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Transgender people and pregnancy, babies, kids?
May 28, 2011 12:07 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I are a lesbian couple. One half of our happy couple is pregnant with our first child, the other half is a transsexual woman, and because of that we have been able to conceive a child that is genetically related to both of us. We know one other couple in the world who has dealt with these issues. Is anyone else out there?

There are a lot of unusual issues we’ve already had to deal with, like being the only woman in the deposit line at the sperm bank. Now that we’re expecting, we’re realizing we have a lot more fun things to figure out, like how to explain the “facts of life” to our child in age-appropriate ways.* Can you teach a kid that families are different and she should be proud of hers, but also that it’s not appropriate to “out” her trans mom to her class and therefore the whole neighborhood?* How do we deal when that inevitably happens anyway?*

Two-mom families get asked “who’s baby is it?” all the time, and that’s insulting to the relationship and to the mother who didn’t carry the pregnancy -- so we’ve decided like some other lesbian couples that we’re not going to share how we made our family with anyone other than our closest friends and immediate family. Fine, but how do you say that to lesbian friends who are trying to conceive and want to talk shop?*

There is zero information online about this sort of thing. All of the resources for transgender parents are geared toward later-transitioning folks and are mostly about how to explain your upcoming gender transition to your adult or teenage children. That is great and valuable but not relevant to us at all.

We only know of one other couple who has dealt with this stuff, and we’re thinking about putting together some online resources for others, sharing our experiences and what we’ve learned. We’d also like to include experiences from trans men as well. But I keep thinking, what if we really are the only people ever going through this? What if there are no resources because no one needs them? Is this worth the effort at all?

So here’s my question: Are there MeFites who are have had or are now going through similar situations? If so, do you have awesome advice?* If not, then do you know of anyone and would you be willing to put them in touch with us? If you can’t or don’t want to reply here, we’d love an email at newtransmoms@gmail.com.

* PLEASE NOTE: We are not seeking opinions on parenting from people who have no personal experience with this specific situation. We’ve been thinking about this stuff for a while. If no one close to you has had this experience, and you only started thinking about these questions as you were reading this post, you can bet we’ve already thought of or heard what you’re going to say! We would love to read helpful, non-prescriptive thoughts on this from others who can relate to our situation.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
As I was reading this, I immediately thought about this particular episode of Oprah. Maybe it will shed some light on the topic for you.

Also, congratulations!!!
posted by AlliKat75 at 12:51 PM on May 28, 2011


Sorry I can't help with any personal experience. I don't even have the right words to write the next sentence carefully enough not to cause offense, but I will try anyway. Your relationship has outward similarities to that of bloggers Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders, creators of the io9 science fiction blog. My impression they are both transgender activists, and also involved in exactly what you are looking for. If Annalee and Charlie Jane are not the "only other couple" you mentioned, then by reaching out to them you will have doubled your network of support. There is contact information on the blog. You are right-- it is hard to think of any other couple in this situation. Congratulations, and best wishes for many happy years for the new family.
posted by seasparrow at 1:09 PM on May 28, 2011


Congratulations!

My personal experience is that of a parent of children going to playgroups, programs and school with other children of lesbian couples. I'm not aware of anyone trying to determine the "real" mother, but I do live in downtown Vancouver and I probably wouldn't associate with anyone who took that tack. That being said, I wanted to say that your choices around breastfeeding have obvious implications. As far as I know, the couples around me both breastfed and bottlefed their children. (And, of course, one partner could always pump and provide the bottles for use by both mothers.) But, again, it may be a slightly different culture around here. Depending on where you are, you might want to think about how you'll be feeding the baby because that will obviously provide signalling information. Of course, how you talk about that could give you some options -- I know an adoptive mother who was able to lactate to nurse her child, so it doesn't necessarily mean anything about the birth process itself.
posted by acoutu at 1:33 PM on May 28, 2011


Can you teach a kid that families are different and she should be proud of hers, but also that it’s not appropriate to “out” her trans mom to her class and therefore the whole neighborhood?

