Transgender Men Parenting
I recently undertook a review of research and documentaries on the experiences of transgender men who are parents. You can read the full chapter here. When it comes to the experiences of this population of fathers, the research suggests two key challenges that men face parenting through and post-transition:
1. Pregnancy. Whilst many people will know the story of Thomas Beattie, not all trans men report feeling comfortable undertaking a pregnancy. Some men who have spoken to other researchers said things like:
“Having to be examined pelvicly repulsed me to an exaggerated degree, I thought. Sitting in the docs office who delivered me, and my mom, and Zac was also humiliating in an (en)gendered way: that space was woman’s space and fundamentally at the surface of my skin I didn’t fit in” (Del in More 322)
Some men managed these feelings of distress when pregnant by seeing the child inside them as a guest, or as viewing their own pregnant bodies from outside. For some men this allowed them to remain confident in their identity as a man.
2. Breastfeeding. In some previous research trans men have said that breastfeeding, especially in front of other people, made them feel as though they were being seen as female. Other men, however, have said that breast feeding made them feel that there was some use to their breasts for the first time in their life.
When i then reviewed a number of documentaries featuring the stories of trans men who had carried children, i found similar themes. When it came to pregnancy, some men said things like:
“I’ve never felt like his mother. I breast fed for 11, almost 12 months of his first year, but as far as a mother I don’t feel like it, I just feel like wow, guys can have babies. I’m like, I guess, an incubator or something” (Terry)
When it came to breast feeding, some men who have had mastectomies were still able to breastfeed their child, and reported that this was experienced as a gender neutral activity:
“The word “breastfeeding” doesn’t bother me. Both men and women have breast tissue and can, unfortunately, get breast cancer. We all have nipples and breasts, to a certain extent. Furthermore, breastfeeding is not about sex – it is about feeding a baby. It doesn’t make me feel feminine or female to feed Jacob. I do also use the term nursing frequently though (Trevor)
Below is a great documentary featuring the stories of some trans men and women who are parents: