The history of Transgender people is that they, we, don’t get a lot of attention in the straight world or the gay world. Sometimes it seems that there are few people in the straight or gay world that are completely comfortable with Trans Folk. Truly, it is only when we have true acceptance of someone that is different than us – that we can then see all the ways that they are also the same. Until then, there can be discrimination and biases when it comes to opportunities, information education and family building.
Transgender Family Building
For instance, if you are not comfortable with Transgender people – can you picture them as parents? Can you even picture them as wanting children? If the answer is “No”, that you can’t picture Transgendered couples or individual wanting kids, you are not alone. In fact, based on the conversations that I have had as a Transgender man (FtM) and as an internationally known activist, leader and sex educator who has counseled thousands: Family building has been one important life issue that has been left out of the transgender conversation.
Why is that?
I have a few ideas that I’d like to share with you.
When you feel trapped in a sex assignment that you don’t feel is yours, what you want the most is to get out of that body and into the body that you feel that you belong in.
All you can think about is the possibility of feeling good in your own skin, your right skin, the body that you need.
Fertility Preservation for the Trans Individual
Most likely you are not thinking five or ten years ahead to a time when you perhaps have a partner and want children. And if no one has counseled you and had a simple conversation about fertility preservation, it is very likely that you no longer have access to your own sperm or eggs. What you are left with is regret and wondering why no one talked with you about this before you transitioned!
It is my hope that one day, Transgender people not only will get the understanding and acceptance that all people want, but also get all of the information that they need before they transition. This means that they are counseled about all of the options that are available to them for future family building, including egg and sperm freezing.
That they are given the possibility of this very basic human right of being parents one day.
Here are the facts: whether it is male to female or female to male, few people (including medical and mental health professionals) are talking to people who are transitioning and are of reproductive age about preserving their fertility before they began hormone treatments or have surgery.
It simply never occurs to the transitioning person or their health care professional to have the conversation.
I personally find it stunning. I wish somebody had that conversation with me. I would have loved to have been able to enjoy a “little Mac” in my life. But no one ever talked to me about that possibility, and I was so caught in my more urgent need to be in my true body that the prospect of babies was not on my radar. But time passes.
Fertility Preservation Education Needed for the Trans Community
And the times are changing. It feels like just yesterday, but actually it was a few years ago when the Times reported a story about the youngest person to transition. A young male to female named Kim Petras. Kim started taking hormones at age 12 and had her final sex reassignment surgery when she turned sixteen. I'm left wondering if anyone thought of preserving her reproductive material in case one day Kim wants to be a bio Mom. The answer is probably that no such conversation happened. And that’s sad. And avoidable.
This is my concern, that as doctors are transitioning younger and younger people they will need more and more guidance about their futures as parents. So that they have those futures if they want that. So that they are told and know that with some planning, they can have bio children.
Trust me, there will be younger people. The Transgender Movement has come out of the closet. The movement has made it to prime time television on shows such as “Orange is the New Black” and with celebrities such as Laverne Cox making her debut on the cover of Time Magazine. The Transgender conversation has been officially opened. And just like Lesbians and Gay men, we start with “acceptance” and we move onto “marriage” and “babies”.
We will be hearing more and more about young people like Kim Petras who are feeling enough acceptance to come out and speak to their parents, guidance counselors and peers about transitioning earlier and earlier.
Transitioning earlier raises the stakes on our reproductive future. Parents and caregivers in their well meaning and admirable desire to support their transitioning children may start them at a very young age on hormone blockers, and then on “HRT” Hormone Replacement Therapy. Simply by using hormones before preserving fertility they may be creating an “end game” around bio parenting in the future. This is unnecessary. Continue the conversation to include becoming a parent someday. While they may not see that far ahead because of the urgency they feel about changing, we can see it and we can help.
As these young people are courageously walking this path, they need to be armed with all the information available so that they can live a full and happy life. It comes down to us; the activists, the caregivers, the parents, the health care providers and the schools to offer all the information that these young people will need and that includes understanding their reproductive potential and how to preserve it.
Right now, this is not happening enough. It's time to change that.
Photograph of Laverne Cox is courtesy of "24th Annual GLAAD Media Awards - San Francisco" by GLAAD & is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.