Young children are notorious for spilling family secrets at the most inappropriate time, even when they have the best intentions. I dont think you can reasonably ask a child to keep a secret like that throughout their entire childhood. If your child knows that you are trans, you should be planning for when, not if, they reveal that information.

I wish you all the best in your fascinating adventure. I know that it may seem like your situation is so unique that no one who has not experienced exactly what you have can provide useful advice or wisdom, but I think that so many of the emotions and experiences of parenthood are universal enough that we can all help each other if we have an open mind and heart. I say that with the utmost respect for you and your partner. Congratulations!
posted by Rock Steady at 1:34 PM on May 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


Couldn't stop thinking about you...

My Mommy is a Boy

Colage

Useful??
posted by AlliKat75 at 1:51 PM on May 28, 2011


If you don't live in the SF bay area, and/or you aren't already hooked into the trans scene out here, drop me a line and I can put you in touch with some of the folks who are most likely to know others in similar situations.

That said, it sounds like your partner passes, and if so, there's that inevitable invisibility that comes with passing, both in and out of the queer community. That's a tricky edge to negotiate, as I'm sure you already know, so I wish you luck as you negotiate these issues with a child in the mix.
posted by quinoa at 2:14 PM on May 28, 2011


Depends on your location, but I know some people in a similar situation. Send me a message and I can send you their links.
posted by Theta States at 2:35 PM on May 28, 2011


I know a number of parenting couples where one (or both) partners are trans, although none of them match up to exactly your situation. I'm guessing that you're not in the SF Bay Area as intentional trans parenting isn't that unusual here. I'm kind of surprised that there's not more info online. Like quinoa, I'm happy to ask around and see if people are willing to talk about their experience. Drop me a memail or email (in profile) with your questions and I'll pass them on.
posted by gingerbeer at 2:49 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Congratulations and Mazel Tov!

I know a few lesbian couples where one partner is transgender, but none have small children or are expecting any (just an older demographic, mostly). So while I can't offer much practical help, I do encourage you to create your site--I think it would be a help and blessing for other couples in your circumstances (and I'm sure you would find a number of them through putting the resources online). Best of luck to you.
posted by jokeefe at 5:23 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I will just point out that if you could have a mod add a throwaway email address to this post, you might see more response.

Alternate answer: Memail me and I will be only too happy to talk about somewhat-similar situations.
posted by MeghanC at 5:36 PM on May 28, 2011


Just noting in thread to reply to those asking since anonymous can't: there IS a throwaway email address in the original post (newtransmoms@gmail.com).
posted by lollusc at 5:57 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't have awesome advice, but I am the mother of three children and my partner is a trans man. Our first two kids are mine biologically, conceived with donor sperm. #3 is adopted. They are 10, 7, and almost-4. One reason i don't have awesome advice is that nothing dramatic has ever happend around my partner being trans. The kids have pretty much taken it in stride that their dad was born female. My parnter preferes to be "stealth" but accepts that the kids may someday out him in certain places; it hasn't happened yet. It's such a non-issue to them that I can't imagine them deciding to tell anyone about it. I could imagine them arguing back against someone pushing gender essentialism ("No, not all boys have penises!") but they don't seem to have encountered that kind of conversation yet. Even the oldest is still young enough not to have encountered casual homophobia. And our circle of friends includes so many lesbian couples, and single moms by choice, and people who are child-free by choice, that so far they seem to just see our family as one of the many types of family, and nothing particularly noteworthy.

Your story does remind me of two women I used to know who had a son my oldest boy's age. Like probably everyone else, I assumed they had conceived with donor sperm. Eventually they told us that in fact they are polyamorous, and at least one identified as bisexual, and their son was a happy accident resulting from a relationship the biological mom had with a man. They said that there were some awkward moments--like people asking if they planned to use the same donor again--but they generally chose to answer briefly and non-commitally ("oh, probably not...") and not make a big deal of it.

