The "thinkability" of trans people having babies
2 minute read
"Queer Conceptions: families in the 21st century," was an online conference put on earlier this year by the Cambridge Reproduction Strategic Research Initiative in the UK. Below, very briefly, some things I heard there that really made me think.
Marcin Smietana, a sociologist at the University of Cambridge, talked about interviews he'd done with gay men who'd become parents. He noted that older parents described having believed for a long time that parenthood was not possible for them. Younger men, on the other hand, had found parenthood imaginable from the outset. The "thinkability" had shifted, Smietana observed.
Just prior to the conference, participants were invited to watch the documentary Seahorse: The dad who gave birth, which follows the experience of Freddy McConnell, a trans man in the UK who got pregnant and had a baby. You can watch it here or here. The thinkability of carrying a pregnancy as a trans man has also shifted in recent years.
Even when pregnancy is easy it is hard, but pregnancy for a trans man involves added emotional dimensions. The documentary is detailed, unflinching and frank. McConnell says in the film that he finds it hard to talk to cis guys about what he's going through, and he hasn't told a lot of them: "I'm terrified of what they'll think and whether they'll see me as less of a man."
McConnell, who was also one of the panellists at the Queer Conceptions conference, described the legal quagmire he found himself in after the birth, when he asked to be registered on his son's birth certificate as "father" or even "parent." "The gender recognition law that we have sort of stops when you become a parent, and actually reverses," he told the meeting. "So, at the point of becoming a parent, my legal gender recognition doesn't count. And it's not just birth certificates. For every legal thing, and every matter relating to parenthood, right from fertility treatment all the way through to the end of life, when it comes to my parenthood, I will be regarded as female. But for every other thing in life — literally every other thing — I'm legally male." The UK's supreme court has refused to consider the case, so McConnell is taking it to the European Court of Human Rights.
Trans people are often denied the reproductive care they deserve, said Zoe Stewart, an academic clinical lecturer in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Leicester. Doctors too often falsely assume that trans people don't want to have children.
"Hormonal treatment doesn't necessarily mean a drop in fertility," Stewart told the conference. Trans people are overlooked in both maternity and abortion services and too often don't get the counselling they need regarding contraception, fertility options, and sperm and egg storage prior to starting hormone treatment. "In fact, trans men face much higher than expected rates of unintended pregnancy as a result."
To watch the Queer Conceptions conference in full, go to YouTube, type in "queer conceptions" and start at minute 14:35.
"Support For Trans And Non Binary People During Pregnancy, Birth And The Postnatal Period." Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust. 2021.