Heather Alexanderâ€™s fans believed in magic. They flocked to Renaissance Fairs, sci/fi fantasy conventions, and filk (internet folk music) concerts to hear Alexanderâ€™s Celtic-inspired tunes. Her cult following represented communities steeped in fantasy, magic and lore. But in the winter of 2006, even Alexanderâ€™s fans couldnâ€™t believe their eyes. That November, after playing a concert, Heather Alexander walked through a gate on stage and disappeared. She was, quite literally, never seen again.
The following spring, word surfaced that Alexander had designated an â€śheirâ€ť to carry on her musical heritage. Alexander James Adams, baring a subtle resemblance to Alexander, debuted with a crackling voice and intimate knowledge of her musical library. â€śI call myself the Heir,â€ť Adams explains, â€śbecauseâ€¦I was inheriting all of Heather Alexanderâ€™s music and her magic and her world. The title was to let people know I wasâ€¦ Heatherâ€™s chosen one. Because nobody knew at first what was going on.â€ť
After Heather Alexanderâ€™s disappearance, Adams spent four months in isolation before emerging a new man. Billing himself as the Fairy Tale Minstrel and identifying as FTM, Adams now recognizes the fable he created of his own life. â€śI made a fairy tale girl. Thatâ€™s who I was.â€ť Terrified transition would cost him his male fans, Adams is happy to report, â€śIâ€™ve been surprised: I lost very few. Guys were actually very game to take me on as their little brother and show me the ropes. Theyâ€™re getting great glee out of telling me how to behave.â€ť
In part, Adams credits that reception to a rich storytelling heritage and the unique way he describes his female-to-male experience. â€śIn Irish Celtic stories thereâ€™s a fairytale line of the fae. They steal infant children and they leave their own kind in place. Heather was a changelingâ€¦ a fairy-child. I was a stolen childâ€¦ [who] lived in fairyland for 44 years. Now Iâ€™m here in the mortal worldâ€¦ becoming a real boy.â€ť
The acceptance heâ€™s experienced has deepened Adamsâ€™ faith in mankind and magic. â€śItâ€™s impressed meâ€¦how kind and supporting humanity can be. As Heather, I always believed in dreams and fairytales and magic, but when I had to put it to practice for myself I wasnâ€™t actually sure if it was real. And everyone else has proven that it is.â€ť
With a musical career spanning two decades and over a dozen albums as Heather Alexander, Adams is one of the most accomplished musicians to transition mid-career. For female-born singers, hormone treatments can be particularly risky, because testosterone thickens vocal cords, lowers pitch and limits range in a singerâ€™s voice. Even with intensive training, thereâ€™s no guarantee that a singerâ€™s success will survive.
â€śI was really, really worried,â€ť Adams admits. His concerns led him to record a number of tracks and a full range of vowel sounds in his female voice, before beginning testosterone. Happy with his post-transition voice, Adams married it with those recordings to create the unique duets of Winter Tide, the self-described paganâ€™s 2007 Christmas album.
â€śI went back and I listened to the tracks and I broke into tears,â€ť Adams acknowledges. â€śIt wasnâ€™t a sadness, it wasâ€¦ the huge awesomeness of these two spirits that Iâ€™ve been living with all these years [finally] united in a harmony.â€ť
Although groomed for Nashville at a young age, Adams jokes, â€śI was writingâ€¦songs I felt only my stuffed animals would listen toâ€¦about rainbowsâ€¦and castles and magic and elves.â€ť
Adams found a receptive audience in the musical genre filk, which he sees as reflecting both â€świld crazy things out there on the Internet,â€ť and â€śthe old system of entertaining without having a television or a radio.â€ť
Adams hopes his personal story inspires others to â€ślook at the mirror and say, maybe. When we stop saying maybes we just start dying. Each of us is a magical creature. Each of us has all that we need - we just need to believe that. Itâ€™s never easily done. But if you want to be a hero thatâ€™s what you have to do; you just have to believe.â€ť
Trans author Jacob Anderson-Minshall co-authors the Blind Eye mystery series with his wife, Diane.