthday, and Heather Lundberg Green, his mother, can’t help but cuddle her child tightly. For every birthday and milestone, Green said she has celebrated the occasion with photos to capture the joy of her Louisville family.
But these photos last month encapsulated a different kind of glee. Brown is not a newborn but, rather, a 20-year-old. The baby bump protruding from his mother’s stomach was not authentic.
What was real, however, was that Brown had come out to his family as a transgender man months earlier. To honor him on his 20th birthday, Green set up the family’s own version of a gender reveal photo shoot, which has been saluted by tens of thousands on social media this week.
“When your child comes out as trans, the best thing to do is create a photoshoot to celebrate the fact that he silently and bravely stepped out of the race that he never wanted to be in, found his own lane and proceeded to win,” Green wrote in a Facebook post on Jan. 29. “You are without a doubt the most fascinating human I know and I will always be your biggest fan! I love you, I honor who you are and I respect your courage to be unapologetically you!! Lets celebrate!!”
As of early Friday morning, the Facebook post has received more than 30,000 reactions and 16,000 shares.
It all started last September, when Brown confided in his younger brother, Lucas, that he was going to be a man instead of a woman.
“The decision to come out was really scary,” Brown told WAVE, an NBC affiliate in Louisville. “The hardest part was coming out to myself, accepting myself and loving myself for who I am.”
Lucas, 17, immediately accepted his sibling’s wishes while mixing in a lighthearted reply.
“[Brown] asked what he would think if he changed his name to Adrian and Lucas’s response was that he’d have to change his name tag at work,” Green told The Washington Post early Friday.
After he came out to his brother, Brown found his mother in the living room of their Louisville home. When he shared the news with his mother, Green offered her full support and unconditional love, even if it was initially unclear what she could do to help.
“When he told me he was transitioning, I was determined to support him though his journey, but I had no idea how,” Green wrote in a recent post for Love What Matters. “I have always had many friends in the LGBTQ community and still I wasn’t sure what steps I should take as his mother, or even what an appropriate response was outside of ‘I still love you.’ ”
Then she thought of the photo shoot. Green told WAVE that she never had a gender reveal for either of her children and thought it would be a unique way to show support for her firstborn. Though Brown was open to the idea of coming out in such a public way on social media, he did think his mother’s vision was a bit, well, corny.
“My kids are used to me coming up with these harebrained schemes all the time,” Green told WAVE. “He was like, ‘You’re crazy, but yes,’ of course, which was a fair reaction.”
People reported that there was also a lingering question about the gender reveal theme: “Isn’t it a little late?”
“At first when my mom said she wanted to swaddle me in a blanket, I thought she was nuts," Brown said to USA Today. "But then when we got going, we had so much fun and laughed our way through all of my mom’s strange ideas.”
The photos, shot by the 14-year-old daughter of Green’s boyfriend, are a warm mix of tenderness (the sons laughing with their mother) and ridiculousness (Brown sitting in a small box while holding blue balloons in one hand and a “It’s a Boy” sign in the other.)
Hundreds of family, friends and strangers offered their support to Brown on social media.
“So glad you are you and teaching the world to see you for who you are,” one user wrote.
“I’m so proud and have all the feels, even though I’ve never met Adrian,” another person wrote.
“This is magical,” someone replied.
While some have questioned the choice to make the photos public, Green pointed to President Trump, and his ban on transgender troops serving openly in the military, as one example for why she wanted to share the pics.
“The transgender community is under attack by our president for goodness sake,” she told USA Today. “These people who are transitioning are not receiving the honor and praise that they are due.”
The photos have also made a real impact in at least one case. Brown recalled how his brother, Lucas, approached him and embraced him with a “tight, bone-crushing hug,” USA Today reported.
“He proceeded to tell me that a trans boy at his school had come out to his parents after seeing our post," Brown said. "He had been considering suicide before coming out to them and because of our message he had the courage to tell them and found out that his parents were going to support them. He would not have had the courage had we not taken these photos.”
His chores have changed, too. Before Brown came out, taking out the trash was “boy’s work” reserved for Lucas. But when trash night rolled around one fall night last year, Green recalled to The Post how the younger brother turned to Brown with a declaration: “Come on, bro! Let’s take out the trash, it’s boy’s work!”
“I thought this was sort of a struggle I had to do by myself, and it’s really heartwarming to see so many people out there share the same story I do and are supportive of a complete stranger," Brown told WAVE. “It gives me a lot of hope.”
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