Really, in my experience there is so much else to deal with as parents that my partner being trans has been pretty much a non-issue. I don't know that I'd seek out on-line resources for trans parents because we haven't really had specifically trans-related issues. Now, it might be different for two women--the most difficult situations we've dealth with have come from within the lesbian community, and I could imagine the two of you having to deal with some ignorance and prejudice there. On the other hand, the kinds of ignorant comments we've gotten, as the parents of kids conceived with donor sperm and as the parents of an adopted child, are so repetitive and predictable that you kind of figure out your response after awhile, and so the 300th time you hear the same invasive or ignorant question you just kind of roll your eyes and give your standard answer.
posted by not that girl at 5:57 PM on May 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have 2 sets of friends who have this same basic set up. If you message me I can try to make a connection. Actually, I see you have an email address so I'll message you, but for posterity of anyone reading this thread in the future, feel free to message me.

Also, I'm the dyke (cis) mom of an 8 year old. I got a lot of questions at first (less now). Some were rude and intrusive. Some were well meaning and intrusive. I've had to learn to say, "That feels private" or to simply change the subject when I don't want to talk about the details of my conception process.
posted by serazin at 7:12 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Two-mom families get asked “who’s baby is it?” all the time, and that’s insulting to the relationship and to the mother who didn’t carry the pregnancy -- so we’ve decided like some other lesbian couples that we’re not going to share how we made our family with anyone other than our closest friends and immediate family. Fine, but how do you say that to lesbian friends who are trying to conceive and want to talk shop?*

This is so interesting to me - as a grown-up child of two moms who does get asked about the biological relationships and who has never thought twice about it.

Granted, generally the people asking are my age-peers rather than my moms' age peers, but I've never perceived it as insulting, and they always seem to implicitly accept the 'equality' of the relationship, biology aside. I wish it were possible to ask my moms about their side of it, but it's not.

I grew up when things were very different for non-straight families, and at least until high school I had to do some secret keeping. I can say that secret keeping sucks. Of course it's up to you who to tell what, but imposing that secret keeping on your child just sucks. At least give them very clear reasons (for me, for example, one of my parents was a public school teacher in a not super progressive area).

Of course everybody's experience will be different, but I'll say that it never occurred to me as a child (or before now) that there was anything about the facts or the revealing of the facts about my biological/genetic story that would be insulting to my parents or their relationship. I'm glad that they never made me feel that I had to protect them/their feelings/their relationship by concealing or treating as sensitive information something so basic about myself.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:14 AM on May 29, 2011


Do you know of bear bergman and j. wallace? They are two parents raising a child that one of them carried. I believe they both identify as transmen (and one or both prefer gender neutral pronouns), so it is obviously not the exact same situation as you, but they have both written a ton about transparenting, and they both conduct workshops and presentations on all sorts of queer and transparenting issues. I would really suggest writing to them and explaining your story, and ask if there are other couples in a similar situation who wouldn't mind chatting with you. I bet they'll be helpful.

This old transparenting livejournal isn't updated anymore, but you might try searching through the archives and contacting any folks who are still around.

Here's one short article about a lesbian couple that resonates with your story, where one partner was MTF and they biologically conceived their child. I know a bunch of other possibilities and if i have time later today, will try and post some more ideas!
posted by barnone at 12:54 PM on May 29, 2011


Via email, they've passed along their new website for future readers of the thread. They said that they've gotten some good responses from ask.me and elsewhere, and will be posting their own experiences at http://newtransfamilies.com/.
posted by aniola at 5:44 PM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's a few more resources on transparents:
- Helen Boyd (aka Gail Kramer) is the author of My Husband Betty, and she has run a community site for a while, and it has a forum for transparents
- Transparent Day
- A number of good links at TSRoadmap, including some stories about transparents in various relationships.
- Transparentcy.org has a number of community links, but some of them don't look like they've been updated in a while. Worth an email!
- Trans & Gender Queer parenting (for parents that identify as such)
- TransFamily Couples - another listserv, this one looks like it's active
- An interesting movie of (FTM) guys giving birth to kids - I know it's not the same, at all, but my friends going through a similar situation have found it helpful and interesting to learn about a wide variety of queer parenting experiences

Congrats and best wishes for an easy pregnancy, a joyous birth and a lifetime of happiness together!
posted by barnone at 11:06 PM on May 29, 2011


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