Pregnancy and parenthood are complicated subjects which are supposed to be as ordinary as breathing itself, since they have had to do with bringing new people to life est. the beginning of the world as we know it. In fact we should not treat them in a monolithic way, as there is no single story behind a pregnancy, and no journey to parenthood is identical to another. Most stories, research, and talk around childbearing, is centered on the experiences of women and motherhood. This can be especially disorienting and traumatizing for trans individuals who wish – and are able – to bear a child into the world. Trans men and transmasculine people in general have been bearing children for years, without it becoming viral on the news, but no trans pregnancies have started acquiring more visibility, and it is important to listen about the experiences of people who wish to see their families grow despite the backlash they may receive from a still hostile society.
Transmasculine people and men who have decided to keep their reproductive organs and are or are not on hormone treatment, can also choose to pause hormone replacement treatment for a certain period of time in order to become fertile again and be able to reproduce. Thomas Beatie openly talked about his pregnancy on Oprah in 2008 and posed for People magazine. Trans men started seeking fertility treatment in America, but medical professionals are still undereducated when it comes to trans issues, and receiving proper medical care in the Western world remains difficult when you’re trans. There is not enough research concerning trans fertility and trans reproductive health in general. Science has started moving to the desired direction, but there is still a long way to go when it comes to the medical community protecting trans people’s safety, catering to their needs, and respecting their identities. We need to have paperwork and administration systems that include trans people, we need people’s real name to be properly documented when they visit a fertility clinic.
Pregnancy and parenthood can be a set of complicated experiences for transmasculine people. As the entire medical and popular literature and public discourse sees childbearing as an entirely feminine thing, it can be particularly triggering and dysphoria-inducing for a trans man to decide to give birth to a baby while demanding a respect for his privacy, autonomy, dignity and safety. We need to change the mainstream narrative of childbearing and make it include trans individuals, so that men and non-binary people who wish to reproduce will not feel increased dysphoria and their masculinity being erased.
The body dysphoria that may be triggered by a pregnancy is only enhanced by the social stigma and isolation that trans parents often report. Trans parents may feel lonely and not understood enough in new parents communities, or even threatened by bigotry and hatred. We also need to keep in mind that no journey is the same.
A story that went viral this year, was the one of transgender man Trystan Reese who lives in Portland, Oregon, with his husband, Biff Chaplow and their two adopted children, and gave birth to a boy this summer. The two men, who met through LGBT activism, have already adopted Biff’s niece and nephew after his sister couldn’t take care of them, so that they wouldn’t go into foster care.
Reese told Buzzfeed – right on his due date – that it took a long time for him to be reconcile his gender identity with the desire to have a biological child. He wanted to do pregnancy the medical way instead of experimenting, so he did everything pretty ordinarily. He discussed his plan with a fertility specialist, checked that everything was going well with his body, and stopped taking testosterone. After a miscarriage, Reese got pregnant again, and this time it went smoothly. Hormonal changes was the worst part, as is in most pregnancies, cis or trans, but they couple is very happy to welcome their son. They decided to pick their battles and share their story online on specific platforms – denying, for example, giving Piers Morgan an interview. Reese thought that the public is finally ready for some trans representation, for expanding the trans narrative in a positive way, and this is why he wanted to be public about his pregnancy.
Of Course, Reese and Chaplow received a lot of online hate, ranging from trolling and misgendering to threats. Comment sections can be truly terrifying, and they even feared for Reese’s safety, but there was also a lot of support and gratefulness from other LGBT people and families. Their kids also appreciate the unique nature of their family, while at the same time being kids, and embrace the idea of their new baby brother.
It is important to expand the language we use to describe childbearing experiences for different people. It’s not only women who carry and give birth to children, and it’s not only nuclear, traditional families that exist and need to prosper. We need to make our society friendly to everyone who wishes to expand their family and bring a new life to the world.